Thanks to Blackrock Festival Committee and Cuchullainn Cycling Club, Dundalk was treated to some spectacular racing last weekend when it hosted the National Championships for Vets, Juniors and A3s.
The action kicked off on Saturday with a time trial on the old Dublin road. Ireland’s best over 40 riders and juniors were battling for the medals.
Fresh from his silver medal in the European time trial championships, junior favourite Ryan Mullen dually won the junior race.
His time of 40mins 40secs was the fastest of the day and saw him take gold with over a minute and a half to spare from Donegal’s Mathew Doyle and finally Antrim rider Daniel Stewart in third. In the vets race Lurgan’s John Heverin was the winner, only 17seconds slower than Mullen.
Second Vet was Grew Swinard of Dublin’s Usher Road Club and John Madden of Belfast’s Curran Racing in 3rd. Newry’s Kevin Lynch took a fine 6th spot and best of the locals was Gerry McCabe in 7th.
On Sunday the action switched to the road, with the junior and Senior A3 championships. Once again in the junior race Ryan Mullen was the favourite to win over 6 laps of the 17km circuit with an exciting finish on main street Blackrock.
Mullen went on the attack from the gun and opened up a gap over the main field, taking Thomas Fallon away with him.
The two worked well together but never gained more than a minute’s advantage over the main field. The chase from the peleton was headed up by Cormac Clarke of Newry Wheelers, another rider who was tipped for the win.
Starting the final lap Mullen jumped away from Fallon and looked set to solo to the win.
However a number of the favourites, including Mullen, underestimated the heat on the day and the effect it would have in the long race.
Mullen started to suffer with cramps and exhaustion and was pulled back by the main bunch of riders.
Clarke now looked to be favourite, but the long day chasing the break took its toll and he started to fade. Unfancied first year junior Liam Corcoran of Castlebar, saw his chance and attacked with only 5km remaining.
Three other riders got away with him but in the sprint for the flag he was too strong and took gold ahead of Mathew Doyle, taking his second silver of the weekend and Dungarvan’s Ciaran Dwyer in third.
The Senior A3 Championship was also run over 6 laps of the same course and the larger bunch made for aggressive riding. Early on a large break of 7 riders escaped and built up a healthy margin over the main bunch. All signs pointed that the winner would come from this group, but on lap 4 the bunch upped their pace and pulled them back.
On the penultimate lap a number of riders tried their luck but no move was sticking and a bunch sprint looked imminent.
However on the final lap with just over 10kms remaining a small group of 5 riders slipped off the front. So close to the finish no one was willing to burn their matches so to speak and waste precious energy closing them down.
The break worked well together and entering the final km had a lead of over 30secs. In a close sprint finish it was Maurice Lawlor of Cork’s St. Finbarrs Cycling Club who took the win. Padraic Doherty of Lucan CC was in second and Galway’s Nigel Forde.
Afterwards Lawlor was glowing in his praise of the organisation behind the race, but at mixed feelings about his award, which meant an automatic upgrade to senior A2 racing!
Cuchullainn Cycling Club and Blackrock proved that they could successfully organise and manage a top class event, so this puts them in a strong position to host the Senior National Championships in 2013.
1993 was the last time the high profile event was held even close to Dundalk, when South Armagh town Camlough hosted the event.