Who will be champ? The riders most likely to do damage in Derry…

Posted on: June 28th, 2019
The Irish elite women’s and junior men’s road race titles will be decided in Derry tomorrow. There is a big prize on offer and two intense battles will be fought (Photo: Sean Rowe)

The Irish elite women’s and junior men’s road race titles are down for decision in Derry tomorrow, Saturday, with quality fields entered for both.

Set to be contested over a 21.24km lumpy course, the races conclude with a sprint up Shipquay St, a ramp of 17 per cent.

The juniors race in the morning followed by the women’s title race, each over five laps for a total race distance of 106.2km.

There are three short climbs each lap and while they are not long the terrain is steep in parts; probably steep enough to split the races.

These title contests are impossible to predict, so we won’t try. However, what is clear about the women’s race is that a small number of riders who compete internationally should do most of the damage.

Eve McCrystal is the defending champion and she rides for Irish team Strata 3-VeloRevolution.

However, she follows an international racing and training regime for much of the year as she is a sighted pilot with the Irish paracycling team.

Eve McCrystal Irish cycling champion
McCrystal winning the women’s title 12 months ago (Photo: Sean Rowe)
Alice Sharpe is riding for a UCI team this year and would love to win the title
Alice Sharpe in champs 2018. She ended the day 4th of the four-rider breakaway but won the TT days earlier and has retained that title this year (Photo: Sean Rowe)

She has grown in stature hugely in recent years and is one of the biggest names in the sport in Ireland.

Whether she can retain her title remains to be seen. But she definitely has the legs and the smarts to do so.

One thing certain about the Louth woman is that she will leave it all on the road.

On paper, Alice Sharpe should be the women most likely to take the title from McCrystal in the event a new champion is crowned.

She’s riding with the UCI World Cycling Centre pro team this year on the road and has been part of the Irish team pursuit line-up that broke the national record.

She has been riding some major pro races in Europe. On many occasions when a large bunch has been whittled down to a much smaller group by the finish, Sharpe has survived.

Her profile, as a rider competing for a UCI team, means she will be watched closely; as will McCrystal.

McCambridge is one of the favourites for the junior road title but there are plenty of others who will feel they can take the victory (Photo: Toby Watson)
Will Ryan winning the Ken Duff Memorial last month (All photos by Sean Rowe)
Shay Donley is part of a very strong Zappi Racing line-up (Photo: Sharon McFarland)

There are also others who can do serious damage and take a medal, including the gold.

Speaking of gold, Kelly Murphy of Storey Racing has retained her TT title already at these championships.

She’s been riding in breakaways in international races such as the Tour de Yorkshire of late and will fancy her chances of doing the double.

McCrystal, Murphy and Sharpe were in the four-rider group sprinting for gold last year.

Lauren Creamer of Brotherton Cycles is another rider with the international experience, and the engine, to end up on the podium or even win.

Imogen Cotter (SBikes Bodhi Cycling) has been racing on the Continent and she could prove the surprise package.

It will also being interesting to see what Anna Turvey (Drag2zero) can do, likewise with Michelle Geoghegan Michelle (ILLI-Bikes).

The Ballymena trio of Eileen Burns, Katharine Smyth and Laura Campbell make for a formidable combination.

The men’s junior race is perhaps more open than the women’s race. Ireland has a strong crop of juniors this year and any one of a relatively large group could become champion.

Kevin McCambridge of Vitus-Chill-NRPT has already won the TT title and he looks to be motoring.

He goes in as one of the hottest favourites and his team mate Will Ryan can be spoken of in those terms too.

Ryan’s brother Archie is also in the field and he is a potential champion. He is part of a very strong Zappi Racing group that could prove a real handful.

Indeed, any one of them – Ryan, Shay Donley or Louis Bilyard – could come out of the contest with a medal.

O’Leary Stone Kanturk also has a strong team; Daniel Yon Hin and Tom Moriarty both having won good races this year and both looking likely to win more.

Nathan Keown (North Down CC), Matthew Devins (Yeats Country CC), Finley Newmark (VC Londres) all have two things in common; they will have no team mates tomorrow yet all three could medal.

There are others of course and in the junior category the championships can throw up new riders who come into their own.

We wish them all well and hope for a great promotion by Foyle Cycling Club.