Ballymena Guest McGlinchey wins tour stage to wear yellow jersey.

06 April 2015
Ballymena was literally the hub of the Ulster cycling action over the Easter weekend with all four stages of the Tour of the North race based in the town.
117 riders headed out from the Michelin athletic club on the Woodside road for the opening stage on Saturday morning.

They faced a tough 64.7 miles course with four king of the hills primes en route. Despite this the stage was run off at an impressive 25.73 mph average speed. The first KOH points of the race were at the category two Shanes hill where Craig McAuley (Caldwell cycles) was first across the line.

Then it was on to the category one climb of Glenarm glen where Chris McGlinchey was first to the top. Chris was riding as a guest for the Ballymena Road Club – Chain Reaction Cycles - team.
Ronan McLaughlin (Asea) was first up the Tower road at Garron Tower (category 3) while the fourth and final KOH of the day was the category one Glenariff glen. Darnell Moore (Caldwell cycles) took maximum points here.

McLaughlin scored on all four climbs and amassed a leading score of 12 points to have the honour of wearing the red polka dot jersey on stage two’s time trial. Angus Fyffe (Belgian project) was second with 11 points while Ballymena’s McGlinchey was equal third with Darnell Moore.
Once all the hills were conquered it was the fast downhill sweep through Cargan, Martinstown and Rathkenny to the finish on Fry’s road in front of a large gallery of spectators.

Forty three riders were still together in the front group as the race approached Ballymena and two of them prised themselves clear of the pack with Gareth McKee (Banbridge) taking the honours after 2 hours 30 minutes 57 seconds racing. Second home was Dutch rider Thijs Nijvelct with another Banbridge rider Mark Downey third at 6 seconds.

Chris McGlinchey was to the fore as well taking seventh place.

Best of the local Ballymena Road Club riders was Ryan Bankhead in 45th place at 3 minutes 04 seconds. Next home was Mathew Brennan 60th at 5 minutes 05 seconds. Hall Booth was 93rd at 16 minutes 54 seconds and Clifford Grant completed the BRC finishers, with a Dutchman for company, at the back of the field.

Hall Booth gives an insight into how Saturday’s stage felt to him. "The race went out with a cross tail wind and was very fast on the road towards Larne. We were hitting 40 mph in places. I found it ok until it started splintering on the first KOH at Shane's. I got over it in a small group just off the back of the main peloton. The average speed for the first 20 miles showed 28mph.  We rode hard and round the coast and up the climbs we managed to pick up some riders. By Glenariffe our group had swollen to around 30. It splintered slightly in the last 5 miles but I came home in the group tired but safely round.”

Another of Ballymena RC’s experienced senior riders Ryan Bankhead also gives a brief summary of how stage one unfolded for him. 

"After the longish neutralised section from the Michelin club to the official race start on the Larne Rd the attacks came thick and fast. I settled into the race quite comfortably choosing to follow the wheels to see how the legs felt over the first KOH. Soon we were at the climb of Shane’s hill and to be honest we were over before I knew it, the high speed of the bunch took some of the sting out of the climb. It was then onto the fast decent towards Kilwaughter where a tight left hand turn at the crossroads seen the bunch start to split. The drag out of the crossroads was the start of constant attacks seeing groups split all over the road. After Cairncastle there was a nasty looking crash which again split the race, I managed to avoid the crash and chase back onto the front group. The second KOH at Glenarm caused more damage to the bunch which saw various riders loose contact, I still managed to follow the wheels and come over the top in the lead group. Another decent to Carnlough and a fast pace had us round to Garron Tower in no time to tackle KOH three, again a good choice of gears and following the right wheels got me over this one also. This now left KOH no.4 and by far the hardest of the stage; it was the climb of Glenariffe. At the bottom my legs still felt like they had some life still in them, the pace was high right from the start, this high pace but constant pace was suiting me well. Unfortunately once the climbers started the hard attacks I couldn't respond as many times as I needed to and lost contact. This left me to time trial my way to the finish picking up rider after rider in the run in. I ended up with a group of 8 or so heading for the finish. I came home at the front of my group giving me 45th on the stage at 3 minutes down on the stage winner. This has been a big improvement for me from a climbing perspective. 45th place ain't great but losing only 3 minutes to the calibre of riders in this year’s tour and on a course like that has left me pleased with my performance today.”

Sunday started on a high for the Ballymena RC team with guest rider Chris McGlinchey winning the 2.6 miles time trial on the A26 Lisnevenagh road dual carriageway to Cromkill.

Chris recorded 4 minutes 57 seconds and this not only won the stage but earned him the race leader’s yellow jersey by 1 second from Gareth McKee.

The other BRC times were Ryan Bankhead 5.33, Hall Booth 5.41, Matthew Brennan 5.47 and Clifford Grant 5.53.

Sunday’s afternoon stage was held mainly on the Kilnock, Caddy circuit which saw Ronan McLaughlin increase his lead in the KOH by winning the two climbs to Kilnock. The third KOH was at the top of Roguery which was won by Jack Waller (Spirit bikes)

Waller went on to win the stage, which finished at the bridge over the river Maine at Slaght. His winning time was 2 hours 49 minutes 40 seconds for the 61.6 miles – an average of 26.15mph.
David Watson of North Down finished fourth at 12 seconds and he took over the race lead after Chris McGlinchey came in 22nd at 33 seconds.

Ryan Bankhead had a great performance and finished 25th also at 33 seconds while Matthew Brennan was 1 minute 44 seconds behind and Clifford Grant kept going to finish at 14 minutes 17 seconds. Hall Booth didn’t finish.

So going into the final stage on Monday David Watson and Ronan McLaughlin were equal on overall time with Sunday’s stage winner Jack Waller third at 2 seconds. Chris McGlinchey, although tenth, was only 14 seconds behind overall.

Ryan Bankhead was very satisfied with his 46th position just 3 minutes 38 seconds behind. Matthew was 58th at 7.14 and Clifford Grant 106th at 53.27.

Well done to all the Ballymena riders and their support crew so far.

Also big congratulations go out to Ballymena’s Joan McCullough who is the driving force behind the event’s organising committee.