Ballymena plays host to Tour of North stage race this weekend

Pictured at the launch of the Tour of the North cycle race are: L-R David Hamilton (North Down CC), James Curry (Banbridge CC), Joan McCullough (Race Director), Paul Mulligan (Caldwell Cycles) Hall Booth (Ballymena RC).
Pictured at the launch of the Tour of the North cycle race are: L-R David Hamilton (North Down CC), James Curry (Banbridge CC), Joan McCullough (Race Director), Paul Mulligan (Caldwell Cycles) Hall Booth (Ballymena RC).

Ballymena will play host to the hugely prestigious annual Tour of the North stage cycle race over the Easter weekend.

The action starts on Saturday when the race assembles at the Michelin Athletic club on the Woodside road.

The start, at 12 noon, is on the main Larne road near the junction with Tully road.

The first king of the hills points will be contested at Shane’s hill. Then at Glenarm the race leaves the coast road and KOH number two takes place at the top of Glenarm glen.

Then it’s down Glencloy to Carnlough before the third KOH climb on Tower road. The final KOH is at the top of Glenariff glen.

The race is scheduled to finish on the Fry’s road Ballymena after 64.5 miles. The fastest schedule of 28mph would see a finishing time of 14.18pm.

Sunday morning sees a 6 miles time trial at 10am from Byrnes “Star” filling station (slip road) to Ballee roundabout and back.

Stage three on Sunday afternoon leaves from the BRC clubrooms and has a 2pm start at Slaght.

The race completes four laps (including two KOH climbs) of the Kilnock, Randalstown, Caddy road, Whiteside’s road to Kilnock circuit before turning right at Kilnock cross roads, at the end of lap 4, and heading for 3.5 miles towards Portglenone. Then it’s left on to Loughbeg road and on to Moneyglass.

The sting in the tail of this stage is the KOH climb to the top of Roguery hill. The finish is at the Slaght end of the Whitesides road, after a total of 62.7 miles at 16.14pm.

Easter Monday’s fourth and final stage at 70.2 miles is the longest of the tour and starts from Galgorm at 10.45am.

The route takes in Portglenone, Townhill road to Rasharkin, Vow road to Agivey, Aghadowey, and outskirts of Coleraine and then the KOH climb to Springwell forest quickly followed by a second KOH (the final one of the race) to the Cam forest and on to Ringsend.

The final miles again take in Aghadowey, Vow road to Rasharkin and then Lisnahunshin road before descending to the finish at Fenaghy road Galgorm at 13.21pm.

One of the Ballymena Road Club riders for the tour is Hall Booth.

He says: “We are looking forward to a tough race. The four BRC riders involved have all plenty of early season racing done and are going into the event in as good a condition as possible. Ryan Bankhead has shown some good sprinting form and, should there be bunch sprints, he will never be far away.

“Matthew Brennan is in for the under 23 category and Clifford Grant and myself hope to put in a solid performance for the club. Our guest rider Chris McGlinchey has been superb in Ulster racing this season, starting as an A4 and now just a few points off an A1 licence in only 5 weeks.”