Ards Cycling Club

Ards Cycling Club -

Book Review – Road to Valour


Coppi and Bartali in the 1949 Tour de France

Last year we reviewed two books about Italian campionissimo Fausto Coppi. I have to confess to being a bit of a Coppiani, ever since seeing a picture of Coppi (“perfection on two wheels”) in action. Most articles about Coppi also talk about his great rival Gino Bartali. Many dismiss him as “Gino the Pious” or “Ginettaccio” (Gino the terrible) due to his testy temperament. But there is a lot more to Bartali than this, as the first English account of his life reveals.

Road to Valour starts in the early years – Bartali got his first bike at 13, and quickly started winning races. He wasn’t a smooth rider like Coppi, preferring instead to wear his rivals down with repeated attacks. But his work ethic and determination to win were very strong, driven partly in response to getting bullied at school. He turned pro at 20 and won his first Giro in 1936, aged just 21. His first Tour victory followed in 1938.


By this time, Europe was sliding towards war, and Mussolini’s Facist government wanted to hold up sporting successes as evidence of Italian racial superiority. This was a political minefield for an athlete. Bartali, already a devout Catholic, took a big risk by choosing to align himself with the Catholic Church, rather than dedicate his win to Mussolini.


There was little racing during the war years, and Bartali effectively “lost” the best years of his cycling career. As Mussolini’s popularity faded, the Nazis stepped in to support him, and with that came increased persecution of foreigners, and in particular Jews. Bartali was still allowed to train, and this freedom led Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa to ask him if he would deliver forged identity papers to help those at risk. This work was dangerous, and very secret at the time. It was only decades later that some sketchy details emerged. Bartali himself never spoke openly about his role, but it is estimated that he saved many hundreds of lives.

Bartali experimented with an early form of deraillieur gears

Racing started to pick  up again in 1946. Although Bartali won the Giro in 1946, he was now in his 30s and often struggled against younger opponents. He adapted his racing style, and by 1948 he was picked to lead the Italian national team in the Tour. However, after 2 weeks of racing he was 21 minutes down at the rest day in Cannes and all hope of a second Tour win seem to have gone.

Back home in Italy, the leader of the main government Opposition Party was shot, and it looked like the country was going to spiral downwards into civil war. That evening the leader of the ruling Christian Democratic Party phoned Bartali and asked for help. If Bartali could win the next day’s stage, perhaps his victory would help to reunite Italy.

Bartali and French rival Bobet fight through atrocious conditions in the Alps

The stage was 167 miles, over three massive Alpine climbs. Many of the roads were gravel and mud. Gino woke at 4am for the early stage start to the sound of rain lashing against his hotel window. His team mate reported that Bartali laughed!

Could Bartali win the stage? And a second Tour, 10 years after his first?

And could he save Italy?

Tour legend says that the rider who enters Cassa Deserte (an area of strange rock formations near the summit of Col D’Izoard) will win the Tour

Aili and Andres McConnon spent 10 years researching Road to Valour. It is a fascinating account of an incredible athlete, and how he faced up to challenges both within and beyond sport.

Coppi may have led cycling into the modern era with his glamour and modern scientific training methods. Bartali was the last of the old school hard men, but there is still much to admire here. I would thoroughly recommend this book. There is now some Bartaliani in me, along side the Coppiani.


Foot note – following the excitement of the Giro’s visit to Ireland last year, the first Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia is coming to Northern Ireland on 21st June this year. Registration for what promises to be an amazing event has just opened – click here for more details.

Club calendar published

The club race calendar for 2015 has now been published – check it out here or follow the “Club Races” link at the top of this page.

Club races are a great way to get started in bike racing, while also allowing our more experienced riders to fine tune their speed and bike handling skills.

We’ve updated some of the courses this years, as suggested at the AGM. Gareth has added maps and descriptions for each event, so why not check them out?

Good luck!

Tour of Ards Open for Entries

Entries for this year’s Tour of Ards, sponsored by  See.Sense & Romas, have now opened. Once again we’re delighted to have full support from the Police and permission to have an 80 rider field. But entries for this event always fill up quickly, so please enter as soon as possible to avoid disappointed.

