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McKenna and Smyth Win Opening Round of National Road Series in Des Hanlon

McKenna and Smyth Win Opening Round of National Road Series in Des Hanlon

SEAN McKENNA and Katharine Smyth have become 2018’s first leaders of the Cycling Ireland National Road Series, after hard-fought victories in the Des Hanlon Memorial Road Race in Carlow on Sunday


McKenna, 24, was riding for Yorkshire-based outfit Holdsworth Bikes, when taking a five-man sprint over Jamie Blanchfield (Panduit Carrick Wheelers) and last year’s Men’s National Road Series winner Sean Lacey (Viner Caremark Pactimo).

The Dubliner, winner of Carlow Road Cycling Club’s race in 2016, had spent the majority of the hilly 150km in a breakaway of 11 men, their gap back to the surviving bunch at one stage ballooning to 2’ 30”.

However, after the final climb up from Bilboa village, the breakaway was down to a select five - McKenna, Blanchfield, Lacey, James Davenport (Strata3 Velo Revolution), and Cian Sutcliffle (Gerard DHL) - and the bunch had closed so rapidly, they could nearly see the hares dangling.

A nail-biting downhill finish to the Carlow Mart ensued, McKenna sprinting to win, moments before the bunch itself sprinted for minor placings.

McKenna said: “I had a lot of my team mates here, but they wouldn’t be used to that style of racing - it was kind of mad, as usual. I was lucky to follow a few smart heads and get into the break, and it was a day of up-and-over then.

“The finish was something similar to when I won before, coming in on your hands and knees for a sprint. It’s so hard in a race like that, it doesn’t matter who the fastest sprinter is, it’s just who has the freshest legs at the end of the day.

“Lacey pushed me close, that’s for sure, and Jamie rode very well all day, with Davenport. It’s hard to beat those lads, I’m not gonna lie, so I’m happy out.”

McKenna will continue early season in Ireland next weekend, racing Ras Mumhan in Kerry for the Irish National team. Focus then turns to the British Cycling Premier Calendar road racing series with Holdsworth, which last week received a coveted invitation to international stage race Tour de Yorkshire (May 3-6).

McKenna’s Des Hanlon victory puts the rider at the top of the Cycling Ireland National Road Series Men’s Leaderboard, while atop the Women’s is last year’s runner-up Katharine Smyth.

The Team Madigan rider led a four-woman escape up the penultimate climb on the first lap, and made her race-winning move at the top. Attacking over the summit, Smyth raced alone for the remainder of the 84km race, crossing the line 2’ 40” clear of Nessa Rochford (De Ronde Van Cork CC) and Michelle Geoghegan (Autocars).

Smyth said: “Going up the first climb Michelle lifted the pace and the group seemed to split into about four, then going over the Prime (Yellow Road) I lifted it again and found myself on my own. I thought, ‘I’ll wait on them, just cycle at my own pace,’ but the gap kept opening. It was a long way to go by myself. I just put the head down and went as hard as I could.”

She laughed: “I miss my friend Eve (McCrystal); I think I would have had some company definitely if she had been here. I’m looking forward to seeing her in the next round.”

Eve McCrystal, winner of last year’s Women’s National Road Series, missed Round 1 due to commitments as pilot for Katie George-Dunlevy at the UCI 2018 Para-cycling Track World Championships in Rio. The pair on Saturday night won a Bronze medal in the Women’s B Tandem 3km Individual Pursuit.

Round 2 of the Cycling Ireland National Road Series is hosted by Blarney Cycling Club at the Donal Crowley Memorial Road Race in Blarney, County Cork on Sunday, April 15.



1. Katharine Smyth (Team Madigan)

2. Nessa Rochford (De Ronde Van Cork CC)

3. Michelle Geoghegan (Autocars)


1. Sean McKenna (Holdsworth Bikes)

2. Jamie Blanchfield (Panduit Carrick Wheelers)

3. Sean Lacey (Viner Caremark Pactimo)

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