Duncan wins Blair International Transport Red Hand Trophy

16 March 2014
Ballymena Road Club – Chain Reaction Cycles – had a full field of 80 riders for last Saturday’s Blair International Transport Red Hand Trophy road race
Included in the top class field for the race were nine from the promoting Ballymena Road Club who were challenging, not only for the Red Hand Trophy, but also for the Billy Kerr cup and Chris Beattie had the honour of winning the new "Billy Kerr” trophy for the first time this season.
The riders assembled at Rex Bonar House and rolled out along Ballymoney road and Parkway to the start at the flyover on the Cushendall road. It must have been an impressive sight for those who caught a glimpst.
It was to be a very fast start and by McGregors corner a group of six had a 30 seconds lead. By Clough this was up to 42 seconds and the relentless pace was beginning to take its toll with Karl Taylor, Clifford Grant, Willie Loughridge and Michael Carroll all losing contact with the main field before Corkey.
At Corkey three riders, from the initial six leaders, led by 50 seconds. They were Gary Cranston (East Antrim) Allie McAuley (Phoenix) and Anthony Walsh (UCD)
A couple of miles on, at Loughguille, a 13 rider chasing group had formed and they were to catch the three leaders just before the Lagg church outside Armoy.
This amalgamated bunch descended Glenshesk to Ballycastle at an alarming speed and on the hour mark had completed 25.5 miles of racing.
The climb to Ballyvoy and then on the section past Ballypatrick forest and the vanishing lakes caused the leading group to once again break up. The descent towards Glendun saw speeds in excess of 55mph and as they crossed the Cushendun viaduct there were four out in front by 28 seconds.
The speed didn’t drop any at all during the second hour’s racing, in fact it got faster, and, despite all the climbing, another 27.5 miles was completed in hour two. (53 miles in total)
Six riders led as the race turned into the headwind on the climb from the coast at Carnlough up Glencloy. They were the original early leaders Allie McAuley and Anthony Walsh along with Fraser Duncan and Adam Armstrong (Northern) Ryan Sherlock (Tomacc) and Ronan McLaughlin (Dig deep – inspired cycling)
Duncan attacked on the climb and only McLaughlin was able to respond, next on the road were McAuley and Walsh while Armstrong and Sherlock were a few seconds further adrift.
The final miles in through the Braid saw Sherlock, with Armstrong in tow, re-catch McAuley and Walsh but these four were unable to get back on terms with the front pair and it was Fraser Duncan who took the honours after 2 hours 33 minutes 44 seconds racing for the 65 miles event.
This was Fraser Duncan’s third win this season having taken victories at the Spires GP at Ballyronan and in the John Moore memorial race at Carryduff. Ronan McLaughlin was in close attendance in second place while Adam Armstrong won the four rider sprint to take third place 31 seconds behind. (4) Ryan Sherlock (5) Anthony Walsh (6) Allie McAuley all at 31 seconds. (7) Colm Cassidy (UCD) (8) Gary Cranston (East Antrim) (9) Thomas Martin (Caldwell cycles) (10) Sean McKenna (UCD) (11) Gary Jeffers (East Tyrone) (12) David Watson (North Down) all at 1 minute 12 seconds.
Chris Beattie was first home for Ballymena RC in 24th place at 4 minutes 41 seconds. Next for BRC were (38) Ryan Shaw and (45) Simon Taggart both at 6 minutes 06 seconds. Aaron Swan from Clough, who was riding for the Cycling Ulster junior team, won the junior prize while Paul Ferguson (North Down) was first A2 rider.
The other local finishers came in with a large group of about 20 riders who were 20 minutes 16 seconds behind, they included: Michael Carroll, Matthew Brennan, Clifford Grant and William Loughridge,
Many thanks to everyone who gave so generously of their time to make the race such a success. There was a team of nine motor cycle marshalls as well as three cars and another nine static marshalls.
The PSNI had a team of motor cyclists who safely escorted the riders throughout the event. Thanks to goes to the drivers of the lead cars, marshalls cars, Commissaires cars, first aid, neutral service, broom wagon, car park attendants and to club sponsors Chain Reaction Cycles who put a service crew on the race.Well done to the finish line cameraman Andrew Wills who compiled the results.
Many thanks too to the tea ladies and to Race Secretary David Dougan and Nigel Kernohan for coordinating the race both at the planning stage and on the day and to John Blair for the use of his car park.
Finally many thanks to Alan Blair of Blair International Transport, whose generous sponsorship ensured a prize list of over £625 with prizes for the first six as well as the "unplaced” second and third category seniors and a junior award.