Just when we thought the racing was starting to settle into some sort of a pattern, the landscape changed and so did the results! Based outside the Sixmile Leisure Centre in Ballyclare as part of the Northern Ireland Festival of Cycling or StreetVelodrome riders were in for a difficult challenge at Round 4 of the national Series as heavy rain was unfortunately forecast all afternoon.
A judgement call was made to bring the racing earlier in the day to avoid the worst of the rain, despite the hope to bring a full day of entertainment to Ballyclare. However, even that plan failed and despite running to a very tight schedule, the racers were subjected to extreme weather conditions, proving that the StreetVelodrome Pro’s are more committed and daring than we had ever previously understood.
There was also a strong turn-out of amateur riders, some hailing from Round 3 in Belfast - having had a taste of the competition and wanting to secure themselves a spot in the Belfast Titans team at the SuperFinals - and others there for the first time. Caroline Patterson and Nick Ryles were the fastest female and male of the day and we’ll see them in front of Buckingham Palace, representing Northern Ireland on July 30th!
The team qualys kicked off an exciting start to the racing, with a lead finally taken by the Southcoast Rollers (Jack Ravenscroft and Rowena Price) and Team Cornwall just 0.06 seconds behind in second place! This lead to a different mix of head-to-heads, and contenders who have not previously come against each other in the finals were now able to have the opportunity to race. The first two male races got underway safely with a win by the Belfast Titans (Glyn O’Brien) and Suffolk Saints (Michael) and then things started to get treacherous…
Mad Dave from Team London and Patrick Robinson from Angels of the North have previously faced each other in the finals, with each of them taking a win so far. To meet so early on in the competition meant that neither of them were prepared to be knocked out of the racing entirely. In the pouring rain, with slippery surfaces and long stopping distances, both Pro’s attacked the track like normal. To the gasps of the (slightly bedraggled but stoic) crowd, Patrick crashed out of the banking on his second lap, knocking him out of the competition straight into the A and E waiting room. Next up was Rowena and Andrea Harrower (Belfast Titans) with bets on Rowena’s experience for the win. A win was not enough for Rowena who wanted a catch and pushing it too hard on a wet corner, she came down. Heroically she jumped back up to try to continue the race but she had lost her chain in the crash and that meant a win and a catch for the Belfast Titans.
The drama of those races affected the StreetVelodrome family morale, and racing became a bit more cautious. Jessica Watts (Angels of the North) got off to a flying start in her head-to-head against an overly tentative Anna Glowinski (Team London) and it looked as though she was going to take the win and knock Anna out of the competition in the heats for the first time but her speed was not suited to the wet conditions and she lost her footing, allowing Anna to just about snatch back the win on the final lap.
In the semi-finals, Pull-back Jack failed to deliver on his usual tactics and instead took the lead from the start, with Glyn pulling him back and taking the win, saying “sometimes it’s easier when you are the one behind because you can see the other person ahead and focus on catching them back up”...perhaps there is something in this strategy.
It was a usual Anna and Jess Stone (Team Cornwall) final but seemingly more down to circumstance and luck that at the previous 3 Rounds. Anna, who was riding very cautiously in the conditions, was caught by Jess in lap 2. A win and a catch point for Team Cornwall. Jessica Watts, who came back into the competition as fastest loser, ended up in 3rd place and getting onto the podium for the first time.
The men’s final was Glyn and Mad Dave, both there because they believed their experience of riding in rainy conditions (Glyn as a mountain biker and Dave as a mad BMXer, who would hit skateparks in the wet) is what saw them through. Mad Dave took the win for Team London, with Team Cornwall in 3rd place putting Team Cornwall into a clear lead for the team competition.
The nail-biting nerves and excitement of Round 4 in Ballyclare showed the dedication and support of the whole StreetVelodrome family, racers and crew alike. First priority being that the show must go on but an understanding to look after each other. As Vick Hope, the StreetVelodrome television presenter, said after watching the racing from behind her fingers “I don’t want to see any of you get hurt.” And with that, the Northern Ireland mini-tour was over.