Blair International Transport Red Hand Trophy road race this Saturday

09 March 2014
The Blair International Transport Red Hand Trophy road race takes place this Saturday 15th March.
Interest in this year’s Ballymena Road Club – Chain Reaction Cycles – promoted event has been unprecedented with the entries selling out within hours of the online applications being opened. This is in marked contrast to the August 2013 event which, eventually, had to be cancelled due to receiving just 38 entries.
Included in the top class field for the race are nine from the promoting Ballymena Road Club.The Ballymena riders will have the added incentive of competing for the "Billy Kerr” trophy for the first time this season.
A number of Billy’s friends came together to present the cup to the club as a fitting memorial to the former Olympian and multi Irish champion, who died in 2012. The trophy will be presented to the first Ballymena RC rider to finish Saturday’s race.
The local entries who are challenging for both the overall Red Hand Trophy and the Billy Kerr trophy are: Michael Carroll, Matthew Brennan, Clifford Grant, Chris Beattie, William Loughridge, Simon Taggart, Ryan Shaw, Karl Taylor and junior rider George Graham.
Karl Taylor has already tasted success this season when he won the A3 race at the John Haldane memorial events at Newry.
Among those challenging for the coveted Red Hand Trophy will be Fraser Duncan (Northern) Gary Cranston (East Antrim) Ronan McLaughlin (dig deep coaching), Conor Murphy (Caldwell cycles) and Ryan Sherlock.
I understand that Sherlock is returning from his base in Belgium to take part. He is no stranger to Ballymena RC events and in fact won the Wallace Caldwell memorial road race in 2012 and finished fifth in the Red Hand that same season.
Gary Cranston (East Antrim) has been one of the most consistent performers on the Irish road racing scene for many years now. He was third to Sherlock in the 2012 Caldwell and second in the Red Hand when Glen Kinning won in 2010. Gary has been rarely outside the top ten in either of these two races in recent seasons. Gary has already won this year with his success coming in the A1 A2 race at the John Haldane event at Newry.
Conor Murphy too has had early season success this year winning the A1 A2 event at the Phoenix GP at Nutts Corner.
On current form however the pre-race favourite must be Fraser Duncan. He has already two wins to his credit this season having taken victories at the Spires GP at Ballyronan and in last Saturday’s John Moore memorial race at Carryduff.
This year’s event will see the riders assemble at the club’s Rex Bonar House club rooms on Railway Street, from where they will move out at approx. 10.45am.
The neutralised ride out takes them through the centre of the town along Bridge Street, North Road, Ballymoney Road, Parkway and Cushendall road before the racing starts at the flyover, after negotiating the Cushendall road roundabout.
Then it’s out the main Cushendall road to McGregor’s corner at Rathkenny where a left turn brings the race back on to its traditional route. The first climb of the event takes the riders into Clough before heading on for Loughguille and Armoy.
Then it’s down Glenshesk to Ballycastle before the climb to Ballyvoy and on up the hill to Ballypatrick forest and on past the Vanishing Lakes.
A fast descent then follows which takes the riders over the Glendun viaduct and on to Cushendall.
Then it’s around the coast road to Carnlough before the final climb up Glencloy and on in through the Braid to the finish back at Broughshane, where the leaders are expected at approximately 1.25pm
Alan Blair’s generous sponsorship ensures a prize list of over £600 with prizes for the first six as well as the "unplaced” second and third category seniors and a junior award.
In addition to these there are also prizes for the first three Ballymena RC riders who don’t pick up a prize in the main list. 
As usual a big team of marshals are required to run the race. Please make yourself available to the race organiser, David Dougan, if you are able to assist.
The last year the race was held was in 2012 when Adam Armstrong (Eurocycles) won the race by 7 seconds from Simon Williams (Curran) after 2 hours 28 minutes 31 seconds. Conor McAllister (Chain Reaction) took third place at 2 minutes 31 seconds.
This was an impressive time by the winner especially when the 2012 race had to divert up the Tower road at Garron point. Armstrong was delighted to have finally won the Red Hand Trophy which was one of the few major classic races he hadn’t mastered. Ballymena Road Club’s best finisher was Simon Taggart in tenth place.