Banbridge Cycling Club’s run of good form continued last week when they claimed a double at the opening round of the inaugural SEAT Super Seven series.
The series, as the name would suggest, will take in seven criteriums across the province in town and city centres including Newry, Derry, Antrim, Belfast Titanic Quarter, Ards, Bangor and of course Banbridge, all aimed at providing short exciting and action filled races for the benefit of the spectator.
Bann are in good shape after the Newry leg as John Buller won the youth race, followed by the in-form Mark Downey’s success in the main event.
The youth races kicked the evening’s activities off. Banbridge was represented by John Buller, normally known for his off road exploits. He can obviously turn his hand to the road, showing the more experienced racers a lesson on smooth lines and maintaining high speeds through corners.
The young Banbridge lad was more than equal to the inevitable attacks as he closed down the gaps. As the disintegrated front bunch approached the final corner, it was Buller that took the initiative and led out the sprint, and that was how it remained.
Try as they might, no-one had the speed to come round him and he crossed the line with time to raise his arms in celebration.
The main event of the night had a line-up that read like a who’s who of Irish criterium racing; current Irish champion Peter Hawkins of the Belgian CT Tomac squad, recent winner of the Tour of Ulster Mark Dowling of DID Dunboyne, Criterium specialist and recent winner of the Tommy Givan Memorial Glenn Kinnning
Of course Banbridge CC could add to that list with its own impressive line-up; Gareth McKee, James Curry, Mark Downey and Nathan Sturrock, all of whom have shown great form.
The race would last a little under one hour but with hot spot ‘primes’ after 15 and 30 minutes the bunch got down to business, and it was Kinning who claimed the first cash prize of the evening at the 15 minute mark as he led out a bunch sprint that quickly thinned out the field.
Nathan Storrock would be a victim of that as he was caught on the wrong side of a split, but at the other end of the bunch James Curry put in a massive effort to move clear. Gaining an advantage of over 20 seconds over the short 1km circuit the chasing bunch were having real difficulty in controlling young Curry and he would stay clear for more than 20 laps and claim the second prime of the race.
He was caught after approximately 40 minutes of racing but wasted little time before he placed at the head of the field again.
Gareth McKee and Mark Downey made several attempts to move clear, and while some of those moves looked very promising they would be heavily marked men and the bunch worked hard to close them down.
By the time Chief Commissaire Aaron Wallace indicated five laps to go, the original field of 55 riders had been whittled down to less than 20, but with Bann still well represented.
In final laps it would be Mark Downey who stretched the bunch out as he increased the pressure and showed the speed that has earned him several national titles and a European silver medal on the track.
As they exited the last corner it was a head to head sprint between fast men Downey and Dowling, but it was the dominant yellow jersey that would reach the line first to finish off an exciting and fruitful night’s racing for Banbridge CC.
Banbdridge CC will also host their own round of the series on Friday 24th July with a programme of races which will see Banbridge town centre lit up with more short circuit action.