Ballymena Road Club Reliability Trial
Ballymena - Northern Ireland - Jan 26 2003
WomensCycling.net visited the rainy & green shores of Northern Ireland at the weekend. The main reason for the visit was "social" and Ballymena RC were happy to help out by putting on their annual reliability trial "just for us"!
Although Saturday's weather was windy and rainy, a short hour was managed on the bikes from the Giants Causeway, through Bushmills (home of the whiskey distillery) and down the coast towards Larne. We got rained on 3 times and were soaked through by the time we stopped and jumped into the car. The good news was that it was a tail wind all the way and the weather was warm.
Sunday dawned with more drizzly rain, still warm and windy. The RT started from Ballymena RC's Clubhouse - Rex Bonar House at 10:15am. Rex was there to see it off and welcomed the riders back afterwards with soup, sandwiches and tea and biscuits. What a Clubhouse! It was part lottery funded and is used for all the usual club night activities as well as roller racing, turbo training, gym work and activities for younger members during the school holidays.
There was the choice of a 60 mile or 80 mile ride, with a relatively even split of about 30 on each. The faster / longer riders set off before the others and did an extra loop early on the ride, so that everyone would come together later in the ride and finish together.
The first hour in the 60 mile group was fast and enough for "yours truly" - WomensCycling.net was pleased to be able to follow the event in a car and happy to lend first the front wheel and then, later, the rear wheel from the retired Barbie-Carrier bike for the sake of others finishing! In fact there were a few riders grateful for the support given by the car - mobile phones were answered and progress checks given to those on the other end, biscuits handed out to those in need and wheels loaned and changed too.
<-------Barbie Came Too!
The next hour was just as fast and the 60 mile group passed through Larne and turned along the coast road. After a brief stop for a puncture, the group got to Ballygally and stopped to invade the local Spar shop like a swarm of locusts. News came that the 80 mile group were catching up - they had been 6 miles behind at the puncture-stop, suddenly, they could be seen coming around the coast road and into sight. The 60 mile group jumped onto their bikes and set off up the road in small groups - the large bunch split by the urgency to stay away..........
The 60 mile group slowly came back together. The 80 mile group had stopped at the Spar too. Just a few miles further on came the hardest part of the ride - 3 mile climb - only 15 miles from Ballymena. It was hard and long. Both groups were spilt apart and riders tackled the climb at their own pace. Although the 80 mile group did stay together for a while longer, there were still riders all the way up and down the road by the summit.
The final miles were not easy, but after 3 mile climb, relatively flat! Riders re-formed into groups for the run into Ballymena. By the time they reached the finish, there were riders entering the car park to Rex Bonar House for about 40 minutes. As far as we know, there were not too many retirements - although this was dubbed by those who took part "the first road race of the year" - which the pace certainly attested too!
The small group of women who rode were a mixture of club run regulars and road racing veterans. The "club runners" did well - they could hold their own in the bunch based on Sunday's performances! Lets hope they take up the challenge of riding the WomensCycling.net sponsored Team Series in 2003....
Thanks to everyone associated with the ride. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming - maybe we'll be back in 2004!
Pictures - click on an image to see a larger photo
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