Irish champion Des Woods; still hungry after landing the big one

Posted on: September 11th, 2018

Ireland’s new cycling champion, Des Woods revels in going toe to toe with the best on the scene. And on Sunday in Shannon, Co Clare, he beat them for the Masters 50 gold. However, he’s not sitting still; already looking to the next big challenges (Photo: Caroline Kerley)


By Graham Gillespie

Des Woods came to cycling late but has carved his name into the sport with trademark powerful and gritty rides.

And on Sunday he got what’s been coming for a long time; gold in a national title road race. The Newry Wheelers man is the new Irish Masters 50 road race champion.

He won it out front on his own; beating some very talented riders by almost one minute.

Tom Shanahan, the Limerick CC rider who has enjoyed a season to envy, took silver.

And Dutch-based Dubliner Andy O’Hara, one of the best A1 riders in the country in his pomp, collected the bronze.

It was a very impressive podium befitting the growing stature of this particular title.

The victory by Woods followed his securing bronze in the time trial title race on Saturday; also run in Shannon, Co Clare.

And the new champion said he was overjoyed to have finally secured that elusive national title.

“I spent a long time trying to get on the top of that podium at the nationals,” he told stickybottle reflecting on his win.


Top down: National road race champion, Ulster road race champion, national cyclocross champion (Photos: John Coleman and Toby Watson)


Des Woods continued: “All the stars were pointing in the right direction for me and I’m very pleased to have won.

Going into the race, Woods knew there would be a group of riders in contention for the title.

They included himself, Shanahan, Greg Swinand (Viner-Caremark-Pactimo) and John Madden (Inspired Cycling).

However, O’Hara was the surprise package for Woods; but only because he is based abroad and doesn’t race in Ireland.

“As the race went on, it whittled down to the main contenders I think,” Woods said of a contest that morphed into a war of attrition.

The aggression began with O’Hara taking up the fight from the outset, joining a three-man break on the first lap.

“A teammate of mine Henry O’Neill went over to the break so there were four men after a while,” Woods said.

“And they cut out a minute fairly early on because everybody was looking at everybody else,” explained the eventual winner.


Des Woods (50) takes Robinstown victory

Top down: On the attack in the recent Noel Teggart memorial, riding the Rás, in the colours of national ‘cross champion (Photos by TobyWatson and Sean Rowe)


Woods and multiple TT and road champion Greg Swinand then upped the pace to try to bridge the gap.

“By the time we came to end of the first lap, I sort of went for it through the start-finish line on the hill,” he explained.

“And the stress was starting to show on the bunch. By that stage, we had caught up with the four leaders.”

The race then split as they reached narrow roads, leaving about ten riders including Woods out in front.

This group worked together for the next couple of laps and created a gap of about 1:20.

“Then, as the race went on, the second and third time up the finishing drag was when the pressure was put on,” said Woods.

“Gradually the group whittled down to seven of us going through on the fourth lap,” he said.

That group included Woods, Swinand, Shanahan, O’Hara, Madden, O’Neill and Ian McClure (Northern CC).

Going into the back section of the last lap, there was only five in the lead group; O’Neill and McClure dropping back.  Woods was able to launch his winning assault.

“It was about halfway down the back straight with about eight miles to go,” he said of making his move.

“A few attacks had been brought back and I managed to go on a bit of an incline. I got about 10 or 15 seconds.

“Once I had that gap I just put the head down and went for it. I think at that stage there wasn’t a lot of cooperation behind me. And I was able to exploit that.”

During the season Woods scaled back on the number of races he rode and gave Rás Tailteann a miss.


Woods has added the road title to his nationals cyclocross successes. But he says the rivalry within the Masters category pushes him on; left to right Madden, Woods, Paul McArthur and Henry O’Neill – the latter 4th in the Ulster champs and in the breakaway at the nationals on Sunday.


He changed his race programme with a view to peaking for Sunday’s nationals and the masters Worlds, where he finished 12th the weekend before last.

“I just needed less racing and I feel I have benefited from that. My condition was very good,” he said of holding his form.

“To be honest, it been all about the last three weeks for me. The whole season has been geared towards the Worlds and the nationals.

“After the time trial, I knew that things were coming together well and there should be a good ride for Sunday,” he added of the test he claimed bronze in on Saturday, behind Swinand and Madden.

Woods also singled out his coach Barry Monaghan for praise. Monaghan, another top rider from O’Hara’s time winning big races, was the man who got the former endurance runner into cycling in the first place.

For the winter months, the three-time cyclocross national champion now plans to switch his focus onto cyclocross. Competing in the Worlds in that discipline in December is a big goal.

Woods also dropped down to the A2 classification this season to give himself, as he said, “a little bit of breathing room”.

However, he has not lost his desire to compete against, and be spurred on by, the other top masters riders.

“I’ve still got an appetite to compete; especially when you have competition like Greg Swinand, John Madden and Tom Shanahan,” he said.

“I mean it’s a fantastic standard when you’re racing against those guys. I guess we will all want to go at it next year again.”