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Irish National Championships - CN

Ireland, June 27-29, 2008

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Day 2 - June 28: Elite women's road race, 83 km

Dervan claims fourth consecutive victory

By Shane Stokes in Glounthaune

Siobhan Dervan (Fenix) takes her fourth
Photo ©: Stephen McMahon
(Click for larger image)

Riding with confidence and determination, Siobhan Dervan of the Italian-based Fenix professional team took a fourth consecutive Irish road race title today when she dominated the women's race held in Glounthaune, Co. Cork. Dervan was the strongest rider in the eight lap, 83.2-kilometre event, setting the pace each time up the circuit's tough one-kilometre climb and whittling down the field on each ascent.

On lap three she dragged Louise Moriarty (Swift Racing/UCD), Fiona Meade (St. Finbarr's), Heather Wilson (Maryland Wheelers), Kate Rudd ( and Olivia Dillon (Touchstone Cycling) clear; this group worked well together to build their lead, then subsequent efforts by Dervan on the climb ensured that only Moriarty and Wilson remained on the penultimate lap. She then dropped these two on the steepest part of the hill, soloing ahead to build an insurmountable lead.

The Corkwoman reached the finish two minutes and 24 seconds clear of the duo, with Fiona Meade (St. Finbarr's) netting fourth, a further one minute and 54 seconds later.

"This feels absolutely brilliant, as good as the first one," said Dervan after the race. "In fact, this one perhaps means even more because last November I broke my arm and I kind of lost my love for cycling. I came back around March or April and, with a bit of coaxing from a few people, I started training again. The desire is back and it really means a lot to me now."

She said that not being given carding funding this season had also knocked her morale. "That was a massive part," she stated. "I just felt there was a total lack of support for myself and the women in general from a number of sporting bodies. I don't want to get into it now, we have to look beyond it and I'm doing it for myself now."

The leading quartet passing through some colourful
Photo ©: Stephen McMahon
(Click for larger image)

Apart from the chance of taking a fourth consecutive win, coming from the area meant that she had an additional motivation. This also helped her scope out the course. "I am from Cork, so I was familiar with the circuit," she said. I was here on Thursday when conditions were very similar as regards the wind, so I had a plan to ride hard on the hill each time and wear them down that way. There was a false flat over the top, and I was hoping that was where people would crack and that is where I would get away. That is how it worked out in the end. I'm delighted that everything went to plan."

She will next compete in the women's Tour of Italy, which starts this Saturday. She hopes to ride the world championships later this year, all going well. "I will see how I progress. Because I didn't start training until April, I feel like I am on my way up rather than on the way down at the moment. That would be my goal and I will just see how it goes."

Unlike Dervan, Moriarty, Wilson, Dillon and several others rode the previous evening's 24-kilometre time trial championship. This and the late finish would have cost them some amount of energy. "It was hard," silver medallist Moriarty said. "I guess I was still a bit tired from the time trial last night, it is a bit rough to do that effort before the women's road race. Also, people are now choosing to do one or the other, so the people who did both are at at a bit of a disadvantage. But, basically, today I was beaten by a better climber on a climber's course. That is it.

Dervan led each time up the hill; Moriarty said she was satisfied with this. "I know she is a better climber than I am, so I just tried to hold her wheel. I had planned to attack but she is stronger than me. Then on the climb on the seventh time up, she just attacked too many times and the elastic broke."

Wilson finished with Moriarty and said that she was satisfied with her day. "I was pleased with today, it was a hard course," she stated. "I really wanted to get an improvement from last year's fifth. I was a bit disappointed to lose out on second, but Siobhan was a worthy winner today. She was the strongest on the day and I'm pleased with the bronze medal.

"It was a tough course, on the eighth time up the hill you were really struggling. You had a headwind the whole way, and is quite strong wind on the way back to full it was a tough course, it is always a tough course."

Wilson competed in the time trial and while she said that it did take something out of her legs, she felt that Dervan would have won anyway. "I was disappointed with the result last night in the time trial," she said. "I was out to make amends today. It definitely does make a difference, as regards tiredness in the legs, but I think I wanted is the one last night more than I wanted today. But bronze has maybe made up for that.

"Siobhan not riding may have meant she was a little fresher, yet I think she was definitely the strongest on the day. I don't think it would have made any difference to Siobhan, she is a worthy winner."

Wilson now plans to ride more time trials and to qualify for the world championship TT. Another who is interested in taking part in that is the new national time trial champion Olivia Dillon, who moved to the US a decade ago but who came back for the race. She took the Irish TT title on Friday evening and then finished fifth in the road race.

"Yesterday went really well," she said after the race. "I have been focusing on my time trial lately so I came into it ready and the course suited me.

"I live in the Bay Area and it is pretty windy out there. I went at it [Friday's time trial] pretty hard and I was pleased with the result. I knew that was a lot of strong competition, and I just won by 18 seconds. I was absolutely thrilled."

