BRIAN KENNEALLY has recovered from his third win in the Kerry Group Rás Mumhan, but has not yet decided if he will contest the Shay Elliott Memorial in Bray next Sunday when he could opt for the big race down south, the Bill Hyland Memorial in Clonmel.
The Kilkenny man was scheduled to renew rivalry with Paul Griffin, runner-up in Rás Mumhan, in the Wicklow Mountains but, while the Tralee man is a definite starter, Kenneally said yesterday he is still undecided.
“I took it easy the week after Rás Mumhan and I was still not 100% last Sunday,” said Kenneally, who won the Elliott back in 1999 when he went on finish second on a stage of the FBD Insurance Rás into Charleville and was lying second overall — a couple of seconds off the lead — when he became ill later in the week.
“I think I may go to Clonmel for the Bill Hyland race this weekend. It is a very good race. After that the target will be the Tour of Ulster over the May Bank Holiday Weekend and then the race in Dungarvan the week before the Rás.”
It had been expected he would renew rivalry with Paul Griffin, who just cannot wait for the Elliott. Unlike Kenneally, he has never won this race. He was second to the likes of the former British professional, Malcolm Elliott, former Rás winner Tommy Evans and Mick O’Donnell over the years and third behind Olympic rider, David O’Loughlin last year.
“The Elliott is the most prestigious one-day race on the Irish calendar and everyone wants to win it,” he said. “Unfortunately, I have not won it so far. I have been in the first three a number of times and I would like to put the record straight.
“It was disappointing to be second again in Rás Mumhan, but then I did not know what to expect going into it. In other years, when I was with Giant Asia, I would have good early season form but, at the moment, my form is still only on the up. It looks as if it is going in the right direction. I want to be close to 100% going into Tour of Ulster and hold it for the Rás.”
Should Brian Kenneally opt for Clonmel, then the way could be cleared for his clubmate Eugene Moriarty to spring a surprise. This year the Italian challenge returns in the form of Team Melina and the last time an Italian won the race the Listowel man might have taken the title but for circumstances out the road.
Moriarty, currently living and training in Holland, may have been in the shadow of Kenneally throughout Rás Mumhan, but he turned in some amazing performances in defence of the yellow jersey when, after a difficult day around Valentia on Easter Sunday, he was back at the front of the peloton for the final stage.
Should Moriarty get into a challenging position on Sunday then he will have all the support he needs from the Engraveit/Cyclways team.
David O’Loughlin is currently training in Spain and won’t be defending the title but the Italian team, which includes Irishman Damien McCabe, adds an interesting dimension. There are two teams from the UK. Sportscover include former winner Kevin Dawson in their line-up, while Dean Downing is on the Rapha Condor team. Some notable Irish absentees are Martin Irvine, Paul Healion, Sean Lacey and Dominick Jelf who are racing on the Continent this weekend.
The race perpetuates the memory of the great Shay Elliott, the first Irishman to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France and runner-up to the legendary Jaques Anquetil in the world championships.
While the race is in his memory, the most famous Bray Wheeler was, in fact, present the first time it was held before his death in 1967. The route now passes his memorial and the cemetery where he is buried in Kilmacanogue and there is a new forest park dedicated to him across the road.
This year the Wicklow Gap has been omitted from the route and the distance, at 140km, is slightly shorter.
On a weekend which packed with cycling activity, the Bill Hyland Memorial will grab the attention of most of the Southern riders on Sunday. The race takes place on a new circuit, using a 9.4 mile lap starting and finishing in Marlfield village, just outside of Clonmel. Racing will cater for all categories with the underage programme getting under way at 10.15am.
Sign on and changing facilities open at 9.30am at the Marlfield GAA Club in the village and will be signposted on the day. Refreshments will be provided after the racing ends.
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