For more details, click here, or follow the “Tour of Ards 2015″ link at the top right hand corner of this page.


Updates from the new Club Committee

Here are some updates from the new Club Committee following their first meeting since the AGM in December. It’s great to see the new committee getting up and running, and particularly their initiative to encourage more members to try open racing.

Time to sign up for 2015

This year there isn’t going to be a sign up evening. Instead you can join Ards CC by filling in the application form and paying to appropriate fee to any committee member. Full membership is £15, junior membership is £5 and supporting membership (non-cycling) is £1.00. All information is in the Join Ards CC page.

Open Racing

It was suggested at the AGM that the club should find ways of encouraging more Ards CC riders to represent the club in open races. This year the club will pay the difference between a full competition license and limited competition license, provided you take part in 6 open races over the season. This will be paid back to club members at the end of the season.

Sunday Club Run

From February 1st the Sunday club run will have an earlier start time of 9am.  Hopefully this will encourage those who wish to be home early to still come out with the club.

If numbers allow, as well as the usual club run there will be a faster training group for those who wish to prepare for the racing season. The intention is for both groups to merge at the coffee stop for the run home together.

Club Calendar

The club calendar will be published shortly. This year there will be 6 road races, the Orlock circuit will be changed slightly to include Stockbridge Road and the 10 mile TT course will move from Donaghadee to Millisle.

Key dates for your diary.

Tour Of Ards – Saturday 14th March

Champion Of Champions TT – Sunday 17th May

Town Centre Races – Wednesday 17th June

Tour Of Strangford – Sunday 13th September.

Club Kit

The order window is open until 6th February for anyone requiring club kit. A 50% deposit is required at time of order, with remainder paid upon collection. Contact Graeme Brown to place an order or for more information .

2015 Ards Club Clothing Prices


Short sleeve jersey (Quadri) £39.48 (Professional cut, standard)

Short sleeve jersey (Body Fit) £42.60 (Lycra sleeves and slightly tighter)

Long sleeve (Quadri) £45

Long sleeve (Body Fit) £48.12

Long sleeve (Isolation) £51.72 (Slightly warmer than Quadri)

Bib shorts

Professional cut bib short £70.68 (Standard)

Race proven cut bib short £76.56


Professional cut gilet £55.56 (Standard)

Race proven cut gilet £74.76 (thinner and lighter with access flap to rear pockets)


Long sleeve body fit £57.60 (lightweight tight fitting jacket type)

Long sleeve combi £94.44 (Wind block on chest & pixel reflective rear pockets)

Long Sleeve winter £110.52 (Wind block, chest and arms. Pixel reflective arms shoulders and rear pockets)

For more details on each product type visit

For a size chart visit

Christmas 10 marred by accident

Some of the riders and supporters at the finish

Today’s Christmas 10 mile time trial was won by Ian Inglis (Curran Racing) in a time of 25:20, beating Ards CC veteran William Gill by just 7 seconds.

James McFarlane after today’s incident

However, the event was marred by an accident when James McFarlane was hit by a car at the Flood Gates car park close to the finish. An ambulance was called and James was treated at the scene. Thankfully, after about half an hour, James was able to return home. We  wish him a speedy recovery.

Two police cars also attended and the police are investigating the incident.

Ards CC would like to thank the emergency services for their prompt and professional response to this unfortunate incident.


Mervyn Irvine (Ards CC) also had a minor fall relating to a puncture, but assured us that he would still be able to compete in his traditional Boxing Day swim tomorrow.

The full result is given below. Thanks to all who turned up to marshal, to time keep and to supply hot drinks to the riders at the finish. As always, it was very much appreciated.

Also thanks to David McVeigh for these pictures.

Name Club Time
1 Ian Inglis Curran Racing 25:20
2 William Gill Ards CC 25:27
3 Alastair Martin Ards CC 26:19
4 Mark Watson Ards CC 28:26
5 Alan Rogers Unattached 28:32
6 Desi McIlwrath and Graham McIlwrath (tandem) Ards CC 30:12
7 William Orr Ards CC 30:31
8 Gillian Orr North Down CC 31:05
9 Billy Kirk Ards CC 34:38
James McFarlane Ards CC DNF
Mervyn Irvine Ards CC DNF

Matthew Martin rode a private time trial in 31:04.

