The Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast was the dramatic venue for Round 3 of the UK StreetVelodrome Series. The area, steeped in history, was also the host venue for the Giro D’Italia Gran Fondo Sportive.
The 12 StreetVelodrome Series Pro Riders Enjoyed Belfast's Iconic Titanic House
Our Pro riders arrived for the event in the Titanic Quarter greeted by an unusually warm city, dominated by the surrounding lush, green hills. The Titanic Studios situated adjacent to the venue for Round 3 has made a name for its self being the set for the globally popular Game of Thrones drama series...but we had our own televised drama to make! Round 3 was waiting to happen!
Each round of the UK Series has it’s own, unique characteristics, which makes the track different to ride each time. Round 3 was held indoors at the Titanic Exhibition Centre and the carpeted floor was a first for StreetVelodrome riders. The smooth, flat, solid straights were exceptionally fast, with the soft, almost silent, whirr of the wheels disconcerting. With improved traction yet low rolling residence the racing was going to be all about maintaining top end speed in the corners and less about raw power.
Just like the Game of Thrones story line, StreetVelodrome is all about the characters. Belfast threw in some curve balls with new riders taking place in the regional teams. Mad Dave from Team London couldn’t be there, so was replaced by local legend Gareth McKee - Gareth is tipped as an exceptional road racer and cross country mountain biker, so although there were no doubts about his fitness, it was unsure whether this first-timer could fill the boots of Team London’s undefeated champion. The Belfast Titans themselves were made up of Andrea Harrower of the local women’s cycling group, the Belfast Belles and second-timer, Nathan McComb fresh from his bronze medal performance in Round 2 Hillingdon.
Angels of the North Patrick Robinson blurrs the laws of physics to top Pro Qualy
Pro Team Qualifying was as interesting as ever offering the first chance for the teams to prove themselves against the clock, with the crowds watching. The South Coast Rollers were showing strong form, with Rowena Price only 0.2 seconds behind Team London’s Anna Glowinski. Jack Ravenscroft was not on his usual fast form, as he appeared to be playing it safe to avoid Round 1’s mistakes of crashing out of qualifying. Team Cornwall also had some catching up to do - Jess Stone was as usual, the fastest female qualifier, but not by as much as usual, and every fraction of a second counts, with Matti Hemmings struggling to match the speed of some of the other riders. Gareth McKee proved that his past history in downhill racing meant that he has the mental determination to hold his speed in the corners, which he was able to generate by his road racing power on the straights. He helped secure another pole position for Team London with his and Anna’s joint time qualifying them in first place despite the absence of Mad Dave.
The scene was set for a dramatic encounter. With only 0.5 seconds separating the top four male racers in qualifying, this looked like a battlefield where every pedal stroke counted. Often, when competitors are of a similar level, StreetVelodrome racing is won or lost at the start of the race by the rider able to push off from the line the quickest. But Jack Ravenscroft, ever the renegade, broke this pattern in 3 of his heats. Getting off to a slow start, it looked like Nathan McCombe (Belfast Titans) had a clear lead on Jack (South Coast Rollers) but with a shock turn-around, the newly named “Pull-back Jack” clawed his way to a breathtaking victory, securing himself a place in the semi-finals. Home team favourite Nathan was left hoping to progress as the fastest loser.
Jessica Watts of the Angels of the North displayed great form, as was Tanya Griffiths of the Suffolk Saints. Both showing the edge of experience, now with 3 rounds under their belts, but unfortunately it was not enough to get them through to the finals, which was another head-to-head encounter between Jess Stone and Anna Glowinski, with a win from Jess. Meanwhile the bronze medal was fought over once again between Rowena (South Coast Rollers) and Jessica who progressed as the fastest loser. However it was Rowena who battled to the final position on the podium.
The women’s racing may be being dominated by leading lady Jess Stone. But the competition behind is really hotting up. Anna and Rowena were separated by just 0.2 seconds in qualifying and Jessica’s 3 lap race pace was just 0.8s off Anna’s. The drama will continue in Round 4.
The men’s finals saw a confident Patrick Robinson (Angels of the North) who didn’t have the pressure of being up against his nemesis - Mad Dave, but instead faced local hero Nathan McCombe (Belfast Titans), who was living up to the crowd on home soil. Although the crowd were mightily behind Nathan, it was not enough to get him the final win against Patrick losing out by 0.8 seconds. Gareth narrowly missed out on a debut bronze medal with Jack powering to yet another 3rd place by 0.2 seconds.
Home favourite Nathan McComb for Belfast Titans claims the team's first Silver
The results forced some changes in the Team Medal table with Angels of the North leapfrogging Team London for 2nd place and Belfast Titans pushing the South Coast Rollers down to 4th.
The Catch Trophy is still lead by Team Cornwall but only by a slender lead of 1 with both Team London and South Coast Rollers right on their heels. Whilst Team London continue to lead the Most Wins Trophy with 12 to Angels and Team Cornwall's 9 wins so far.
After the podium celebrations the riders and crew were lucky enough to be able to spend an evening celebrating in Belfast’s popular Cathedral Quarter. With its cobbled streets, restaurants and live music it was a great opportunity for the competition to be put aside and enjoy what the city has to offer visitors.
There may not have been any dragons or sword fighting involved but Round 3 was packed with as much intrigue and drama as a Game of Throne episode. Its fair to say the location made the event a truly memorable experience. A great trip away in a welcoming and buzzing city dotted with iconic land marks and a thriving cycling culture.
Next stop on the tour is Round 4 Ballyclare on 19th June.
1- Jess Stone (Team Cornwall)
2 - Anna Glowinski (Team London)
3 - Rowena Price (South Coast Rollers)
1 - Patrick Robinson (Angels of the North)
2 - Nathan McCombe (Belfast Titans)
3 - Jack Ravenscroft (South Coast Rollers)
“Everyone is having SO MUCH FUN” @streetvelodrome via twitter
“#LikeFatherLikeSon Passion on the bike” @NorthDwonPhysio via twitter
“Very impressed with StreetVelodrome today at the Giro! Erin & Ryan had a brilliant time - Great set up Thanks!” Nicole White via Facebook