Kids everywhere, parents with strained vocal chords and Robbie Lamont chasing ladies around the BMX track, yes, it could only be the opening round of the world famous Winter MTB League at Castle Park in Bangor Co. Down, Ireland. Promoted once again by XMTB, conditions were muddy following the rain of the preceding week. However this did not stop a day of great action to open the 2008 MTB season. How good it was to see so many new faces, of all ages.

The honour of being the first winner of 2008 went to Banbridge CC lady, Shenna McKiverigan, the best cyclist to come out of Gilford since the legendary JohnThompson. Shenna led from start to finish to win her first big event, though it was a close run affair with fellow Bann rider Stuart Dunlop a close second. Bann completed the top three as super smiler Mark Buller finished in third. Newcomer Kyle Patton did well to finish in 4th as Team Madigan’s Kendal Mackness had one of her best ever finishes to grab 5th. Another new face, Owyn Powell was 6th as ‘capt’ Jack Baird, yes another Baird, had his fisrt major race for Banbridge to take 7th. Callum Stewart though the mud was great as he finished in 8th with the mighty atom, Chris Curry slithering his way to 9th. Niamb McKiveriagn took time of from her new career as race photographer to finish in ninth, apparently Niamb has some great action shots from Tymon Park in Dublin, including someone flashing false teeth!

Last years U-8 supremo John Buller(Banbridge cc) had his first outing in the U-10 ranks, as did many of his main rivals from last year. It was a case of business as usual for the young ace. In an interview to the media after the race, John said that he was in a hurry to finish as he wanted to get ready to see his dad make his race debut! The battle for second saw the usual pair in contention, the Bann duo of Richard Baird and Shannon Buller. Recovering from a bad start, Richard grabbed second place on the last lap, as ever helped by his mum, the ultra vocal Ann, European Shouting Champion and possible candidate for Come Dancing(but I did not tell you all this!Grease is the word!) Shannon finished a very close third as the pair dashed through the puddles to the finish. Shannon’s mum is taking shouting lessons. New XMTB member Greg Bell was an excellent 4th as another XMTB ace, Calum Nairn finished 5th. Yer another new XMTB rider, Joel Smyth crossed the line in 6th with super cool Jack Lamont (mini tree trunks) a close 7th. In his first ever race Matthew McBratney totally enjoyed the experience as he finished in 8th, crossing the line like a true professional with arm raised, much to the delight of Granda!!!!

The U-12 event brought another batch of young stars moving up the ranks from last year. For Banbridge CC’s James Curry it was a perfect start to his U-12 career as he led from start to finish. XMTB’s Conor Nairn chased James throughout the four lapper to take a good second. Banbridge lady, Missy Rachel Mayne, had her first U-12 MTB outing to take a very strong third. Alex Bell, another new XMTB starlet, did well to finish in 4th with the battle of the race fought for 5th between Ty Mackness (Team Madigan) and Joseph Baird (Banbridge CC). This pair had a brilliant dice around the BMX track on the final lap with Ty just getting the verdict at the finish. XMTB lady, Aimee Ogilby finished just behind this pair, in 7th as Bann’s Jill Curry took 8th.

XMTB broke the golden run of Bann victories as Chris Oakley had a dream debut in the U-14 class, scoring a start to finish win. Dan Runciman (Banbridge CC) was runner up, as Claire Oakley finished third before returning to look after the latest Oakley, Sam, woof woof. Stuart Ballantine was 4th ahead of new XMTB riders, Nathanael Smyth and Curtis Bell. Dromara CC’s sole rider was Dean Colhoun, he finished in 8th but certainly enjoyed the jumps on the BMX track. The remainder of the Dromaraites were in action at their own Trailquest event, but will hopefully be at Castle Park this Sunday.

Matthew Adair produced a start to finish win in the U-16 race, a thrilling contest which also featured William Boyd (XMTB) and Mantas Spirgius (Orchard CC). The race took place over 8 laps of the main course and in the early stages Matthew worked hard to stay ahead of William with Mantus making up for a slow start. By half distance Matthew had begun to strengthen his lead as William found his place come under pressure from Mantus who was a revelation on the tricky grass climb just after the start/finish area. In the closing laps Matthew maintained his advantage to take the win on his U-16 debut. William ran out of ‘juice’ in the last couple of laps and was overtaken by Mantas, the Orchard rider finishing in second, an excellent result for the strong young rider who only made his MTB debut at Craigavon last September. Hopefully more of the Juicey Clan will be at Bangor this Sunday. Ryan Williamson impressed as he finished a close 4th with another new face, Jamie Clarke in fifth.

And so to the support event, the Adult race. This was a 10 lap affair with 30 riders doing battle. At the end of the opening lap Tree Trunks Lamont (XMTB) held a narrow lead over Paul McMenamin (Leisure Lakes), Lewis Ferguson or was it a Frazer Duncan impostor (Northern CC), Tim Edgar (XMTB) and Glen Kinning (Castlereagh CC). At the end of the next lap Kinning had moved into the lead and that was the last the rest of the field saw of him, except when he lapped them. By the finish the well known roadie, clubber and DJ had lapped all up to fifth place! XMTB Dinosaur, Trunks Lamont finished a very strong second, this after at one stage man handling a lady on the BMX track, what an Old Ham he was!!!!!!!

Lewis Ferguson finished on his own in third after struggling with a slick on the back wheel. Paul McMenamin took fourth on the new bike that Santa brought him with Tim Edgar having a rare MTB outing to finish 5th. Graham Boyd had his first outing in the Senior ranks to take 6th with Michael Holland just holding off Andy Sideways Godfery to snatch 7th. All round MTB dude, Luke Ireland rode well to finish in 9th, with Eamon McConvey, the Newry version, completing the top ten. Irish MX star Gordon Crockard supported the event as he did last year, finishing in 11th as Paul Anderson was the first of the Banbridge squad to finish, in 12th. Jonny Beers was the first of the Junuior riders, 15th with Anne Duffy leading the ladies as she crossed the line in 17th. Special mention to Maurice Mayne (Banbridge CC) who finished an excellent 18th the result of a long winter of training. The fact that he beat fellow Bann member and newly qualified commissaire, Stevie Prentice. Will cause much amusement in the Dromara MTB ranks, it would be worth having a check on their message board! Another big mention for Daddy Buller, on his race debut taking 21st, though the team manager will have four cycling kits to wash tonight.

Well done to all at XMTB for a great event and to the members of St Johns who had nothing to do. The second round of the series is this Sunday when all races will be handicapped. So get the word out and be there.

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