New race series to celebrate Irish unification

Cycling Ulster have just announced a high profile Ulster Classic League to celebrate last December's unification of Cycling Ulster and the Northern Ireland Cycling Federation after almost 50 years. West Belfast cycle shop owner Paul Slane has stepped in as the main sponsor and the series will be known as the Slane Cycles-Ulster Classic League.

Slane is no stranger to the cycling world. At just 18 years of age he became the youngest ever winner of the Irish National Road Race Championship and went on to race professionally in Spain. He also represented Ireland at the Olympic Games and still turns up at the odd race to give some of the younger competitors a 'run for their money'.

The seven races selected for the series are all acknowledged classics. In March, the 70-mile Wallace Caldwell Memorial promoted by Ballymena Road Club will kick off the series followed by the Tour of the Ards at the end of the month. The other races throughout the season are the Tommy Givan Memorial, The Noel Teggart Memorial, The Red Hand Trophy, Four Masters Classic and the Tour of Armagh.

The prize fund is expected to exceed £1,500 and will be spread amongst the various categories. A special leaders jersey will be awarded after each event. Speaking at the launch of the series, Slane said, "I am delighted to be involved in such a prestigious series of road races. The joining of forces between Cycling Ulster and the NICF is to be applauded and it is the cyclists who are the real winners in this historic agreement."

Tommy Lamb, Chairman of Cycling Ulster, said, "Paul Slane has always supported any cycling initiative which would increase participation in our sport. His sponsorship of this Classic League will undoubtedly lead to a top quality series of races and all cyclists in our province owe him a debt of gratitude." Entries are expected from throughout the whole of Ireland with some of the top southern riders already targeting it as their aim for the year.

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