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O’Brien sprints to national glory in thriller on Leeside

Páidí O’Brien is the new Irish National Elite Criterium champion after using his sprint finish to great effect before a huge crowd in Cork City on Saturday, taking gold from a three-man breakaway.

A decisive escape featuring O’Brien (Planet Tri), Mark Dowling (Polygon Sweet Nice) and World Track champion Martyn Irvine (Unitedhealthcare) moved clear of a group of around 20 riders after the field split in two in the first furious portion of the race. That trio made their move with just over half the race completed, with the event taking the form of 50 minutes, followed by three laps.

Within a few laps of the 1.3km circuit on the Mardyke Walk and Western Road, the trio had pulled out a gap of 15 seconds and never looked like being caught. Those behind never got back on terms and while the racing up front was a little more cagey as the riders completed the 50 minutes and moved into the final three laps of the event, they stayed clear as expected to fight for the national title.

That battle was won by O’Brien who out-sprinted Irvine in second and Dowling, who took bronze. Simon Ryan from DMG Visit Nenagh won the sprint for fourth, around 25 seconds after the leading trio.