Round 6 of the Mountain Bike League brought us to the Top of the Rock. It also brought with it a lot of swearing and cursing (mainly directed at the course selectors) followed by smiles all round and a few pints in The Lumpers Bar. Over 30 riders were crammed onto the start line at the bottom of the Mother In Law. Beginning with a stinging uphill, plenty of uphill in the middle, a little more uphill and ending on an uphill this was not a course for the clydesdales among us.
After a 1, 2 finish last week and a minor adjustment to their handicaps Sergeyus Jurcenko and Andrew Meegan tore off the start line and up the Mother in Law on a mission.
Current league leader Seán Kelly was off 4 minutes later followed shortly by Brendan Callaghan and a whopping 9 minutes later came Ray O'Shaugnessy.
Kelly made good ground on the uphill even though he maintains "that's not my sort of thing" and had caught most of the pack at the top of Aidans Canyon. Brendan Callaghan was hot on his heels but was struggling to get his breath and was heard several times to be muttering about handicaps and how Liam Burns had such a long head start and that it just wasn't fair.
Niall "Hot Feet" Meehan actually made it to the start line on time this week, but then failed to notice when his group left so we're waiting with baited breath if he's going to have a clean start at Round 6!
A tricky ascent up The Stinger lead to the Muddy River, up to and across G-String corner, down Pot Luck and around the Castles. Kristaps Pumpurs was in the lead. There was a nice slice of downhill coming though and Seán Kelly, Joe Toner and Brendan Callaghan were gaining on Kristaps at a rapid pace.
It was all to play for coming into the last climb up to the rock with 3 riders within metres of each other. Kristaps kept the lead up to last second when he was pipped at the post by Seán Kelly with Joe Toner breathing down his neck in third. Seconds later Brendan Callaghan crossd the line in 4th position.
Colin McGeown was leading a secondary charge to the finish line with Sergeyus Jurcenko and Liam Burns on his tail. Aaron McCann of Team McCann came out of nowwhere at a blistering pace on the final stretch into what would have been 5th place but as the 4 riders converged on the finish line and tanks were running on fumes Liam Burns pipped McCann by a half a wheel and all 4 riders finished within 1 second of each other.
PJ Hynes kept it together from the start to claim victory in Race 2 followed at some distance by one-to-watch Kenneth Farrelly who is set to move up to Race 1 after a number of good performances.
Seán Duff put his Giant Trance to good use and recorded another solid time finishing at the same time as Gary Winterlich on his trusty bike also called Gary.
Chris Rogers managed to hold off a final push from Torin Fleming up to the rock.
The view from the Rock is one of the most spectacular in the Cooley Mountains with a wide panaoramic of Dundalk Bay with Blackrock in the distance. Early finishers were able to watch as riders descended from the top of Aidans Canyon almost directly below them to the final climb. Round 7 sees the league move back to Bellurgan Park for two full laps of what will hopefully be a dry course and a different beast altogether to what we have seen before.
As always thanks to our marshals Jason Malone and Terry McEneaney and to photographer Brian Mulligan who keeps coming up with some top quality photos.