Winner Ian Inglis with the Jardine Trophy


Could William have saved 7 seconds with more aerodynamic antlers?











Top lady Gillian Orr

Time keepers Ron and Bobby


Festive dates for your diaries

Here are three festive dates for your diaries

  • First – Paul McMinn has a fry run booked for Sunday 14th December for the TT Lounge – North down house in Comber at 11 – 11:30 am. Cost is £5 each to include full fry and tea/coffee. You can also have a beer or whatever else takes your fancy. There will be secure parking for bikes in the beer garden. Please put your name down (via Facebook) if attending so Paul can get a head count. Bring along wife’s/girlfriends (or husbands/boyfriends..) to meet you there and drive you home if required.
  • Next up – the official pre-Xmas club drinks, 23rd December, 7-7.30pm in Wetherspoons.
  • And finally, the Christmas morning 10 mile time trial, 10am at the floodgates on the Portaferry Road, Newtownards. Every rider is asked to bring a small give so that everyone goes home with a price. Fancy dress optional, but encouraged – check out last year’s winners here.

Riders and supporters at last year’s Christmas 10

Positive AGM sets direction for new committee

There was a good turn out for the club AGM on Wednesday evening. Thanks to all those who braved the weather to attend.

Desi welcomed everyone, and opened the meeting with a debate on the objectives of the club, as suggested in a recent article. The conclusions were -

  1. Club runs, the Tour of Strangford Sportive and our club race program are our most popular activities with members, and we should continue to develop and grow them;
  2. We have a long history of promoting excellent open races, and we should continue with our current events (Tour of Ards, Champions of Champions 25 and the Town Centre races);
  3. Seven or eight members expressed interested in riding open road races. There was also a feeling that we should do more to encourage females. We will try to develop these two areas next year;
  4. Growing our underage membership, and resurrecting an Ards CC stage race were also identified as things we’d like to do in the future, but are not priorities in the short term.

Desi then presented his Chairman’s Report. He reflected on a great year for the club, and mentioned the Giro, the growing turnouts at club races and the success of the club runs as particular highlights.

Desi (chairman), Lindsay (secretary), Melissa (assistant secretary), Gwen (treasurer), Dany (PRO) Maggie (Social sec), Marie and John A. all stood down. The meeting thanked them for all their hard work – the recent growth in the club is in no small way thanks to their efforts.

The following people were elected -

  • President – Billy Kirk
  • Chairman – John Carty
  • Secretary – Gareth Murray
  • Assistant secretary – Graham Brown
  • Treasurer – Con Russell
  • Public Relations Officer – no-one was elected to this position on the committee, but Dany, James and Alastair all offered to continue to help out.
  • Child Protection Officer – David McNally
  • Social Secretary – Paul McMinn (non-committee)
  • Other Committee Members – Darren Colville, Paul Cunningham, Bernard McCluskey

Non-committee positions -

  • Time keepers – Ron Martin, Bobby Magreechan, Dany Blondeel, Paul Robinson
  • Auditor – Richard Hanna
  • First Aid Officer – to be confirmed.

Dany, Richard, Desi and Alastair offered to continue supporting where needed but could not commit to a position on the committee.

It was agreed that we should try to get more members vetted and trained in child protection – David will investigate this. We should also try to train more first aiders, to cover club races and club runs – Con offered to look into this. Watch out for more information on both of these in the New Year.

It was agreed to keep membership fees fixed at £15 for Seniors, £5 for Under 18 and anyone in full time education, and £1 for non cycling members. Club race entry fees were also unchanged at £2 for seniors (£3 for visitors) and 50p for Under 18 and fte (£2 for visitors).

Next up was a discussion on whether the club should register with the NI Charities Commission as a Community Amateur Sports Club or as a Charity. The issue wasn’t clear, and the incoming committee were urged to seek guidance from Cycling Ulster.

Thanks to some sterling work in the background, Richard was able to confirm our open event dates for 2015. These are Tour of Ards (Sat. 14/3), Champion of Champions 25 (Sun. 17/5), Town Centre Races (Wed 17/6) and the Tour of Strangford (Sun 13/9).

