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Irish Championships - CN
Westport, Ireland, June 24-25, 2006
Day 1 - June 24: Elite women road race, 90 km
Dervan beats Moriarty and Wilson to take second title
By Shane Stokes
Defending champion Siobhan Dervan (Lotto Ladies Belisol) took her second consecutive national title on today's opening day of the Irish road race championships in Westport.
At the end of the 56 mile ladies race, she outsprinted Louise Moriarty (Moving Ladies), Heather Wilson (Maryland Wheelers) and five others to the line. These eight had been the strongest in the seven lap event and while this group splintered several times on the hilly course, heavy marking amongst the favourites meant that the others were able to rejoin after each uphill acceleration.
Dervan has been racing in Belgium for much of the season and today's win was a mixture of strength and experience. "I am absolutely thrilled to get two in a row," she said. "I was so nervous before the race, I felt like there was more pressure on me this year.
"The race was a typical nationals race. It was quite negative...I felt that there were a few marked women, as usual, but I suppose that is to be expected because everyone just wants to ride for the medals. On the last lap I attacked and I got a gap. I thought I was going to be away but they caught me. Coming into the sprint, I genuinely thought I hadn't a hope, so I couldn't believe it when I saw my wheel edging forward and I won it."
Dervan generously praised silver medallist Louise Moriarty, saying that she could have won the race had she not had problems in the sprint. "I saw Louise's wheel slipping when she went around the corner," she said, "and I think it slipped again in the sprint. So without that the result could have perhaps been different."
She also showed good spirit when talking about 2004 champion Julie O'Hagan. "Julie went early in the sprint. I think I'm correct in saying this but Julie isn't a sprinter, so perhaps that was her best chance. It was very brave of her to try it and I did feel sorry for her that it didn't work out, as she was one of the girls who was marked and she did try a few times to attack."
Moriarty was relatively happy at the finish. "Silver isn't bad…it is one place better than last year, so that is good! Julie opened up the sprint, Heather was up there too, and then I would say that Siobhan came by me in the last ten metres. The sprint was a bit hairy, from my point of view! But fair play to her. She did a good sprint."
When asked about the problems she had in the gallop, Moriarty explained what happened. "I have been having an awful lot of problems with my bike, especially last week. It completely went out from under me on that last corner and something happened again in the sprint…the same thing with the wheel. I don't know what is wrong. I had the momentum to keep it going forward when it slipped out on the corner, but I would say that anyone behind me was pretty frightened!"
Like Dervan, Moriarty said that the race was less aggressive than it might have been. "It is typical of a nationals, no-one wants to even show their face at the front. But then if you attack they are well able to chase you down," she stated.
"I think I am going quite well but when the race is real stop-start like that, sometimes when you do get away it is hard to get rhythm going. You are going from 20 kilometres per hour to 40 kilometres per hour. But it was a great course. I thought it would break up more on the circuit, but we obviously weren't going hard enough!"
She was impressed by bronze medallist Heather Wilson, a triathlete who is still learning the ropes as regards road racing but who is nevertheless riding very strongly. "On the first part of the climb [on lap six] she went to the front, got a gap and if she had continued, I reckon it would have split it. She didn't notice at the time. But she was going very well."
Wilson was pleased with her ride. "It was a good race. I finished fourth last year so I just didn't want to finish in that position again. So I was glad to get third. The other two are both experienced riders so I am happy to get a result like that so early on. I used to be in triathlon and am not in cycling long, so it was good. I am just back from Belgium, I learned a lot there…that has helped."
"I didn't realise I got a gap on the climb. Louise told me on the podium, she said to me that if I had kept on going it might have caused a split. I think that is just a confidence thing, it will come. I like the hills."
O'Hagan was disappointed with fourth, but was glad that she gave it a go. "I'm not really a sprinter so I had to jump early and try to do it that way," she said. "I was in front until very near the line and thought I was actually going to get it, and then the three of them went by. That was hard, not to get a medal, but I gave it a few goes. I felt good today but it was hard due to all the marking that was going on, it made it a strange race.'
Jenny Fay said that the wind had an effect. "When you turned around to come back in towards the finish, it was a headwind. That kept things together, it was hard for anyone to get a gap there."
Despite that, her Orwell-Dundrum Town Centre team-mate Hendron did try a couple of times there and elsewhere and was the most aggressive rider today. Like last year, she showed a good willingness to throw caution to the wind and attack. "I gave it a few goes," she said. "I wanted to have a lead before the climb each lap, that was part of the reason."
How it unfolded
A small field of 13 women lined out for the 7 lap, 56 mile road race championships which was promoted by Mayo Wheelers. After a somewhat sedate start Orla Hendron (Orwell Dundrum Town Centre) sparked the first attack after 4.5 miles, being joined by Mary Brennan (Castlebar) and Joanne Hickey (Usher IRC). However they were quickly closed down.
