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Top teams set for Tour of the North showdown


By Ian Wilson

One hundred and twenty riders will be competing for top honours in this year's Tour of the North race, starting in Ballymena tomorrow.

With an approximate 50-50 split of local talent and riders from across the Irish Sea, the standard and quality of competitors is evident in this top class event.

The UCI Continental team of Ribble Pro Cycling, along with the Pro-Vision and Spirit Tifosi teams, are the cream of the visiting riders. Local interest rides with teams from Caldwell Cycles, Team Dan Morrissey and Powerhouse Sport. A strong young Irish team, NRPT Vitus, will also be making their presence felt.

Forty-three competitors qualify for the Young Rider category in a race that traditionally sees the up and coming racers pitting their wits against the more seasoned riders in the peloton.

Tomorrow's stage is a 112km, five-lap circuit around Portglenone, Rasharkin and Cullybackey. Five ascents of the Category 2 Garvaghy Hill will stretch out the field.

Easter Sunday's first stage is a 6km individual time trial from Portglenone Forest to Ahoghill village.

Sunday's second stage is a 106km, five-lap circuit of the infamous Roguery Hill, Portglenone, to Moneyglass loop. Roguery is a short but sharp Category 3 climb, rising nearly 200 feet over only half a mile.

Easter Monday's finale is a truly epic 106km single loop of Broughshane, Carnlough, Cushendall, Cushendun and Torr Head before returning up the Glen for a fast finish at Ballymena. Torr Head sees the riders over five climbs, in quick succession, with an average gradient between 15 and 20%.

A small team of race officials, directed by Joan McCullough, runs the Tour of the North, which dates back to 1955. Mid and East Antrim Borough Council are the main sponsors.

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