By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent
There is no doubt that in the last number of weeks, organisers of cycling events have been certainly providing top class races, north, south east and west. With the FBD Insurance 8-day event, three weeks down the road, the fare this weekend will not be found wanting. Top of the bill will be the Tour of the North which rolls off the stating ramp on Saturday in Craigavon courtesy of Maurice Bann-Lavery. Whilst the Corkman Three-Day is being organised by the Kanturk Credit Union Cycling Club with Dan Curtain holding the reins as organiser.
Both Bann-Lavery and Curtain are oversubscribed with entrants because of the impending ‘Ras.’ "It is important that we afford the entrants with stiff competition over the Bank Holiday weekend of racing. The competitors who intend competing in the upcoming ‘Ras’ will have their fitness tested and rightly so," said Bann-Lavery.
Last Sunday’s Murphy & Gun Shay Elliott obviously was a tried and trusted race of fitness which left more questions than answers. It was a race dominated by the visitors with victory going to Kevin Dawson ahead of his team mate John Tanner with best placed Irishman, David McCann in third place.
McCann now spends more time racing in various parts of the globe than on the home patch. He was the winner of the ‘Ras’ last year, but because of his commitments with his club Giant Asia, he will miss the premier event on the Irish calendar and will also miss the Northern event this weekend.
It was the Planet X team that were by far the best in the ‘Elliott’ and with a change of format, they still could the business in the Tour of the North with Tommy Evans as leader. He is a former winner, but the real dangers in the race will be Andrew Roche from the Isle of Man, Brian Keane of the All Systems/Dublin Wheelers, Martin O’Loughlin representing the Dan Morrissey/Carrick Wheelers CC and Paul Griffin of the West Clare Selection. Not to forget about Michael Hennessy of the Cork team, who just could do the business as he has been very close to getting his wheel across the line first in recent weeks.
The Tour of the North will pass through the following tows on its loop from Craigavon to Craigavon:
Stage 1 - Saturday April 30:
Start Craigavon (12.00), Moira (12.08), Glenavy (12.28), Crumlin (12.35), Antrim (12.56), Randalstown (13.07), Ballyronan (13.44), Coagh (13.58), Stewartstown (14.13), Portadown ( 14.53), Finish Craigavon (15.03) - 76 miles
Stage 2 -Sunday May 1:
Start Craigavon (12.00), Moira (12.08), Glenavy (12.28), Crumlin (12.35), Antrim (12.56), Randalstown (13.07), Tobermore (13.57), Draperstown (14.06), Moneyneaney (14.12), Feeny (14.37), Claudy (14.49), Dunemana (15.11), Ballinskeagh (15.21), Finish Strabane. (15.31) - 88 miles
Stage 3 - Monday May 2:
Start 9am Strabane Circuit Time Trial based on the Canal Basin, Finish 10.45am - 2 miles
Stage 4 - Monday May 2:
Start Strabane (13.01), Douglas Bridge (13.13), Plumbridge (13.36), Gortin (13.43), Rouskey (13.54), Greencastle (14.08), Cookstown (14.42), Tullyhogue (14.51), Stewartstown (14.57), Portadown (15.36), Finish Craigavon (15.46) - 69 miles