Immediately after the end of the first lap the riders began the first ascent of the steep hill out of Westport, the race route having avoided it after the start. The slope had a clear effect on the bunch, with several riders going out of the back and while some got back on the descent, it was clear that this would have a big part to play each lap.
After 11.7 miles, in almost exactly the same place as where she attacked from on lap one, an aggressive Orla Hendron forged clear again. This time she got a good gap into the headwind and, as was the case in last year's championships, was the first significant leader of the race.
Mary Brennan had been in difficultly on the climbs but had the strength over the top to set off in pursuit. After 12.6 miles Hickey jumped and also went clear, but Louise Moriarty (Moving Ladies) brought her back. Although she didn't manage to get across to Hendron, Brennan was still clear the next time up the steep hill in Castlebar, but was hauled back over the top and slipped backwards. So too did several others. Roisin Kennedy had the misfortune to clip out of her pedal and drop her chain at this crucial point and had to stop to put it back on.
After 15.6 miles five riders got across to Hendron, the front group now comprising Moriarty, defending champion Siobhan Dervan (Lotto Ladies), 2004 winner Julie O'Hagan (All Systems Dublin Wheelers), Heather Wilson (Maryland Wheelers), Jenny Fay (Orwell Dundrum TC) and team-mate Hendron. Mary Mulcrone (Western Lakes) succeeded in getting back on and, 17.4 miles into the race, a hard-chasing Kennedy did likewise.
Hendron tried to go clear heading back into the town for the end of the third lap but didn't get any significant lead. When she was brought back Dervan countered but she too was closed down. The main group stayed largely together up the climb, with Mulcrone drifting backwards but then getting back on soon after the summit. Dervan tried to go clear again at this point but the others quickly covered the move.
After 23.4 miles Julie O'Hagan put the hammer down and while Moriarty brought the others up to her, the eight-strong group was lined out and several riders were under pressure. Things settled down again for a while but two miles later an impressive Hendron hared off again. She opened a gap of 51 seconds over the others, who were reluctant to get an organised chase going. By the time she started the fifth lap, she was 1 minute and 25 seconds ahead.
Moriarty attacked on the climb and looked both strong and smooth going over the summit. Dervan was on her wheel but seemed to be under pressure, while Mulcrone and Fay were dropped by the top. Kennedy was also in trouble.
The gap was down to 36 seconds after the descent but the chasers eased back. Fay got back on, then Kennedy and Mulcrone rejoined. After 34 miles Hendron was caught and Dervan immediately attacked and got a small gap, only for O'Hagan to bridge across quite quickly. Moriarty, Wilson, Fay and Kennedy were on her wheel and made it six up front.
Hendron and Mulcrone were losing ground at this point but with the lead group again easing back, they got up once more. Fay then attacked without success, and the group stayed together until after the start of the sixth lap.
Wilson looked very strong on the steep first section of the climb and rode clear. Most of the others got across, but Mulcrone and Hendron were distanced. However they once again showed great determination and got back on at the 38.4 mile point.
The eight riders continued on at what was a less than scorching pace, but the pressure went on somewhat around the back of the course. Mulcrone lost contact with what appeared to be cramps, while Hendron and Kennedy were once again in difficulty. The stop-go nature of the race meant that they were however able to rejoin once more, reuniting the eight leaders. A lot of finessing then followed, with an uneasy stall dropping the speed to 20 miles per hour and below for several miles. That meant that the eight riders were all together going onto the climb for the last time.
Dervan attacked going over the top of the hill and had a slight lead over Moriarty, with O'Hagan next in line. As was the case a lap earlier, Mulcrone and Hendron were again in trouble and this time it looked unlikely that they would get back on. Kennedy and Fay were also adrift, while up front Dervan had a two second lead on O'Hagan, Wilson and Moriarty.
O'Hagan successfully brought the other two up to Dervan, after which Fay returned to the front. This made a front group of five; Kennedy then also made it back on. The six watched each other for several miles, allowing a determined Hendron to make the junction as they rounded the corner onto the main road towards Westport. Mulcrone also got back up soon afterwards, making it eight once more as they headed into the final few miles of racing.
Fay rode hard at the front for a while but was unable to get a gap. O'Hagan then jumped hard with about 400 metres remaining, holding a slight lead around the final corner and sprinting flat out from there to the line. She said afterwards that she thought she was going to take her second title, but Dervan, Moriarty and Wilson all got by close to the line and took the first three positions. O'Hagan crossed the line in fourth, while Fay, Kennedy, Hendron and Mulcrone finished in that order to complete the top eight.
1 Siobhan Dervan (Lotto Ladies Bellisol) 2 Louise Moriarty (Moving Ladies) 3 Heather Wilson (Maryland Wheelers) 4 Julie O’Hagan (All Systems Dublin Wheelers) 5 Jenny Fay (Orwell Dundrum Town Centre) 6 Roisin Kennedy (Staggs Cycles Lucan) 7 Orla Hendron (Orwell Dundrum Town Centre) 8 Mary Mulcrone (Western Lakes)