Exciting racing at the National Cyclo-cross Championships

The 2018 Irish National Cyclo-cross Championships was hosted by Team WORC and took place on Sunday 14 January 2018 at Glencullen Adventure Park County Dublin, better known as “The GAP”. The GAP is one of the newest bike parks in Ireland having been converted from an old golf course by project leader Matt Davy (https://www.thegap.ie). The site boasts uplift services, changing facilities and a café. The host club are grateful for the support from Matt and his team to accommodate the event.

The course had been set up to the side of the café where the start/finish was located and then headed up the hill using the off-camber sections, sand pits and any challenging gradients. Course designer Robin Seymour and his team had been working at the site in the weeks leading up to the event and the work was reflected in the great set-up. One of the toughest races of the year. This was not the first time a cyclo-cross race had been held at this location so the club were well aware of what sections worked well for this type of off-road racing.

On the Saturday there had been some support races for youth and seniors. It was raining during the youth events and, coupled with the cold wind, made for unpleasant conditions for the young riders. The rain did ease in the afternoon for the senior race and the official practice time. Sunday, race day, was dry with light cloud. The day started with very light winds but this changed towards midday when a strong north west wind started to blow cold air across the site. Ground conditions would be described as ‘heavy’ with the energy sapping mud in all parts of the course.

The first races of the day were the Masters M40s and M50s which seen large groups of racers, 59 in the M40s and 32 in the M50s. The M40s started first with the M50s starting 2 minutes later. There would be very few betting against last year’s M40 champion Robin Seymour winning the race especially when he had designed the course, and, sure enough, Robin appeared at the end of lap 1 with a lead of 11 seconds. Robin continued to stretch his lead to finish 90 seconds ahead of his nearest rival. The battle for second pace was changing lap after lap with Brendan Doherty (VC Glendale), Colm McGarvey (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles), Alan Bingham (Cuchulainn CC), Jason Henry (Inspired Cycling) and Kevin Keane (Un-Attached Leinster) all in the mix. As the laps went on the gaps between the riders got bigger leaving the battle for second place between Alan Bingham and Kevin Keane. Kevin finished 10 seconds clear of Alan at the finish. Colm McGarvey finished 4th, Brendan Doherty 5th and Jason Henry 6th. Team prize went to Team WORC riders Robin Seymour, Peter O’Farrell and Aaron O’Donohue with prizes awarded from the Cycling Ireland Off-road Commission.

Last year’s winner of the M50 race was Des Woods (Newry Wheelers) and this season he had looked strong in the lead up to the championships. Des stamped his authority on the race early with an 18 second lead over his rivals at the end of lap 1. Des continued this display of power to finish 2½ minutes ahead when he took the chequered flag. Early chasers were John Doris (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles), John Bogues (Phoenix CC), Michael Jordan (Team Cycle SuperStore), David Lawless (Team WORC) and Peter McConville (Newry Wheelers CC). John Doris and Michael Jordan secured 2nd and 3rd place respectively and maintained these positions to the finish line. David Lawless was 4th, Peter McConville 5th and John Bogues was 6th. The Off-road Commission awarded trophies in this category for the top M60 riders which went to Terry O’Neill (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles), Ray Beers (East Antrim CC) and Fred MacSorley (Apollo Cycling Team).

The next races were for the Women and Junior men. The Junior men had a field of 11 riders and started 1 minute ahead of the women who had 16 riders on the starting grid. In the Junior men’s race Thomas Creighton (McConvey Cycles) was in a league of his own with a 21 second gap at the end of lap 1 to almost 3 minutes at the end of lap 5. Behind Thomas there was some close racing between Archie Ryan (S.C. Duranguesa), Adam McGarr (Biking.ie), Cian May (Lucan Cycling Road Club) and Lee Harvey (Kinning Cycles). The gaps between these four lengthened as the race progressed with Archie Ryan taking 2nd and Adam McGarr 3rd. Cian May was 4th with Lee Harvey 5th.

In the women’s race the battle was between Junior rider Lara Gillespie (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) and Michelle Geoghegan (Team Jadan-Weldtite) with Maeve Morrogh (Un-Attached Leinster) out on her own in 3rd. Chicago based Maria Larkin (The Meteor p/b Allied) was hoping to improve on her 2nd place in the 2017 championships but couldn’t bridge the gap to Maeve Morrogh and finished 4th. Lara Gillespie and Michelle Geoghegan were riding side by side at the end of lap 3, the penultimate lap, leaving the crowd to guess who would appear first around the final bend. In the end Lara had pulled out a 13 second lead over Michelle. As if orchestrated Lara was racing towards the finish line at the same time as Thomas Creighton making for an historic photograph – two winners with arms in the air!

In recognition of the minor categories within the Women’s race, the Off-road Commission had awarded first unplaced Master Women to Nessa Rochford (De Ronde Van Cork CC) and first unplaced Junior woman to Orla Conroy (Bray Wheelers).

The final race of the day was for the Senior men. This was held over 7 laps and had a field of 35 riders. With last year’s dominant winner Roger Aiken, not racing this season, the championship was wide open for a successor. In the running were the top riders of the sport David Conroy (Scott Eurocycles.com), Graham Boyd (McConvey Cycles), David Montgomery (Un-Attached Ulster), Darnell Moore (Team Caldwell Cycles), Niall Davis (Biking.ie), Glenn Kinning (Kinning Cycles), Barry Kellett (Dromara Cycling Club) and Gareth McKee (Banbridge CC). David Conroy, who has been racing on the European circuit, took the early lead over the first 3 laps. By the end of lap 2 Darnell Moore was closing in and these two were then locked in battle for the remainder of the race. Behind them the 3rd place spot was exchanged between Graham Boyd and Glenn Kinning. Glenn retired from the race after lap 4 leaving Graham to take 3rd place. The focus however was at the front. The cheers were getting louder as David Conroy and Darnell Moore passed the pits. If the event had been televised it would have been edge-of-the-seat viewing such was the close racing. On the penulimate lap the gap between the riders was just 2 seconds. On the final lap Darnell pulled away to finish 16 seconds clear of David to take the title. Graham Boyd had to keep his wits about him to claim 3rd with Gareth McKee 4th, David Montgomery 5th, Niall Davis 6th and Barry Kellett 7th.

Due to an administration error the team prize was incorrectly given to Team WORC but it was Killarney CC who had won by just 1 point with Tim O’Regan, Richard Maes and Conor Kissane the winning riders. Conor Kissane also lifted the trophy for the first unplaced Under 23 rider.

After the races the riders could enjoy some hot food from the café while the hard working volunteers started to take down the course. Many thanks to all those who helped put on this great event especially to Robin Seymour and Evan Ryan for leading the team. Next year’s championships will be in the province of Munster. The next championship on the horizon is the Irish National Youth Cyclo-cross Championships which will be held on Sunday 28 January 2018 in Carryduff on the outskirts of Belfast.

Commissaires: Paul Watson, Lisa Millar, Maciej Staroniewicz, Gary Sheils and Martin Grimley.

Report by Martin Grimley

Results here

Toby Watson (Facebook) – here
Adrian van der Lee (Facebook) – here
Sean Rowe (Facebook) – here
Belgium Project (Facebook) – here
Gareth Gibbons (Facebook) – here
Bronagh Kirk (Own website) – here

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