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Reigning Champion Conor Hennebry and former cyclist of the year Grace Young (above) won the first round of the Cycling Ireland National Road Series in Carlow on Sunday.

In the historically challenging Des Hanlon Classic, the pair achieved landmark wins, Hennebry describing the race as "massive", and Young returning to the form shown when crowned 2016 Irish Female Cyclist of the Year. Now riding for STRATA3 VeloRevolution Racing Team, Young won a bunch sprint to land the 67km race, beating one of the strongest fields of women ever assembled for an Irish cycling race.

"It was a super-strong field," said Young. "It was conservative until we got to Castlecomer, where I decided to attack on the climb, which caused a bit of a split. One of the girls came with me and we kept it going for a while, but it all came back together into a group of 10.

"The last 20km we were just driving it into the finish line, as we knew it was going to be a sprint at that stage." "There were some really strong riders in that group, and some sprinters in there too, so I just thought I'd see how I felt. Coming in, I knew I had good legs, I felt strong all day, and I just went for it."

Young, from Cork, pipped Lara Gillespie, a highly-decorated junior with Scott-Orwell Wheelers, and last years Des Hanlon winner Katharine Smyth (Ballymena Road Club). Hennebry, from Carrick-on-Suir, had already won this year at Rás Luimni and the North Tipperary Open Races, and benefited once again from the strength of his team - Dan Morrissey-MIG.ie-Pactimo.

Towards the end of the 133km battle, Hennebry and several team mates established a lead group, including U23 National Champion Darnell Moore, 2015 Des Hanlon winner Mark Dowling and Irish International Marc Potts. After summitting the day's climb Bilboa, Hennebry made his move and held his advantage for a comfortable victory. His team mate James Curry was second, winning a sprint against Moore on the line.

"It was a hard race, very fast for the first couple of laps," said Hennebry. "I tried to get into a couple of moves but couldn't get across to them and it came down to who could get up the hill (Bilboa) the fastest at the end.

"It was pretty full on up there every time but I was in the front group coming over the hill the last time, and had a couple of team-mates with me. So I gave it a go on the descent and held the gap to the line, with the guys doing a bit of a marking job on the rest of the chase. I'm delighted to get the win in such a massive race."

The Cycling Ireland National Road Series is Ireland's premier road racing league. The next round is in Blarney, County Cork at the Donal Crowley Memorial Road Race on Sunday, April 14.


Results - Men's Des Hanlon Classic Top 20
  1. Conor Hennebry - Team Dan Morrissey-MIG.ie-Pactimo
  2. James Curry - Team Dan Morrissey-MIG.ie-Pactimo
  3. Darnell Moore - Caldwell Cycles Omagh
  4. Conor McCann - Team BioRacer-DHL-FR Service
  5. Ronan McLaughlin - Team Dan Morrissey-MIG.ie-Pactimo
  6. Sean Hahessy - Team Dan Morrissey-MIG.ie-Pactimo
  7. Mark Dowling - Unattached
  8. Marc Potts - Unattached
  9. Ronan Killeen - Lucan CRC
  10. John Brosnan - Killarney CC
  11. Paul Kennedy - Newcastle West CC
  12. Fintan Ryan - Kingspan Track Project
  13. Donal Shearer - Phoenix CC
  14. Damien Shaw - STRATA3/VeloRevolution Racing Team
  15. Tom Shanahan - Limerick CC
  16. Tilt Talumaa - St Tiernan's CC
  17. John Buller - Bioracer-DHL- FR Services
  18. Richard Maes - STRATA3/VeloRevolution Racing Team
  19. Conor Murnan - UCD Cycling Club
  20. Ryan Reilly - Team Dan Morrissey-MIG.ie-Pactimo

Results - Women's Des Hanlon Classic Top 20
  1. Grace Young - STRATA3/VeloRevolution Racing Team
  2. Lara Gillespie - Scott-Orwell Wheelers
  3. Katharine Smyth - Ballymena Road Club
  4. Maeve Gallagher - Castlebar Cycling Club
  5. Maura Claffey - UCD Cycling Club
  6. Faith Hilliard - TC Racing
  7. Yvonne Doran - Scott-Orwell Wheelers
  8. Eileen Burns - Ballymena Road Club
  9. Emma Porter - UCD Cycling Club
  10. Hilary Hughes - Westport Cover Wheelers
  11. Gabriella Homer - Unattached
  12. Angieszka Wozniak - STRATA3/VeloRevolution Racing Team
  13. Niamh O'Donovan - TC Racing
  14. Sofie Loscher - Sundrive Track Team
  15. Orla Walsh - UCD Cycling Club
  16. Megan Davenport - UCD Cycling Club
  17. Emma Desmond - Lucan CRC
  18. Leah Desmond - Bandon Cycling Club
  19. Michelle McKinney - Galway Bay CC
  20. Nessa Rochford - De Ronde Van Cork CC
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