A NATIONAL Road Series showdown in County Down is scheduled for this Saturday as stars Mark Dowling, Matteo Cigala, Eve McCrystal, and Katharine Smyth all line up for the penultimate round.
Last month’s round was missing many of the leading contenders, leaving the door open for others, who did not miss their opportunity. The result is a must-win race for those in contention at this Saturday’s Round 6: The John Beggs Memorial in Banbridge.
In the Men’s National Road Series clash at Lakeside Wheelers’s Mullingar GP, league leader Dowling and second-placed Cigala were absent, Cigala’s Aqua Blue Sport team mate Mark O’Callaghan capitalising to move up to third position.
Dowling has since won the Suir Valley Three Day in impressive fashion with a 32-second victory atop The Nire summit on the final stage. Cigala was third on general classification there, but had won at Mondello Park in the Bikeworx Series earlier in the week.
The young Italian leads the Cycling Ireland A1 rankings after a sensational season and will have a strong team around him in the John Beggs, with O’Callaghan, Sean Lacey, former Irish international Ronan McLaughlin, Masters National Champion Greg Swinand, and U23 Cian Sutcliffe all on the start list.
But Round 6’s hilly 132km test is set to suit Dowling better, and if he has recovered from last weekend’s efforts, the Men’s National Road Series title could be decided at the new finish on Mount Street in the town of Dromore.
In the Joe Daly Cycles Women’s National Road Series, Garda CC’s Eve McCrystal has finished no worse than second in all five rounds, holding a 60-point lead over Team Madigan CC’s Katharine Smyth, who missed the Mullingar GP after giving McCrystal her first league defeat in the Brian McNamara GP.
The 98km John Beggs will be the closest to home territory that County Antrim-based Smyth has got to in the National Road Series, and the climbs will suit the Des Hanlon third and Nenagh Classic runner-up.
With McCrystal likely to miss the final, double-points round at the (hilly) Friends First Laragh Classic next month, another strong performance from Smyth this weekend could set her up to steal the title.
Third-placed Sinnead Oakes, the winner over McCrystal last time at the Mullingar GP, is 90 points off the top spot and out of Saturday’s test through injury, but new pressure for the minor podium places comes from the bang-in-form Fiona Guihen and Scott-Orwell’s Orla Walsh.
The second-year racer returns to the National Road Series after missing two rounds due to a broken collarbone. Last year’s overall winner Claire McIlwaine also returns, having not raced on the league since being third in the Nenagh Classic. Like Smyth, McIlwaine has local knowledge and she will be joined by Phoenix CC team mate Julie Rea, herself eighth in the standings after top tens at the Nenagh Classic, and Brian McNamara and Mullingar GPs.
Sign-on opens in the Dromore Rugby Club at 10am and will close at 11.15am sharp, with the races rolling out at 11.40am for a 12noon start.
Events in Series
|March 19th||Des Hanlon||Carlow|
|April 2nd||Visit Nenagh||Nenagh, Tipperary|
|May 7th (W)||Deenside Cup||Castlecomer, Kilkenny|
|May 14th (M)||Shay Elliot||Bray, Wicklow|
|June 11th||Brian MacNamara||Galway|
|July 16th||Mullingar GP||Mullingar, Westmeath|
|August 12th||John Beggs Memorial||Banbridge, Down|
|September 2nd||Laragh Classic||Wicklow|