In recent years the magnificent feats of Martyn Irvine have grabbed the headlines, and rightly so. But Ards CC has always been much more than one rider, and we have a long and proud history. In the first of an occasional series highlighting some of our other achievements, we look back at the 1998 Tour of Ulster, and perhaps the strongest Ards CC road team ever assembled…..
The first stage was an epic 95 miles to Enniskillen. The stage started into a block headwind, further damping the enthusiasm of the bunch. But not Nick Salmon – on holiday with his family, and guesting for Ards CC. He attacked, and only Tommy Evans had the strength to go with him.
Tommy’s not the ideal breakaway companion – he’s small, and can get very low, so you get hardly any shelter behind him. However, the pair worked well together, and by the finish they had built up a massive lead of over 5 minutes.
Nick caught Tommy by surprise in the sprint, and won by 5 seconds.
There is another version of the story – that Tommy was reluctant to take the jersey so early on because his team weren’t strong enough to defend it. Check out Tommy’s body language in the photo and judge for yourself!
Either way, after a day in the armchair, the rest of the Ards team was well up to defending the jersey.
Next morning was wet, and the wipers broke in the team car. Davy had to lean out of the passenger window and work the wipers by hand – not ideal…
The attacks started from the off, but the Ards boys were covering them well. A dangerous move containing Tommy gained a minute. James was there, but after 20 miles or so he was called back to help with the chase.
The break were caught, and Nick immediately counter-attacked. Tommy looked under pressure, but Nick hesitated and the chance was gone. At the finish in Cootehill, a young Ciaran Power took the stage win.
Monday’s 3rd stage was another tough ride, but more strong riding from the Ards team saw the main bunch come in together, leaving everything down to the final time trial.
Nick was able to borrow an aero helmet but had to ride his normal road bike. He was narrowly beaten by Tommy, and finished the race a very creditable 2nd overall.
It was a fantastic weekend, and one that Nick could still remember clearly when I contacted him recently for some photos.
And where are the characters in our story now…..
James McMaster is still racing strongly, having just finished a winter of cyclo-cross. Ross is also still dabbling in local road races.
Jamie Hunter famously won 3 Ards CC super golds before retiring.
Tommy Evans has retired after a long career as one of Ireland’s top international riders. He is now a very respected coach – catch some of his articles on www.stickybottle.com.
Ciaran Power went on to win the Tour of Ulster in 1999, and to ride the Giro in 2000, taking 2 top 10 stages. He also finished 13th in the 2004 Olympics, Ireland’s best ever place in the road race.
Lindsay Gamble is now a highly skilled mechanic, regularly travelling with international teams. His most recent outing was at the World Road Race championships in Florence, supporting Nicholas Roche and Dan Martin. Oh – and he’s also our club secretary.
David McNally is also still involved with the club as our child protection officer.
And finally – Nick and Janet now live in Germany, where Young Master Martin won the German junior road race championship last year. Maybe things will come full circle, and we’ll see another Salmon hard-man make an appearance on Ulster roads soon….