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Irish National Road Championships - CN
Navan, June 28-30, 2002
By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent
All eyes and ears will be focused on the village of Stamullen, Co. Meath on Sunday when the combined talents of the McNally Swords Cycling Club and Stamullen M Donnelly Road Club promote the National Road Race Championships for both ladies and men. It will be the first occasion in fifty years that in East Meath that championships at both disciplines will be staged in the scenic village of Stamullen, which has a tradition for the sport of cycling at all, levels.
Unquestionably down the years there has been great competition here and no doubt this weekend will see a further chapter written, when McNally Swords CC and Stamullen M Donnelly RC join forces to promote these All-Ireland Championships, which are being sponsored by BBB Bike Parts and Ideal Bikes.
The Men's Championship covers 8 laps of a 12-mile circuit, which is used annually for the Stamullen G.P. and has proved to be one of the toughest circuits in Ireland. The Ladies Championships covers 3 laps of this same circuit. The course takes in Clinstown where the riders swing left for the Naul, up the very severe climb of Harbourstown, sharp drop down into the Naul Village, turns left and travels along the Balbriggan road to Clonard Cross, here the race swings left and again the riders face another climb before dropping down through Gormanston Village, turning left over to start/finish point in Stamullen.
There is an array of talent already signed up to compete and what's more they are coming from as far away as America in an attempt to win this prestigious championship. The current champion David McCann, who has won this title for the past two years, returns from Austria and former titleholder Tommy Evans, former world's Junior Champion Mark Scanlon, Denis Lynch from Cork all returning and representing their French Club V.C. La Pomme.
Under 23 champion of 2001 Dave O'Loughlin and fellow professional in America, James Hodnett and one of the race favorites Ciaran Power, who won the Stamullen G.P over 6 laps of this course, went on to win the F.B.D. Milk Ras 8-day International Race a few weeks later, makes the long journey home from America. Two names that don't often crop in conversation of late are Aidan Duff and Michael O'Donnell who are also based in France. They will be certainly laying claim to the championship, as their form of late would indicate that they are a force to be reckoned with.
The home-based competitors are all expected to hold their own in this very high-class field. People of the calibre of Paddy Moriarty from the Dublin Skip Team, Paul Griffin from Earl of Desmond CC in Tralee, Brian Kinneally, Cidona Carrick CC, Denis Easton dual winner in recent weeks of the Sean Nolan Meath GP and the Tour of the Sperrins from the totalcycling.com club in Belfast.
One who can't be discounted is of course the Clonee 'ironman' as he is now being called, Philip Cassidy and his teammates Eugene Moriarty, Aidan Crowley, Raymond Clarke all of Cycleways Lee Strand CC. The promoting clubs Stamullen M Donnelly RC will be represented by Craig Sweetman, who was so narrowly defeated two weeks ago in Sean Nolan Meath GP, last year's Leinster Champion Tom Hughes, former All-Ireland Junior (U18) Champion Robert Moore,
Also in the frame for Stamullen are stage winner in this year's Dunboyne 3-day race Peter Sharkey, plus Daniel Nulty, Robert Black and Matt Kelly. Simon Whelan, Gearoid Loughnane and John Lally will represent McNally Swords CC.
Not only will there be a battle royal for the gold, silver and bronze medals and the title of Irish Champion, there will also be one hell of a struggle for the All-Ireland Team prize with the firm favorites to take this title being the V.C. La Pomme Team from France. This may seem strange to readers, but the rule clearly states that riders returning from other countries to compete in their national championships must represent the clubs that they race with all the year.
However, V.C. La Pomme will not win the team title without a titanic struggle between some of the fancied clubs, notably, the Cycleways Lee Strand Team, Carrick Cidona CC, Earl of Desmond CC, Dublin Skip, and Totalcycling.com CC from Belfast.
As regards an individual winner, Ciaran Power stands out and if he reproduces an inkling of the form that won him the FBD Milk Ras back in May, he should be home and dry, but the favorite's tag has never rested on his shoulders comfortably. There should be a ding-dong battle for the minor placing with O'Louglin, McCann and possibly Duff nipping in to spoil the party.
In the Ladies Championship, Geraldine Gill returns from the Continent, where she races with the V.C. Quintin Club, in a bid to create an all-time record of 4 Ladies Championship titles in a row. Geraldine, who is currently based in France has been doing extremely well in very tough races there and is strongly fancied to write herself into the history book of cycling by taking the title once again.
It is expected that there will be a great battle for 2nd and 3rd places between former National Hunt Jockey Kate Rudd from Tipperary C.C. and Louise Moriarty from the Dublin Skip Team, last year's silver medallist Susan O'Meara from Dublin and Sheila Rafferty from the Phoenix CC in Belfast.
There is one surprise entry and ‘dark horse' on the start line on Sunday and that will be Colette Swift, from Fermoy in Co. Cork, and who has been living in England for a few years, and compete with a cycling club in Surrey. Little is known of her form to date, so it's possible that she could pose a threat.
As well as the cycle race on Sunday, a great family day is promised, with the Kentstown Accordion Band arriving in the village of Stamullen at 12:15. They will be accompanied by St. Mary's Baton Twirlers from Stamullen/Balscadden area. At 12:50 both the Band and the Baton Twirlers will lead the parade of cyclists to the start line. When both races leave the village, the band and baton twirlers will entertain the spectators until the race returns to the village at the end of the first lap.
At approximately 1:45 Drogheda Group "Snaz" will provide entertainment, music/song for all present throughout the races. The Senior Men's Championship is due to finish in the village about 4:40 with the Ladies finishing at an earlier time of 2:40 and will be followed by the medal presentations on the podium.
On the previous evening Saturday 29th June, there will be racing in the village for Under 12, Under 14, Under 16's and The Glenside Hotel GP for Senior C riders, all starting at 6:30. The course for these races will be Stamullen/Balscadden/Gormanston/Stamullen.
Everybody is asked to come to Stamullen on Sunday and enjoy the day's entertainment.
Power favourite for Irish nationals
By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent
Last season's disappointments are well behind Ciaran Power. In recent years he won the '98 FBD Milk Ras, picked up a couple of top 10 placings in the Giro d'Italia in 2000, and turned professional for Linda McCartney.
But things went pear-shaped for a while last year with the collapse of the McCartney's, and Power suffered a further set back when he broke his collar bone while riding for his new club St. Quentin in the Four Days of Dunkirk.
This year fortune has favoured him with signing on the dotted line for the American-based Navigators team and also his return to Dunkirk where he was placed fifth on one of the stages.
Victory in this year's FBD Milk Ras -- where he spent five of the event's eight days in yellow -- has put the icing on the cake for the Waterford man. This was his first win in a Union Cycliste Internationale ranked event.
Ciaran scored his first outright win in the Ras back in '98 but admits that the race has got much tougher since then. You only have to look at the classification sheet and see there were 18 foreign competitors in the first 20 in this year's edition. It's harder, but in essence it has to improve the status of the event, which has the backing of the National Dairy Council and FBD Insurances.
Since his victory in the Ras, Ciaran has been on duty on behalf of the Navigators in America and Canada.
This weekend sees him home for the National Road Race Championship, which is being staged in Stamullen tomorrow (Sunday). There is an entry in excess of 140, but Ciaran is evidently a warm favourite. If he goes anywhere near his recent form in the Ras he'll be crowned champion. In years past has always been acknowledged as the favourite, but that tag does not sit gently on his shoulders. Tomorrow it looks very likely that he'll cope with the discomfort and justifiably be crowned Irish Champion.