She then went on to that fifth place today. "On the third lap they pushed the pace up the hill again and I went into it first. Siobhan seemed to go hard into that and I lost contact, but gained back on again. There were six of us then in the break for a full lap, and then coming around again the next time of the hill I lost it on the end part and ended up time trialling the rest of the course."

Dillon is originally from County Mayo but moved to the States in 1998, living in New York for eight years and then going to San Francisco. She was due to return to the US on Sunday and will continue racing there. "I will compete in the Cascade Classic in Oregon the week after next. There is a lot of racing in the States, you compete from February to September, so it is pretty active. There is a good local, regional scene and also some national races too."

The thought of possibly doing the world championships is of interest. "If that is a possibility, I would definitely look into it," she said. "I know they are in September in Italy, so I will be talking to a few people and see what happens. I would love to represent Ireland."

Former national mountainbike champion Jenny McCauley (Bray Wheelers) took sixth place in the race, while Elaine Cawley (Castlebar) took the junior prize.

How it unfolded

The circuit included a punishing climb, aptly named ‘The Highlands',
Photo ©: Stephen McMahon
(Click for larger image)

A total of 21 riders lined out for the eight lap women's race, which was held in mild, slightly overcast conditions. Each circuit was 10.4 kilometres in length and had a climb of over one kilometre climb which began just 700 metres after the start/finish line.

The first two laps were run off at a steady pace, although the hill did cause several riders to temporarily lose contact. The controlled start evaporated on lap three when Siobhan Dervan (Fenix) put the hammer down on the hill and dragged five other clear. These were Louise Moriarty (Swift Racing/UCD), Fiona Meade (St. Finbarr's), Heather Wilson (Maryland Wheelers), Kate Rudd ( and Olivia Dillon (Touchstone Cycling), the winner of the women's time trial championship one night before.

Dervan stayed on the front for quite some time, dropping Rudd and Dillon and putting the others under pressure. However the paced eased off slightly once the Fenix rider came off the front and the two chasers were able to rejoin after approximately five minutes in limbo.

The group began rolling through together in order to maintain their lead over those left behind. Once through the start/finish line for the start of lap four, the gap had gone up to 35 seconds over the closest chasers.

A glance over her shoulder brings Siobhan Dervan (Fenix)
Photo ©: Stephen McMahon
(Click for larger image)

The group began the climb at a relatively controlled pace but, approximately halfway up, Dervan moved to the front and ramped the pace up from there to the top. Rudd blew and Dillon lost contact soon afterwards and by this point Dervan looked to be the strongest in the race with Moriarty next in line.

Dillon had the leading quartet in sight for several kilometres after the summit but was unable to close the gap. Dervan turned the screw once more the next time up the climb, putting Meade and Wilson under pressure, but Moriarty was pedalling a smaller gear than the defending champion and stayed glued to her wheel, saving energy.

Dervan was essentially doing all the work on the climb, and the risk was compounded by the fact that she was leading the others into a strong headwind. However she continued in this fashion on lap six, dropping Meade and putting Wilson into trouble.

One lap later it was Wilson who led the early part of the climb. Dervan sat back until the steep section, and then put in a strong dig which shed the Maryland Wheelers rider. Moriarty covered that surge plus a subsequent one, but Dervan kept on the pressure and finally cracked her rival. She quickly opened up a good lead and went over the top well clear of the other two, who had joined up.

Dervan had a lead of 53 seconds at the start of the final lap and continued to pull away. This acceleration meant that she was two minutes and 24 seconds ahead of Moriarty and Wilson at the finish, taking her fourth consecutive national road race title and showing that she is continuing to develop strongly as a rider.

The Irish road race championships continue tomorrow in nearby Midleton with the 158 kilometre elite men's event plus a 110.6 kilometre race for juniors.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Stephen McMahon

Results - 83.2 kilometres

Elite women

1 Siobhan Dervan (Fenix)                  2.26.11 (34.148 km/h)
2 Louise Moriarty (Swift Racing/UCD)         2.24
3 Heather Wilson (Maryland Wheelers)
4 Fiona Meade (St. Finbarr's)                4.18
5 Olivia Dillon (Touchstone Cycling)         6.43
6 Jenny McCauley (Bray Wheelers)             7.18
7 Heather Boyle (Ravens CTC)                 8.18
8 Orla Hendron (Orwell Dundrum Town Centre)  8.30
9 Roisin Kennedy (Stagg's Lucan)
10 Sarah Piner (Lakeside)                   14.01
11 Emma Walsh (Dungarvan)
12 Sadhbh Baxter (West Coast Wheelers)
13 Elaine Cawley (Castlebar)                19.51
14 Cathy Flynn (Lakeside)                   22.14

One lap behind

15 Heather Purcell (Slaney CC) 


1 Elaine Cawley (Castlebar)