Ulster Women Do McCall Foundation Proud

The women's elite International Crit in St Helier yesterday saw the Ulster squad of Mary Boyd, Kay Hack, Julie Mulligan, Hannah Francis and Tonya Moran thrown into the deep end. As they signed on at the Town Hall the start list was very impressive with some very clear favourites in the line up. Last year's winner, Claire Galloway of Team Zappi was there along with a full team while the Motorpoint squad were impressive to say the least. Hannah Barnes, the current Women's British National Crit Champion would be hard to beat and with a full Motorpoint squad around her which included her partner, madison champion Hannah Walker and Olympic Development squad rider Lucy Garner they would certainly be going all out.

Apart from Mary Boyd, the Ulster squad who have been supported in this venture by the David McCall Foundation were very inexperienced in crit riding. For Tonya Moran, this would be her first ever experience and she was a bit nervous as she viewed the start list. The course itself, was well surfaced but there were some very narrow, tight righthand turns on the one mile circuit.

However in true Ulster fashion, the women shrugged their shoulders and said, “Let’s get on with the job." A few supportive words from managers George and Mary Boyd and everyone was raring to go.

After a few warm up laps the nerves had settled and they were canny enough to get themselves into front positions on the start line to give themselves a fighting chance. The early morning clouds began to part and the sun broke through as the flag was dropped and the race began. Team Motorpoint tried to control the race from the start, especially in the narrow turns, knowing that those who made it through these first had a better chance.

The pace started off very high but the race stayed together for the first few laps. However in an unexpected move, 16 year old Lucy Garner broke free and began to open up a gap on the main field. After a bit of ‘cat and mouse’ with teams deciding if this was a Motorpoint team tactic, the riders soon realised that the gap was increasing steadily. The race then began in earnest, splitting the field into several groups.

As Garner powered around the course, the gap increased to 40 seconds and this when the average lap time was just over two and a half minutes had an effect on all the riders. A chase group comprising Walker and Barnes of Motorpoint, the Team Zappi outfit and Look Mum No Hands squad drove hard to close the gap. Julie Mulligan managed to get herself into the next chase group while the remaining Ulster women were not far behind.

The defending champion Claire Galloway pulled out and gradually as Garner powered on small groups of riders were removed from the field. Mary Boyd was the first of the Ulster Women to be eliminated but she was not alone. Garner’s ride was nothing less that superb and it was all the chasing groups could do to try and maintain enough momentum to stay in the race. Kay and Hannah had settled down well and were riding really hard until they too were pulled from the race in the closing stages.

Tonya, the least experienced of the riders was next to go but not before she had made many attempts to bridge the gap to the group in front. She said afterwards, “I was really enjoying that. I was so sorry I could not stay in for the last couple of laps. I wish there was another one on tomorrow because it was such good racing.”

It was down to Julie Mulligan to ride for Ulster and with her team-mates and George shouting from the sidelines, she dug deep and hung in. In the last lap Garner caught and went through the last group on the road just after passing the finish line and then it was all out. She came through a clear and well deserved winner.

As was expected Motorpoint made it 1,2, 3 with Hannah Barnes and Hannah Walker taking the remaining podium positions. Julie Mulligan continued on and was placed 12th overall. This was a great result and everyone was delighted.

The consensus after the race was that it had been a great experience and that the lack of good crits in Ulster is certainly a disadvantage. The women thanked the David McCall Foundation and Cycling Ulster for giving them the opportunity to compete against riders at the top of their game.

It was then time for a quick shower, and a chance to watch the elite men’s race which was won by Motorpoint’s Ian Bibby who rode the Tour of Ulster earlier this year. Magnus Backstedt (Team UK Youth) was second with Blair Windsor (Wilier-GoSelfDrive.com) taking third. These three had been away in a break all day and just managed to hold the chasers off to the line.

Following a quick evening meal it was off to bed for the Ulster squad as there was early start for the road race next morning. Tonya made sure that no-one would go hungry by providing ‘make in the pot’ porridge for everyone. Kay Hack went one better. When she came down at 5.30 this morning the night porter who had been assigned to provide breakfast had no idea what porridge was so the resourceful Kay headed for the hotel kitchen and made breakfast.

A 40 minute cycle followed to the start of the road race. The women completed five laps of a hard seven mile circuit which included two tough climbs out of the Bay. This time it was Kay and Tonya who were the best of the Ulster riders but once again Motorpoint dominated and took the top three positions. Julie Mulligan managed to jump into the men's elite race as it passed and was able to take shelter from the considerable size of 'Big Maggy' Backstedt. Reports that George Boyd and Tommy Lamb failed to finish the men’s support race are totally unfounded I have been assured. Unfortunately with no transport out to the start I could not capture the event on camera.

Many thanks to all in the Jersey Cycling Federation who were supportive over the weekend and thanks to the David McCall Foundation for their continued support. The women were very professional throughout and they have come away with a great deal of experience from the event.