Ballymena was the hub of the Ulster cycling action over the Easter weekend with all four stages of the Tour of the North race based in the town.
A total of 117 riders headed out from the Michelin athletic club on the Woodside road for the opening stage on Saturday morning.
They faced a tough 64.7 miles course with four king of the hills primes en route.
Despite this the stage was run off at an impressive 25.73 mph average speed.
The first KOH points of the race were at the category two Shanes hill where Craig McAuley (Caldwell cycles) was first across the line.
Then it was on to the category one climb of Glenarm glen where Chris McGlinchey was first to the top. Chris was riding as a guest for the Ballymena Road Club – Chain Reaction Cycles - team.
Ronan McLaughlin (Asea) was first up the Tower road at Garron Tower (category 3) while the fourth and final KOH of the day was the category one Glenariff glen. Darnell Moore (Caldwell cycles) took maximum points here.
McLaughlin scored on all four climbs and amassed a leading score of 12 points to have the honour of wearing the red polka dot jersey on stage two’s time trial. Angus Fyffe (Belgian project) was second with 11 points while Ballymena’s McGlinchey was equal third with Darnell Moore.
Once all the hills were conquered it was the fast downhill sweep through Cargan, Martinstown and Rathkenny to the finish on Fry’s road in front of a large gallery of spectators.
Forty three riders were still together in the front group as the race approached Ballymena and two of them prised themselves clear of the pack with Gareth McKee (Banbridge) taking the honours after 2 hours 30 minutes 57 seconds racing. Second home was Dutch rider Thijs Nijvelct with another Banbridge rider Mark Downey third at 6 seconds.
Chris McGlinchey was to the fore as well taking seventh place.
Best of the local Ballymena Road Club riders was Ryan Bankhead in 45th place at 3 minutes 04 seconds. Next home was Mathew Brennan 60th at 5 minutes 05 seconds. Hall Booth was 93rd at 16 minutes 54 seconds and Clifford Grant completed the BRC finishers, with a Dutchman for company, at the back of the field.
Sunday started on a high for the Ballymena RC team with guest rider Chris McGlinchey winning the 2.6 miles time trial on the A26 Lisnevenagh road dual carriageway to Cromkill.
Chris recorded 4 minutes 57 seconds and this not only won the stage but earned him the race leader’s yellow jersey by 1 second from Gareth McKee.
The other BRC times were Ryan Bankhead 5.33, Hall Booth 5.41, Matthew Brennan 5.47 and Clifford Grant 5.53.
Sunday’s afternoon stage was held mainly on the Kilnock, Caddy circuit which saw Ronan McLaughlin increase his lead in the KOH by winning the two climbs to Kilnock. The third KOH was at the top of Roguery which was won by Jack Waller (Spirit bikes)
Waller went on to win the stage, which finished at the bridge over the river Maine at Slaght. His winning time was 2 hours 49 minutes 40 seconds for the 61.6 miles – an average of 26.15mph.
David Watson of North Down finished fourth at 12 seconds and he took over the race lead after Chris McGlinchey came in 22nd at 33 seconds.
Ryan Bankhead had a great performance and finished 25th also at 33 seconds while Matthew Brennan was 1 minute 44 seconds behind and Clifford Grant kept going to finish at 14 minutes 17 seconds. Hall Booth didn’t finish.
Ryan Bankhead was very satisfied with his 46th position just 3 minutes 38 seconds behind. Matthew was 58th at 7.14 and Clifford Grant 106th at 53.27.