Conor Dunne (Aqua Blue Sport) has won the Elite Road Race title at the Cycling Ireland National Championships in Sligo. The 170km course was tackled by over 120 of Ireland’s best riders, with ten laps of a tough circuit taking its toll. Darnell Moore (Team Caldwell Cycles) won the silver medal ahead of Mark Downey (Team Wiggins) who won bronze.
The young Team Caldwell Cycles racer also picked up the U23 title, with Downey and defending champion Michael O’Loughlin (Team Wiggins) rounding off the podium.
Earlier today Lara Gillespie (Scott Orwell Wheelers) was crowned Junior Women’s Champion in a two-rider sprint for gold. Castlebar Cycling Club’s Maeve Gallagher won the silver medal, with Gabriella Homer (Cycle Team Onform) winning bronze.
In the elite men’s race a strong group was established in the early laps, including many of the top professional riders. On the seventh lap a select group of four pushed ahead establishing a significant lead over the next group on the road including Dunne, Moore, Jamie Blanchfield (Team Viner Carepack Pactimo) and Robert Jon McCarthy (JLT Condor).
With two laps to go Dunne and Moore drove on increasing the gap. The Aqua Blue Sport racer made his intention clear in the last lap, digging deep to establish a solo lead on the final lap, crossing the line a minute clear of Moore to win his first National Title.
“I’m super, super proud,” said an emotional Dunne after the race. “I can’t really believe it, it’s been an up and down year. This last month I was just fighting for form and getting better and better each week, so I kind of knew I had a good chance of pulling it off today. My legs felt good today, and I just had to be tactically aware.”
Last year Dunne came close to pulling off the win and was happy to finally top the podium after a tough season – “I had a lot of good people around me telling me not to give up, and to keep on working. This year I feel a bit stronger again. I was never going to let it slip again this year, I’m just chuffed.”
Speaking after his elite silver medal ride and National U23 title Moore said – “it was a hard day out, I was up the road really in every move today, I kept on making the moves – I won the U23 jersey today, so I’m happy with that.”
Speaking after winning her Junior Road Racing National Title Gillespie described a hard race – “it was hard! I pushed hard on the hill every time, it was fast – we weren’t just going around – we pushed it.”
The junior race saw a select group of three make a move on the climb early on, with the pace whittling down to Gallagher and the first-year junior who worked together keeping the pace high.
Gillespie said “We were just alternating at the front, and then it came to the last hill and she (Gallagher) attacked, I got back on and she attacked again I got back on – we came to the line. Then we played cat and mouse, and I managed to just catch her, but it was tight!”
Gold Conor Dunne (Aqua Blue Sport)
Silver Darnell Moore (Team Caldwell Cycles)
Bronze Mark Downey (Mark Downey)
Gold Darnell Moore (Team Caldwell Cycles)
Silver Mark Downey (Team Wiggins)
Bronze Michael O’Loughlin (Team Wiggins)
Elite Men’s Team
Gold Team Viner Caremark Pactimo
Gold Lara Gillespie (Scott Orwell Wheelers)
Silver Maeve Gallagher (Castlebar Cycling Club)
Bronze Gabriella Homer (Cycle Team Onform)