Tour of the North

Easter in Ireland is synonymous with cycle stage races and the Tour of the North took place in Ulster from Saturday through to Monday. This year the 50th edition of the race attracted teams from across Ireland and the UK. The Spirit Bikes Team made the trip over to compete with a full team consisting of Mark Baines, Ed Clemens, Chris Dredge, Jack Waller and Andy Marriott. The team was set to compete in three days of racing featuring for stages, three road and one time trail all taking place in the Ballymena area.
The first stage on Saturday was a 70mile road race around the Antrim Coast featuring the climbs of Shane’s Hill, Muine Rd, Garron Tower and the closing accent of Glenariff to really stretch the riders legs. With Chris coming into the race on form the team were riding to support him in the General Classification and the Under 23 competition. Chris didn’t waste any time in underlining his form with a strong 8th place finish on stage one just 2mins and 3secs off the winner Duncan Fraser. Ed made it two Spirit Bikes riders in the top 10 with a strong 10th place finish as the bunch made a sprint for the line.
On Sunday morning the riders prepared for Stage 2, the Time Trail. An individual test against the clock in advance of Stage 3 another road stage over 68 miles. The Time Trail was won by Marcus Christie of North Pole CC but dominated by Velosure-Giordana Team with four of their five man team in the top five and the full team in the top 10. Ed led home the Spirit Bikes team with a time of 5mins 00.76seconds good enough for 11th place on the day and just 22.31seconds off the time of the winner. Chris kept his challenge going in the under 23 competition with 21st place loosing just 30.28 seconds on the stage.
With the short time trial to wake their legs up the riders lined up for Stage 3. With the riders keen to mix it up the afternoon was full of attempted breaks which all came to nothing. It was Duncan Fraser who lead the field home in the sprint after just under two and half hours of racing. With Jack stretching his legs to take fourth and Chris following him home in 7th place. With the rest of the team finishing in the bunch the Spirit Bikes Team took second place in the team competition on the stage too.
Monday morning dawned and the stage was set for the fourth and final stage. With Chris sitting in second place in the Under 23 category with a deficit of just 1min and 34secs the team knew what they had to do. Again the racing saw riders making attack after attack to break up the group but it all came down to another bunch sprint with Fraser Duncan taking his third win from three in the road stages, however this wasn’t quite enough to seal overall victory being edged out of the overall by just 11seconds by James Gullen of the professional team Velosure-Giodana.
After four tough stages is was a hard earned top ten overall finish for Chris in 8th just 2mins and 29secs behind, with Ed in 12, Jack in 22nd, Mark in 24th and Andy in 75th. A great ride from all the team to give them fourth place in the team classification.
Chris also wrapped up 2nd overall in the Under 23 competition just 1min and 34secs behind Sebastian Baylis Champion Systems, with Ed 3rd Under23 just a handful of seconds behind. Which was a fantastic result for the teams youngest riders showing continued early form that bodes well for the rest of the season.
“I’ve really enjoyed the Tour of the North and it’s great to head home with 2nd overall in the bag. The racing has been fast and furious and the rest of the team have worked hard to ensure we leave with the results we knew we were capable of” said Chris Dredge.
“The Tour of the North was a target for the team and they’ve not disappointed. It’s great to see Chris up there in the overall for the Under 23’s and the rest of the team working so hard and going so well. This set us up for some big races this year and it’s shaping up to be a very exciting season for the team”. Said Chris Parks owner of Spirit Bikes.
The Spirit Bikes Team would like to thank our 2014 sponsors and partners: Halo Sports, Vanguard, Lake Shoes, Moda Bikes, American Classic Wheels, Rotor Chainrings, Selle Italia Saddles, Jag Wire Cables, One23, Campagnolo, Kenda Tyres, Look Pedals, Perfect Pipework, BSS, SRD Engineering, Apsley Controls (ACL).
 
To find out more about the team and their 2014 season calendar visit Spirit Bikes website www.spiritbikes.co.uk