Six talking points from Ireland’s Easter weekend stage races

Posted on: April 4th, 2018

Philip Lavery and Sean Lacey up the road at Rás Mumhan. Easter saw some brilliant racing at home, and some talking points emerged after the Gorey, Rás Mumhan and the Tour of the North.

 

Six talking points about Irish cycling after Easter races

 

Irish juniors at Tour of North

The Tour of the North saw intense racing between some of our best Irish riders and classy British visitors. The Spirit Tifosi team from England won all four stages; three via overall victor Rupert Graham.

Darnell Moore (Caldwell Cycles) and Lindsay Watson (Powerhouse Sport) were best placed Irish riders overall; placing 3rd and 4th.

Cian Delaney (Stamullen RC) was 6th overall and Darragh McCarter (Donegal Bay) 7th. Watson also won the climbers’ classification.

While those performances by the Irish were strong, the juniors in the field were formidable. Conor Gallagher of the Irish team not only made the breakaway on the epic final day but also dropped all of them bar two.

He took a fine 3rd place after a strong ride at the last; and at the end of four days of hard racing.

Breandán Flannagan of Powerhouse Sport and Archie Ryan (Team Ireland) climbed very well on the opening stage; making the breakaway that went clear on the final climb.

They finished 7th and 9th – separated by eventual star of the weekend Rupert Graham.

Flannagan was then 4th in the Sunday morning TT; an excellent ride. His team mate Adam Ward spent most of the undulating stage 3 in a three-man breakaway with two of the Spirit Tifosi men.

When they were caught and the race split at the end, juniors Cathir Doyle (Powerhouse Sport) and Shay Donley (Cycling Ireland) with 9th and 11th on the stage.

It was great to see riders from both the Irish junior team and some club teams rides so well; a really healthy sign there are plenty of talented young guns coming through the system.

 

Conor Hennebry’s return

Very few Irish riders who have gone to race at Continental level have returned to domestic racing and continued to win big races.

The end of a period racing at Continental level has often – though not always – signaled the end of racing careers.

Conor Hennebry was among that group of riders who found themselves without a team when An Post-Chainreaction confirmed in the off season that it would not operate this year.

However, Hennebry is not only continuing to race at a high level; his win at Kerry Group Rás Mumhan shows his form is as good, perhaps better, than ever.

He has clearly not been derailed by stepping back into the amateur ranks. And he has told stickybottle he’s loving racing with Viner-Caremark-Pactimo.

Hopefully others who go abroad for a year or two will take a leaf out of Hennebry’s book and continue to race as hard as ever on their return to Ireland.

There are plenty of big races in Ireland worth having in riders’ palmares; it’s not all about racing abroad.

 

Irish teams in domestic races

The Irish junior team rode very well at the Tour of the North. And the Irish Development team riders were among the best at Rás Mumhan.

Conversely, the absence of an Irish junior team from the Gorey was noticeable this year; it’s presence having added to the event for years.

Only the full-time U23 riders riding with foreign teams are in the mix for selection onto Irish teams for the Nations Cup, Europeans and Worlds.

The only domestic-based riders in line for international selection now are juniors; home-based elites and U23s have little to aim for in that regard.

Cycling Ireland needs to enter junior and U23 selections into the Easter stages race each year, as it did last weekend.

And it should look at repeating that several times in the year; and fill those teams with domestic-based riders only.

The elites, even if some are well into their 30s, should not be forgotten. Failure to reward the best U23 and elite riders on the home scene with the opportunity to represent their country devalues Irish racing.

If domestic-based elites got even three or four national selection opportunities for UK races each season it would boost domestic racing.

And with numbers down in home races across the board this year, Cycling Ireland needs to get creative and keep as many riders interested as possible.

 

Gorey Three Day numbers

One fact over the weekend that didn’t go unnoticed was the fall off in numbers riding the Gorey. Two years ago we had 200 riders in the race. Numbers dropped by about 50 last year and another 50 this year.

It means in just two seasons the entry into the race has halved. Perhaps the inclusion of a TT this year put off some.

If there is going to be a TT, making it non-aero seems like the way to go. But there was no TT last year and the numbers were still lower.

Research needs to be conducted to find out why 100 riders who competed in the race just two years ago didn’t go this year.

The cycling community needs to know what’s happening in that regard so action might be taken as soon as possible to ensure such a big drop in numbers doesn’t happen through the road scene.

 

PSNI encouragement

The PSNI and the Garda worked closely, as they always do, with race organisers both sides of the border over the Easter weekend.

It was great to see the PSNI Tweet out a message of support to those racing at the Tour of the North.

It was a small gesture that cost nothing. But messages like this, below, serve to normalise the presence of racing on the roads of the North.

 

 

There’s no doubt the Garda in the Republic has been working under very difficult circumstances with huge cuts in manpower down the years.

But some of its social media output relating to cyclists has been sketchy over the last year or so. It would be great to see the Garda’s social media channels taking a more positive approach to cyclists, as the PSNI did this weekend.

 

Eddie Dunbar looks back on top

Okay, so we’re cheating a little bit with this talking point; it’s not about Irish racing but it is about an Irish rider.

Eddie Dunbar had a tough time last year with a crash at the Baby Giro. A resultant concussion ended his season before it was even at the midway point.

 

 

He was flying at the time, having just won the U23 Tour of Flanders. So to have his gallop stopped so prematurely in 2017 was disappointing.

But he’s back racing now and has ridden very well for Aqua Blue Sport in recent weeks.

And on Sunday he took his first result since coming back, bagging 5th place at Volta Limburg Classic in Holland.

He made the breakaway during a race with 38 climbs, many cobbled sections and very wet conditions. It was great to see him back up the road again and fighting for top honours.

And hopefully this ride will be the start of a really successful season for the 21-year-old.

 

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