Sunday's turnout of 150 riders must surely have been a record number of cyclists signing on. The weather was quite mild for the time of year, cloudy and with very light winds. I only arrived shortly before the kick off and there was the normal mix of apprehension for some and the laid back, take it in their stride, jovial attitudes of others. None the less this particular event provides the ideal opportunity for riders to test their current form and to measure how training is progressing. The course is a testing one at times, no more so than the back end rolling roads from Killyleagh to Lisburn; many refer to it as the "Grand National".

 


Maryland's Denis Easton led the 'A' group away from Smithfield Square and towards the A1 carriageway for Banbridge. I don't know who was at the front from the start but those 3 or 4 riders set the tone for the day which I'm sure was sending a little shudder down through the group. So much so was the haste in the pace an accident occurred not far along the carriageway, as riders wrestled with their bikes trying to jockey for a better position within the group. Through the clatter of rotating chains and crunching of gears most reacquainted themselves with each other, dished out a bit of banter and enjoyed the craic.


   


For such a large number of riders in the group generally most obeyed the Highway Code and maintained good cycling etiquette and discipline. It was only for a few miles after the Katesbridge stop that things got rather disorganised and unruly. In the interests of safe cycling and the more immediate future, not having to witness someone having an accident, I took it upon myself to ride along the group, asking them for some order. Whether this had any sort of effect on the riders I'm uncertain of but I certainly felt better for saying it, even if it did sound a little poacher turned gamekeeper!

A good tempo was set on the run up to the notorious horseshoe bend. Even whilst under some physical pressure, I couldn't help but say to Denis, "this is like days of old, vintage!” Once around the bend and over the top the increase in momentum was evident as the multi coloured train reached out for the 30's entering Castlewellan, Jack Wilson raised his arms aloft to claim unclassified win. The sprint for the 30's entering Newcastle is always hotly contested but as riders unwittingly lead one another out, a car pulled out from a junction to spoil gallop for the notional winning line.

A return to the traditional tea stop at Dundrum was warmly welcome by all. The Maryland catering corps did the club proud as they produced sufficient offerings for all who took the time to stop. After quickly answering the call of nature the whistle soon blew and we were off the second half.

 

    


The sting had somewhat went out of the pace as we made our way towards DownPatrick. I can only imagine some had eaten too much or either they were saving a bit in the tank for the rolling roads from Killyleagh to Lisburn. After leaving Killyleagh it wasn't long before the sticky road surface was taking its toll on the group. One by one riders were being drip fed into the hurt locker. In fairness though there was still a good bunch trucking along.

The riders who had came over to support the reliability from County Down turned off for home as we went through Saintfield and Temple. There was a few short lifts in pace on the run in home but once again it wasn't until we were on the last mile stretch that one or two nailed their flags to the mast in lone bids to the finish line but all were in vain as each effort was swallowed up. In the end in my honest opinion, I would say all who finished had an inward smile of satisfaction and success.

Thanks must go to all those who supported the reliability trial. The club committee and volunteers should take a pat on the back for once again successfully organising a great cycling event. Thanks should be extended to Eamon Burns senior and junior for their continued support to Maryland and cycling as a whole. Lastly thanks to Paul Watson for the photography.

Report by Mark Greer

Comments on the 'B' run below are from Brendan McCartin

An excellent B run today, ably controlled by Ricky on the whistle. The rubble started first, then the A group and finally us. Had picked up about 10 A runners before we reached Banbridge, apparently a bit of a crash in the A group. The pace was steady throughout with me manning the back of the group!!! Great grub stop at Dundrum and an uneventful run via Downpatrick and Killyleagh. A bit of a crash with 3 riders down about 3 miles from Saintfield. We all waited but then unfortunately a group headed off before the rest of us were ready. We never saw them again as we had a long wait at the lights in Saintfield. I turned for the city at Temple, opting to omit the descent to Lisburn and waving goodbye to Alfie, Michael, Kevin and Therese. Either this was a very steady run or I am not as unfit as I think.

 

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