The official launch of the 2016 Tour of the North International Cycle race took place in the Portaferry Hotel on Friday evening (4th March). The Ards and North Down Borough Council are main sponsors of the four day five stage event which takes place during the Easter weekend (Friday 25th-Monday 28th March).
Mary Arthurs, the proprietor of the Portaferry Hotel welcomed everyone to the hotel and local area. She was delighted that the race organisers were staying in the recently reopened hotel and excited about the prestigious race taking place in Portaferry and the Ards and North Down area.
The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Alan Graham said “We are honoured to be supporting this race and to be associated with such a well-established sporting event at Easter. Ards and North Down have always been an events based borough and the Tour of the North is a massive boost for Portaferry and the Ards and North Down area. The four-day event will see a big influx of competitors and supporters which will benefit the tourism industry across the whole borough”
John Dumigan spoke on behalf of Portaferry Regeneration which is also a sponsor of the event saying that they are delighted to see the race in Portaferry and more than happy to support it as it will be a welcome boost to the town”.
Cycling Ulster Chairman Maurice McAllister said that “Cycling Ulster are pleased to support this great event and praised the hard work done by race Director Joan McCullough and the committee.
Joan McCullough thanked all the race sponsors and the local Portaferry area for welcoming the event. She also thanked the Portaferry GAA club which was represented by Paud Mason and Kevin for the use of St Patricks GAA facilities during the race period. Stanley Lamb (DRD) was there reassuring us that the road works in Portaferry will be long gone before Easter and he will ensure all roads on the Tours course are repaired to a high standard for the race. The Manager of Ards and North Down Tourism Sharon Mahaffy also attended the launch.
The Mayor then presented the 2016 Tour of the North leaders jerseys to David Watson (North Down CC), yellow as he is the defending champion, Chris McGlinchey (Chain Reaction) White for the U23 leader and Glen Kinning (Kinning Cycles) King of the Hills.
Bangor man David Watson is among the favourites to win this year while McGlinchey was runner up in the Under 23 classification last year and is aiming for top spot this time. Kinning is a former Ulster Hill Climb Champion and will be in the race for the King of the Hills title.
Last year’s King of the Hills and overall runner up Ronan McLaughlin is back in a strong Carn Wheelers squad. Other notable entries include Fraser Duncan (Asea Wheelworx) who won three road stages in 2014 and Derek Finnegan (Keevan CC) who won the final stage in Carrickfergus back in 2011.
Jake Hales (Spirit Bikes Racing Team) from England has been among the front runners in recent years while up and coming riders such as Craig Rea (Phoenix CC} and Foyle CC’s Ryan Reilly should feature in the top placings. A total of 100 riders will compete with teams from Ireland, North and South, Scotland, England and Holland.
Racing begins on Friday night (25th March 5:30pm) with a race in Kirkistown Motor Racing Circuit (1 hour plus 5 laps).
Stage 2 on Saturday starts and finishes in Portaferry (11am start). The race will include 3 ascents of Windmill hill. 92 miles
Sunday has a short time trial (5 miles) finishing on the mountain road climb (9am start) and Stage 4 is a road race from Portaferry to Newtownards, into the Castlereagh Hills and then to Donaghadee for the finish. (66 miles)
The final stage on Easter Monday starts in Bangor in Bangor Rugby Club (11am). The race goes to Comber where it takes in four laps of a hilly circuit in the Killinchy area and then finishes with a tough climb up Bradshaw’s Brae and the Holywood Road towards Craigantlet (78 miles). Total distance of the five stages is 270 miles.
More detailed description of the race will be posted later.
More information can be found on www.tourofthenorth.net