The club race calendar was also discussed. It will be largely the same as this year, but the committee were asked to consider safety changes to the Orlock road race circuit (to use Stockbridge Road, and to finish at the brow of Orlock hill), to consider a different 10mile course, and to consider adding a 6th road race to the calendar (while bearing in mind that the Tuesday evening club runs are also popular, so we don’t want to lose any of them!)

Thanks again to everyone for their positive input, and for reading this far. Good luck to the new committee in 2015 – may the wind be on your backs!

Ards CC AGM – what next?

This year’s Ards CC Annual General Meeting will be on Wednesday 10th December at 7.30pm in Ards Leisure Centre. All members will have the chance to select the committee that will run the club for the next 12 months, and to influence what the club does.

Below is an editorial piece. It does not necessarily represent the views of the committee, but will hopefully promote some constructive debate. 

There has been some tension in the committee recently, partly caused by differences of opinion on how best to run the club. This is not entirely unexpected as the objectives of the club evolve over time.

Ards CC has a long and proud history.

In the late 1970s, the focus was on recruiting and developing younger riders. The current medal scheme and handicap trophies were put in place. Ards CC schoolboys and juniors won races and championship medals in Ulster and Ireland, were picked for representative teams, and even set a couple of unofficial world records. Over half the membership was under 18.

Five Ards CC schoolboys were part of the Discovering America cycling expedition that cycled 3960 miles coast to coast across America in 1980, setting 2 unofficial world records along the way.

By the late 1980s, the younger membership started to decline and the focus changed to our senior riders who were successful throughout Ireland and beyond. For example, Ards CC teams took the yellow leaders jersey in the Gorey 3-day, the Tour of the North and the Tour of Ulster. As new branches of the sport emerged there was debate about whether we should get involved in Mountain Biking and Triathlon – we had champions at both disciplines. The club was even affiliated to the Cycle Touring Club for a couple of years.

Graeme Obree and Chris Boardman went head to head on the Portaferry Road

The club also became heavily involved in event promotion, peaking with two head to head races featuring Olympic Champion Chris Boardman and World champion Graeme Obree. We also promoted two very successful Irish Championships.

We’ve also been lucky enough to have had many excellent officials and support volunteers, including international mechanic Lindsay Gamble, and Dany Blondeel’s Belgium Project.

Lindsay pictured helping out with the Belgium Project. He has been mechanic on teams from Ards CC right through to the Irish team at the World Championships, and has a huge wealth of experience.

In recent years the cycling scene, and Ards CC, have continued to evolve. On a positive note, membership has grown steadily and our club runs are very popular. Club race participation is increasing. Our Tour of Strangford sportive was a huge success this year with over 270 riders taking part. And of course there is the rise of Strava….

On a slightly more negative note, underage membership has continued a long decline, with just 2 members under the age of 18 this year. The number of Ards CC riders competing in open races has also continued to decline, particularly in road races. And we lost the Portaferry 3-day this year.

This pattern of change of not unique to Ards CC. There is no right answer to what a cycling club should be.

I think the changes outlined above have, in part, contributed to the tensions in our committee. It is important to periodically discuss and agree a set of objectives for our club. This will allow our members (new and existing) to understand what sort of club we aspire to be. And it will give a clear direction to the committee.

I therefore suggest we take 15 to 20 minutes at the start of this year’s AGM to review and agree the objectives of the club. We can then proceed to elect a committee that is bought into achieving these objectives.

Club Dinner Details

William Gill with one of his 6 trophies at the awards night last year

Award Night in Romas (Newtownards) on Friday 21th November 2014 from 7.30pm..dinner served 8pm.

A choice of 3 set menu’s will be available (3 course +coffee+glass of wine or soft drink or pint ) £25.00 per person ( a vegetarian option on request ,as alternative set menu is included )
Menu will appear here in a few need to book and pay before Friday 14th of November, with any of the committee members below.Please bring a prize for the raffle(proceeds to the clubs funds)
Book and pay with David Mc Nally 07761605398 or 91-819422
Marie Irvine 91-810345
John Arlow 07796696316
Desi Mc Ilwrath 91-874225
ROMAS has been a faithful sponsor of the club for years and renowned for their food and craic
regards Dany PRO