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McCrystal & O'Mahony Win Des Hanlon

McCrystal & O'Mahony Win Des Hanlon

PARALYMPIAN Eve McCrystal returned to domestic action with a bang on Sunday, when sprinting for victory in round one of Cycling Ireland’s Women’s National Road Series, as Darragh O’Mahony took the Men’s opener.

Two days after enjoying the honour of being Grand Marshall at her hometown Dundalk’s St Patrick’s Day Parade, McCrystal was back in the limelight at the Condron Car Sales Des Hanlon Memorial Race in Carlow.

It was a hard-fought win and one the women’s peloton will have to get used to as, in the wake of her and Katie-George Dunlevy’s Rio 2016 Gold and Silver medals, the Garda CC rider’s focus has shifted.

“Ras Na mBan is my big goal this year,” she said. “I haven’t looked past that, but with my schedule with Katie-George I actually only miss one National Road Series race.

“It’s been nearly two years since I really rode in Ireland. There were a lot of new faces out there today, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”

An exposed, windy course allowed breaks to stay away in both elite races, each coming down to a three-way dash - the final bend proving crucial.

Luck placed McCrystal on the right wheel at that final turn, and she capitalised, snatching success on the line from last year’s National Road Series winner Claire McIlwaine (Phoenix CC), Katharine Smith (Madigan CC) finishing third.

“I didn’t know if Katharine could sprint,” she said. “After the selection was made at the top of the first prime, the three of us had just ridden really hard for that first lap.

“We got the gap up to about three and a half minutes and that allowed us to, I wouldn’t say enjoy the second lap, but it gave us time. We worked honestly right up until the last 500m.”

Novice rider Orla Walsh (Scott Orwell) gained her first National Road Series placing when sprinting to beat leading track rider Mel Spath for fourth in the second group on the road.

It came down to the width of two tyres on the line in the Men’s National Road Series, Cork’s Darragh O’Mahony taking the photo-finish over Bike Channel Canyon’s Rory Townsend, and Limerick man Mark O’Callaghan (Aqua Blue Academy).

The O’Leary Stone Kanturk rider had bridged to the opening breakaway with Townsend, and used his local knowledge to outwit all.

“Within 20km, the original break of five had a gap of about three minutes, because no one was chasing,” he said. “Myself and Rory Townsend attacked just down off the descent into the left-hand turn and the tailwind.

“There were some other chase groups trying to come across, but they never got there because we worked quite honestly until the last 10km, then attacks started, but none of them stuck.

“I did the race last year and I knew I had to jump into that last corner, with about 200m to go, I jumped and just held out. It was a fair risk. There was nothing in it.”

O’Mahony races next in Belgium at the U23 Nations Cup in Gent-Wevelgem, but will return to Ireland the following Sunday for round two of the National Road Series at the Gas Networks Ireland Visit Nenagh Classic in County Tipperary.

Condron Car Sales Des Hanlon Memorial Race

Full results:

Rd 1 Men’s National Road Series

1 Darragh O’Mahony - O’Leary Stone Kanturk

2 Rory Townsend - Bike Channel Canyon

3 Mark O’Callaghan - Aqua Blue Academy

4 Craig Rea - Molenspurters Meulebeke

5 Jamie Blanchfield - Carrick Wheelers

6 Sean Lacey - Aqua Blue Academy

7 Eoin O’Connell - Killarney CC

8 Matteo Cigala - Aqua Blue Academy

9 Con McDunphy - Lucan CRC

10 Chris McGlinchey - ChainReactionCycles

Rd 1 Women’s National Road Series

1 Eve McCrystal - Garda CC

2 Claire McIlwaine - Phoenix CC

3 Katharine Smith - Madigan CC

4 Orla Walsh - Scott Orwell

5 Mel Spath - Unattached

Prime: Katharine Smith - Madigan CC

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