Ballymena to Host 2 tour Stages at Easter.

05 March 2013
Ballymena will play host to no less than two stages in this Easter’s prestigious P&O Ferries Tour of the North cycle race with the Saturday and Sunday stages starting and finishing in the Borough.The local Chain Reaction Cycles Road Club will also accommodate the Dutch team at their Rex Bonar House club rooms.
Ballymena Road Club’s Chris Beattie, who has just returned from three weeks warm weather training in California, is included in the Sport Active team for the Tour. He joins Paul Vaughan, Stephen Harkins and Tim Edgar.Former Ballymena Road Club member Conor McAllister was the best placed domestic rider in 2012 and he is included on the Ulster squad, where he will back up 2010 race winner Philip Lavery who is returning from France for the Easter period.Once again the organisers of the P&O Ferries Tour of the North have attracted a quality full field of riders to contest what will be the 50th edition of the 4-day Easter stage race. With the cream of British cycling as well as Dutch and Scottish teams, the challenge will be for the locals to show their talent against international competition.
All the top line UK based teams are all on the start list, including Node4 Giordana, Rapha JLT, UK Youth, Metaltek, IG Sigma Sport and Wheelbase-Altura. They are joined by numerous other British teams including Herbalife, Rock to Roll Cycles and the Dave Hinde Racing Team.The Dutch are represented by no fewer than 3 teams, with last year’s entrants SWABO and WTOS-Delft joined by newcomers Cycloteam. Both the former teams placed riders in the top 20 last year, with SWABO providing the opening stage winner. 3 teams from the Netherlands will add strength and depth to their challenge.Local eyes will also be on Peter Hawkins, the `nearly man` in the last two years Tour. He brings a full IG Sigma Sport outfit; however he may have to play second fiddle to defending Tour of the North champion James Moss, who has moved across from the Node4 camp to IG Sigma Sport for 2013.Team UK Youth have well-known names Marcin Bialoblocki and Yanto Barker, whilst Rapha JLT has defending Under 23 winner Luke Mellor in their line-up.No fewer than 3 previous winners are on the start line-up, each one capable of making it a double in 2013. Defending champion Moss has a strong Sigma Sport team, whilst 2010 winner Philip Lavery is still in his early twenties and heads up the regional Ulster challenge, as is 2007 winner Tom Murray who makes a return to the event with the Metaltek-Knights of Old squad.Overall prize money is £5500 for the Easter weekend event which sees the action getting underway on Good Friday evening at Stormont in Belfast.Ballymena will host two stages with Stage 2 starting and finishing in Broughshane and taking in the Coast road.Easter Sunday sees the longest stage of the race, taking in parts of County Antrim and Derry and including the Cam and Springwell forest climbs.
A dress rehearsal for this stage takes place when Ballymena Road Club promotes their Wallace Caldwell road race on similar roads on Saturday 23rd March.Monday’s sting in the tail will be based in the County Down hills, with the Carryduff stage taking in the Boiling Wells climb along the way.