Jack Devlin was the biggest winner at round three of the Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup in Rostrevor when he swept to the overall victory, clinching the 2018 Ulster Enduro Championship.
For the Vitus First Tracks Race Division rider, the third stop of the series saw him come to form as he roasted the five stages to win the Under 21 category, while also notching up the fastest time of the day among the 200 riders entered. That time gave him the bonus hat trick of being crowned this year’s Cycling Ireland Ulster Enduro Champion.
In the tightly contested Pro Men category, Glyn O’Brien made it two wins in a row, while Meave Baxter (Green Bikes) was the rider to beat in the Women’s class.
Devlin lifts Ulster title
“I’m absolutely buzzing after that ride,” told Jack following the podium celebrations. “I didn’t have the greatest starts to the year and so put a lot of effort into this round. I felt strong from the off and was just loving the stages — I wasn’t really thinking about winning, I was just having fun. To come away with the hat trick by taking the Ulster Enduro title is really the perfect end to an awesome day.”
Affectionally labelled the Season of Savages, the penultimate stop of this year’s Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup certainly lived up to its name in Rostrevor. Mediterranean-like conditions ensured that the only clouds lingering were dust trails.
With Northern Ireland’s largest trail centre at their disposal, organisers kept things all-natural and all within range of the race paddock. Stages 1-3 overlapped the infamous Lungbuster climb and although the climb itself was savage, it was more than worth the graft. Stage 4 took riders above the Shore Road before a short liaison had them pointing it south down stage 5’s Bin Run for home.
Pro Men – 2-2 for O’Brien
In the Pro Mens O’Brien looked to build on his win from round two’s Bigwood, while Nathan McComb was keen to notch his first win of the season on the board. Putting the hammer down on stage 1, O’Brien caught an early march on his younger teammate, topping the time sheets by one second. McComb was quick to answer back on the technical gullies of stage 2 and levelled the scores.
Not to be outdone, O’Brien then went fastest on stages 3 and 4 to edge his nose in front. With the rough and busy stage 5 set to be the decider, a small crash by O’Brien nearly saw his hard work lost as McComb went three seconds faster. It wasn’t enough though and with two seconds in hand, O’Brien claimed the top step of the podium for the second time running.
With the duo out front, the battle for the final step of the podium was played out between Mech Monkey’s Ben Irwin and Andrew Godfrey, with Irwin’s consistent pace and quicker stage 4 sealing the deal.
“I think that’s one of the best day’s racing I’ve had in a while,” admitted O’Brien. “I knew the stages were running fast and the times were going to be tight. I was on the limit the whole day just pushing, pushing, pushing.
“I nearly threw it away though on the final stage when I washed out the front wheel, but luckily I was quick to my feet and was able to hang on. Overall it’s been a great day and Rostrevor has certainly delivered the goods this weekend.”
Under 21 – Devlin untouchable
In the Under 21 category Jack Devlin was the man of the moment. Firing on all cylinders he opened up a six-second lead on Mech Monkey’s Drew Armstrong on the opening stage. With the tone set, he upped his pace, pulling over 20 seconds clear as they entered the feed station after the third stage. He then went on to claim the clean sweep with five stage wins from five starts.
After such a solid showing the previous weekend at Ticknock, Armstrong frustratingly didn’t have an answer for Devlin in Rostrevor and had to be content with the runner-up result. However, by also clinching the Ulster Junior Enduro Championship, it capped off a good weekend for the 16-year-old as he builds towards his debut in the Enduro World Series at round six in Italy in July.
“Hats off to Jack today, he was untouchable — even winning it outright,” commented Drew. “Honestly I felt good all day. It was a big day, some big climbs and even bigger stages, but I really enjoyed it out there.
“It would have been great to get the Under 21 win but I’m more than happy to win the Ulster Junior title — that really means a lot — and I was fourth outright too. Hopefully I can keep this form rolling into the EWS in Italy.”
