Caoimhe O’Brien and Conn McDunphy were the big winners in Round Four of the Road National Series on Sunday, June 4th, after a brilliant day’s racing in Navan, Co. Meath.
The Sean Nolan Meath Grand Prix saw O’Brien and McDunphy earn well-deserved victories and take hold of the Road National Series leaders’ jerseys.
After an emotional week for all involved in Irish cycling, a minute’s silence was observed at the beginning of the day in memory of the late Gabriele Glodenyte, the UCD Cycling Club member who passed away after a crash with a driver while training last Saturday.
An exciting women’s race kicked off the day, with a large start list and perfect sunny conditions, spectators were treated to an enthralling race along the roads north of Navan.
Taking on two laps of a challenging circuit, the order of the day was established as Imogen Cotter and Linda Kelly laid down the gauntlet as they set a fierce pace on the circuit’s big climb after roughly 20km – with only Caoimhe O’Brien able to hold their wheel.
After they went over the top of the climb in small groups, a leading group with all the big pre-race favourites formed shortly before they crossed the finish to head into the final lap.
Cotter, Kelly and O’Brien were joined by Aoife O’Brien, Annalise Murphy, Jemma Speers, Eve McCrystal and Orla Walsh, forming a formidable leading group who wouldn’t look back and fight amongst themselves for the win.
Aoife O’Brien was the first to lose contact before the decisive climb saw the leading group trimmed down to just four as McCrystal, Murphy and Speers were also left behind.
The quartet worked well together to hold off the chasers in the final 10km, and despite the lingering threat of McCrystal and Murphy making the catch, they eased into the final kilometre for the sprint.
And it was O’Brien who kicked from the quartet with 100 meters to go and was able to hold off Cotter in second and Kelly rounded out the podium. Her win meant that she bumps above her sister Aoife to take the overall leaders jersey.
In the junior women’s race, Shauna Finn remains in the overall leader’s jersey despite not starting this round’s race.
Caoimhe O’Brien said, “The last week was a shock to everyone in the cycling community, so we’re all so lucky to get the opportunity to race today. We had a really strong field, the course was nice and tough, it was great to get in amongst it and make it a tough race too. I think everyone today was racing with Gabby in their heart.
“That hill was the main section where things split, so I knew that Imogen and Linda were going to be strongest there. I just stuck with them, we worked really well and then Orla Walsh stayed with us the second time. We worked really well and had Eve (McCrystal) and Annalise (Murphy) chasing us. Thankfully coming to the line I had confidence in myself for the sprint. It was a really good race, one of the strongest women’s races we’ve had so far this year.”
In the men’s race, a breakaway of twelve riders established themselves early on and rode well to take a substantial gap into the final lap.
An elite selection, that group comprised of McDunphy, Aaron Wade, Gareth O’Neill, Darnell Moore, Peter Kirwan, Charlie Holt, Aaron Rafferty, Jason Kenny, Conor Halvey, JB Murphy and Adam Gilsen.
It would all boil down to the decisive climb of the day with just over 20km remaining as McDunphy piled on the pressure on the rest.
Only Wade and O’Neill could follow the wheel as the trio put over 30 seconds into the remnants of the breakaway on the descent. The chasers did briefly get organised inside the final 10km as they reduced the gap somewhat.
But inside the final five kilometres it became clear that the winner of the day would come from out front as McDunphy launched a well-timed attack with roughly 2km remaining.
The gap grew to ten seconds before Wade committed to the chase, closing the gap to just four seconds in the final 500m but ran out of road as McDunphy took victory and the overall leaders jersey.
Killian O’Brien (Orwell Wheelers) was the highest placed junior men’s rider on the day, his 12th place finish and extending his overall lead in the junior men’s overall classification.
McDunphy said, “It feels good. It was a nice hard course today, we got the weather for it and I was happy to come out with a win. There were twelve of us working pretty well together and then on the climb with around 30km to go, I went from the bottom. Aaron (Wade) and Gareth (O’Neill) were really strong and they had me swinging, with 20km to I was trying really hard.
“It was the first race in the Road National Series where I had to use my brain and not my legs because the two boys were stronger than me. I jumped them with 2km to go and I got a gap, I was glad the finish was where it was because Aaron was getting back to me but I held on for it and I’m happy enough.”
The Road National Series returns with the fifth round taking place on June 11th in Currow, Co. Kerry.
Cycling Ireland will publish full results and rankings after round three in due course.
More information on the 2023 Road National Series can be found here.
- 1st – Caoimhe O’Brien (Belco Van Eyck)
- 2nd – Imogen Cotter (Un-Attached Connacht)
- 3rd – Linda Kelly (Spin the Bean Power by Coffee)
- 4th – Orla Walsh (UCD Cycling Club)
- 5th – Annalise Murphy (Longcourt Hotel – NCW Wheelers)
- 6th – Eve McCrystal (Bellurgan Wheelers)
- 7th – Jemma Speers (North Down CC)
- 8th – Aoife O’Brien (Spellman-Dublin Port)
- 9th – Darcy Harkness (VC Glendale)
- 10th – Jennifer Neenan (Un-Attached Leinster)
- 1st – Conn McDunphy (Lucan Cycling Road Club)
- 2nd – Aaron Wade (Cortizo Aluminium Team)
- 3rd – Gareth O’Neill (PB Performance)
- 4th – Jason Kenny (UCD Cycling Club)
- 5th – Liam Crowley (UCD Cycling Club)
- 6th – JB Murphy (Kilcullen Cycling Club)
- 7th – Conor Halvey (Four Masters CC)
- 8th – Adam Gilsen (Un-Attached Leinster)
- 9th – Darnell Moore (Team Caldwell Cycles)
- 10th – Aaron Rafferty (Moynalty Cycling Club