The iconic Phoenix Park played host to Ireland’s biggest duathlon at the weekend. This year Belpark TC’s Phoenix Park Duathlon was also the 2023 National Duathlon Championship, the Intervarsity Championship and the final round of the Duathlon National Series.
The morning cleared to a bright, crisp day and the Dublin landmark location showcased all it had to offer – acres upon acres of space and a closed road course.
A massive 325 athletes representing 55 clubs registered for this year’s Duathlon National Champs, and both fields were stacked with the best run, bike, run athletes from around the country.
Starting with a two lap, five kilometre run around the pitches, athletes were greeted back into T2 before heading onto the brand new bike course.
The refreshed 21k course saw participants take in the Khyber Pass three times on the seven kilometre circuit, adding to the challenge and the effort of the sprint distance course.
The second run is one lap of the pitches, two and a half kilometres, before coming back around, into the transition area and across the finish line.
Wilson Retains Title
Ciara Wilson is National Duathlon Champion for the second year running. The 2023 season started strong for Wilson after a bumper 2022 which saw her win the National Duathlon Champs, National Duathlon Series and the Triathlon National Series.
Little separated Ciara Wilson and Emma O’Brien from the off, and in a field stacked with Ireland’s top duathletes, the pair emerged from the first run with a lead on the rest and only seconds between them.
O’Brien pulled ahead after the first lap of the bike to hold a ten second lead for the remainder of the 21k.
With only a marginal gap between the athletes going into T2, a speedy transition would make all the difference. Ciara Wilson used all her experience to perform one of the quickest transitions of the entire field, and take the lead.
Running 9:05 for the second 2.5k, Ciara Wilson held position and crossed the line with just 32 seconds to silver medallist Emma O’Brien.
Speaking after the race, Ciara Wilson summarised; “Emma really put it up to me. She’s in flying form, and it was just great to see the two of us at the front of the race just battling it out. It’s what National Championships are all about you know, best in the country up against, up against each other. So well done to Emma, amazing race.”
Next up for Ciara is an elite start at the World Duathlon Championships in Ibiza next weekend.
Piranha Triathlon Club’s Megan Roberts travelled in third spot throughout the morning, finishing in 1:07:48 and adding her third podium from three starts of the duathlon season.
O’Brien Takes Home First National Title
In recent years Anthony O’Brien has become a podium regular in both duathlon and triathlon. The winner of the 2022 Duathlon National Series, O’Brien can now add the Duathlon National Championship title to his ever growing CV.
The pace was on from the mass start for the first wave of Sunday’s race, and Anthony O’Brien and Denis Hegarty were stride for stride through the first lap of the run.
By the end of the first run, O’Brien had squeezed out a seven second lead and got to work on the bike course. Travelling solo for much of the bike as Hegarty was forced to retire, 2022 Duathlon National Series winner O’Brien held pace on the second run to claim his first ever national title.
Speaking afterwards, Anthony described his race in a stacked field for the men’s event; “I knew what I was going up against, Denis Hegarty I’ve been following him, so I went hard at it. I thought he was going to lose me, but then I could feel him dipping a bit. The bike was red hot, coming through them corners on the back I nearly lost it a couple of times but I just tried to stay safe and then keep Paul Carroll and James Graham behind me.
“I couldn’t see them and then just kept it lit to the end.”
Behind O’Brien the battle was on for the second spot on the podium with Stephen Donnelly and Enda Bagnall trading places and keeping each other in sights from the bike course through the second run.
One of the quickest bike splits of the day saw Donnelly move up a few places after the first run, and close in on Bagnall.
It went right to the wire for the pair, both seasoned duathletes. Donnelly held off Bagnall by just four seconds at the finish to claim the silver medal, Enda Bagnall wins the bronze.