“We were eyeing each other up like prize fighters in the ring”

Posted on: August 31st, 2015

Aideen Keenan leads Grace Young (De Ronde Von Cork) and UCD CC’s Máire Claffey in the final round of the Joe Daly Cycles National League last weekend, the North Down GP. The DID Electrical Racing Team woman would win the sprint that decided the race and the national series (Photo: Toby Watson)

 

By Brian Canty

Aideen Keenan brought a very strong season to a close last weekend when she was crowned winner of the Joe Daly Cycles National League after claiming victory on the final race of the series, the North Down GP.

Keenan went into the final round equal on points with Grace Young of De Ronde Van Cork, meaning whoever placed best in the points in Down would be crowned series winner.

It was especially satisfying for Keenan (DID Electrical Racing Team) because she broke her collarbone in the Mullingar GP in mid-June, forcing her off the bike at a critical part of the season.

But she rallied superbly and came back in admirable fashion. “I’m absolutely thrilled to have won,” she said.

“I decided to set my sights on a good performance in the league this year after I missed out on a top placing last year, but I never thought I’d take the win.”

The series featured seven races, starting back in Cork in March. And though Keenan did miss a spell of time racing because of her crash, she was lucky a break in the series coincided with her period on the sidelines.

“In the end it was that consistency that put me at the top of the table,” said Keenan.

The final race was a real cliff-hanger as it was a winner-take-all affair.

“I was level on points with Grace (Young) and nobody else could catch us, which meant that we were eyeing each other up like a couple of prize fighters in the ring,” she laughed.

The way the race panned out made it no less dramatic, both coming to the line together.

Keenan, Young, Claire McIlwaine of Phoenix CC and Maire Claffey of UCD all made the break that would fight it out at the finish.

 

On her way to taking the race lead in the Newcastle West Knights Women’s Two Day, which she won overall, back in April (Photo: Brendan Culleton)

 

“Neither one of us wanted to tow the other along, but neither of us wanted the bunch to get back on terms,” said Keenan.

“I continually attacked the break and was brought back over and over by… Grace and Claire. Maire was happy enough to sit on and benefit from the politics in the break.

“On the last lap after a final attack, I decided to save my legs and prepare for the sprint finish.

With Young and Keenan watching each other, McIlwaine was left to do most of the work. As a result, the bunch pegged the escape back to just 10 seconds before the margin increased again to almost one minute.

“On the final drag leading into the finish, I made sure I was on Grace’s wheel and in the last 200 meters I made my move and went past her to take the win,” Keenan explained.

“So it couldn’t have been closer really. I have huge admiration for Grace, who’s racing her first season.

“It’s a massive achievement for her to come so close to winning the League. I wasn’t anywhere near that level last season. She’s one to watch.”

Keenan has decided to forego the An Post Rás na mBan next month, partly because of work but also because she fears she won’t be able to maintain adequate form.

But she’s more than pleased with her lot.

“I’m very proud to win. Last year, Amy Brice won and the previous year it was Anne Dalton.

“So to join such a group of winners and be able to add it to my palmares is fantastic. In 2014 the league was a bit of a learning experience for me.

“I was perhaps a bit over-keen at times and ended up burning up my matches in a lot of the races. So this year I was determined to put the lessons learned into practice.”

 

 

 

 

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