All roads lead to Derry this weekend as the city hosts more than 200 of the top cyclists in the country for the 2019 National Road Cycling Championships.
“We’ve just finished a year’s worth of preparation and planning and everything is ready to go,” said race organiser Ronan McLoughlin. “We wanted to hold a National Championships that would be remembered for years to come. The race committee have developed a course that’s very classics-like in its profile. It’s got some short, punchy climbs but will be manageable for a lot of riders, whether you’re a sprinter or a climber.
“It should suit quite a few guys and potentially a surprise winner.”
This evening, the women’s road race will take place over 101.45km, with defending champion Eve McCrystal (Strata3 VeloRevolution) the hot favourite. The race will likely come down for decision on the two ascents of Chapel Road and on the testing Fincairnberg climb.
Also in the hunt for medals is Alice Sharpe (World Cycling Centre), who was third in 2018 and is currently in fine form, placing 25th in last week’s European Games road race in Minsk.
The men’s race is packed with talent, with reigning champion Conor Dunne (Israel Cycling Academy) returning to defend his title along with sprinting sensation Sam Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe) who, snubbed by his team for the Tour de France, is keen to make a statement.
A big name on the startlist is Banteer man Eddie Dunbar (Team Ineos). Having clocked several strong performances at the Giro d’Italia, this event will mark the end of a long block for the 22-year-old.
“I came out of the Giro feeling really well, which is a good sign considering it was my first three-week tour, and that’s given me a lot of belief and motivation,” he said.
His greatest challenge will come from multiple national champion Ryan Mullen (Trek-Segafredo). Mullen, a TT specialist, had a disastrous start to the championships as both his road bike and TT bike were lost by airline. He opted to ride the national time trial championships on Thursday evening using his training bike, blitzing the 41.48km time trial course in a time of 50.24, taking the national title.
The women’s event was dominated by Kelly Murphy (Storey Racing) who also added to her 2018 title.
Action in Derry will begin today at 5pm at Ebrington Sq for the women’s race, with the men’s race tomorrow at 10am.