Keeping Armstrong honest all day, Mourne Cycles Aidan Hawkins finished just six seconds behind in third. Despite three runner-up stage finishes, it was stages three and finally five that saw him have to settle for third.
Behind the top three, Mark O’Kane (SMTB) had a consistent ride placing fourth fastest each time to end his day in fourth. Frazer Morrison (Mech Monkey) completed the top five.
Junior — Clerkin’s first win of 2018
In the Junior class, it was East Coast MTB’s Niall Clerkin who earned his place on the top step of the podium. Quickest on all but the penultimate stage, he took the win.
Putting in a solid ride, Joel Hamilton (Shimna Wheelers) did enough to hold off a late push by Ryan Skelly (Carnwheelers) to take second.
Skelly, spurred on by a stage 4 win completed the top three, while Robbie Dugan was fourth. Coming home in fifth was Shea Rooney (East Coast MTB).
Women – Baxter unbeatable
In the Women category, Meave Baxter (Green Bikes) had things all her own way. Taking five stages wins from five starts, she placed almost one minute clear of Hannah Harvey in second, to earn the 2018 Ulster Women Enduro Championship.
Special note goes to 13-year-old Hanna Mullin (Trail Demons CC), who won the Ulster Women’s Junior.
Senior Men — Smiley tops podium
In the Senior Men class the racing was tight all day. Hot out of the traps, Craig Darley initially lead at the end of stage 1 before Michael Rea set the pace winning stages two and three. However the lead changed yet again when Dirt Monkeyz’ Adam Smiley upped his pace at close of business.
Winning the final two tests, Smiley sneaked through for an eight-second margin of victory over Rea. Also picking up his pace as the day progressed, Chris McMillan found his way onto the podium in third, coming home just one second shy of Rea.
With four out of five stage wins to his credit, Kyle Nelson (Blade Brother Racing) topped the Master A Men times sheets. It was a close finish for second, with Chris Mallen getting the nod over Philip Mullan in third.
Craig Nelson (Craig Nelson Joinery) was the rider to beat in the Master B Mens, as he convincingly won. Building form during the day, Cuchculainn CC’s Brendan Foley came through for the runner-up result, with SMTB’s Paul Taylor third.
Vet Men — Five-way fight for victory
The Veteran Men’s saw some of the tightest racing take place as five riders went head-to-head for the win. Aiming for a hat trick of event wins, Paul McLoughlin (Bespoke Cycles) was fastest on the first two stages and looking favourite. But as the pace thickened, it was Edmund Hawkins (Shimna Wheelers) who won stages three and four, with Michael Cowan (Chain Reaction Cycles) taking the final one.
Doggedly consistent, Green Bikes’ Conor Campbell and Derek McLaughlin (Ballymoney CC) set a fast pace all day. In the end however, McLoughlin could breathe easy as he squeezed across the line with a two-second margin of victory over Campbell and McLaughlin a further one second back in third. That win was also enough to see McLoughlin wrap up this year’s Veteran Men’s championship.
In the Super Vet Mens, Plush MTB’s John Glover continued his run of unbeaten form carding his third win of the series. With Glover taking three stages, Steven Graham (Plush Cycles) claimed the other two to come home second. Stephen McDonald rounded out the top three.
With some big stages to contend with, it was a heavy day for the Hardtail men. Ragley Bikes’ Nathan McCormick claimed all five stages to win over Joe Penny and Marcus Swail (Velocity MTB).
In the three-stage Challenger class it was a hands-down win for Jamie Wiliamson. Dominating, he took the win from Ollie Thompson and Ronan Eannetta, with Hannah Mullin fourth. The result also set the order for the Youth (12-13) category.
The Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup concludes with the Season of Savages finale in Tollymore on September 15/16, where the majority of titles are still up for grabs.
Results – Top 50
Complete Results: Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup, Rostrevor
Video Highlights: First Tracks Rostrevor
Event Images: Industryimage Photography
Hucking the roots !!! on his way to second Nathan McComb MTB Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup Images from both days now online at https://www.industryimage.com/vitus-first-tracks-rd-3