Sportive Success

18 August 2014
Ballymena Road Club – Chain Reaction Cycles – held their inaugural "Billy Kerr Sportive” in support of the NI Children’s Hospice, last Saturday and by all accounts it was deemed a great success.
271 cyclists took part and they had a choice of three different routes and distances. I, and 90 other riders, chose the "middle” distance event which was 73 miles and I had the pleasure of cycling alongside Irish cycling superstar Sean Kelly for part of the route.
The course took us from the ECOS centre to Martinstown, Newtowncrommelin, Corkey, Loughguille, and Ballycastle where we had the first re-fuelling stop at Sheskburn garage. Then it was on to the main challenge of the tour – the climb to Ballyvoy, Ballypatrick and the Vanishing lakes. Fortunately the wind was on our back up the climb and that made life easier.
The boat club at Cushendall was our next break and the catering there was provided free of charge by Jane’s Kitchen. The final section was around the North Antrim coast road to Waterfoot and Carnlough and the final climb up Glencloy and on in through the Braid to the finish back at the ECOS.
The 107 riders on the 150k / 93 miles route also took in a section to Glenarm and Drumnagreagh before also ascending Glencloy, while the 73 riders on the 42 miles tour completed a ride to Cushendall, Carnlough and then also up Glencloy.
I was very impressed by the standard of the organisation of this event and in particular by the number of helpers that Nigel Kernohan and his hard working committee had managed to enrol to assist with the running of the Sportive.
This was the club’s first attempt at staging a sportive, in its 60 year’s history, and it certainly was impressive. The organisers got it just right. There was a distance and pace to suit everyone. The route was well signposted and all the potential risks along the course had been identified and were either manned by marshalls or had "caution” warning notices on the road. Nothing was left to chance. There was at least one ambulance and another para-medic on duty, thankfully I didn’t hear of anyone needing their services. Chain Reaction Cycles – the club’s main sponsor – had a van and their mechanic, David Currie, on the event should anyone suffer a breakdown. Chain Reaction Cycles also provided a goodie bag at the start which contained, amongst other items – a multi-tool, spare tube drinking bottle and a nutrition bar and gel. There was even a waterproof list of instructions for each participant which had contact details for the mechanic, first aid and the organisers. Touring committee member Pius McKernan was also on hand and he drove the "broom wagon”
John McKillop’s rally team awnings were also used and these kept the tea ladies dry at Ballycastle and Cushendall.
I have ridden many cycle races over the years but this was my first Sportive and I was very impressed. I took the opportunity of speaking to other participants during the course of the ride, many of them were seasoned Sportive participants, and everyone I spoke to was also impressed. One rider I "interviewed” was from London. He had entered the recent "Ride London” event but told me he hadn’t been fortunate enough to be amongst the 12,000 who were randomly selected to take part. He said he was delighted to be taking part in the "Billy Kerr Sportive” and was made to feel very welcome at the event. He couldn’t believe how hilly it was, compared to what he was used to. The quiet, almost traffic free roads, were also a novelty for him, as was the opportunity to cycle beside the sea for miles and miles. Former Ballymena deputy mayor Clifford Davison also took part. He made his way from Dingwall in the Scottish highlands along with three of his Ross Shire roads cycling club for the event. 
We were fortunate with the weather – in more ways than one – not only was it more pleasant to cycle in reasonably dry conditions but it also helped with the numbers. 190 had pre-registered on line while another 80 left it until Friday night / Saturday morning to enter. I don’t think we would have had those 80 if bad weather had been forecast.  
Nigel Kernohan has asked me to "Please give credit to Jane’s Kitchen for the food at Cushendall. Tesco for bananas and cereal bars. Chain Reaction for goodie bags, the Vitus bike, which was won by Colin Thompson of Causeway CC in Portrush, and mechanical support. Plus all the Club members and volunteers for their help. Including Colin Hughes of Phoenix for the Health and Safety risk assessment.
"A special thanks goes to the following people and businesses that made the sportive a great success:
All riders. All sponsors - Northstone, Danske Bank, Country Garage, Johnny Cupples, Homes Independent and one other local businessman who wishes to remain anonymous. 
Catering – Michael Caulfield and Jayne's kitchen. All volunteers, marshalls, first aiders, mechanics and broom wagon.
Sign on helpers, feed station helpers, parking attendants, photographers.
ECOS staff. Contributors to the charity. Sean Kelly. Neil Kerr. N.I. Children's Hospice - Cushendall Boat Club -  Sheskburn Garage in Ballycastle - Glens Cycling Club - Ballycastle Cycling Club - and anybody else who helped”