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National Road Series 2018 - Preview Donal Crowley


BLARNEY plays host this Sunday to Round 2 of the Cycling Ireland National Road Series with all eyes on local rider Eoin O’Connell in the Men’s Donal Crowley Memorial Road Race.

The 31-year-old Blarney native, who rides this year for host club Blarney CC, finished a respectable 19th on General Classification in Easter’s international stage race, Kerry Group Ras Mumhan, and placed second in the Donal Crowley last season, and in 2014.

He said: “It’s nice to be on the circuit that all of the local riders know so well. We used to do a club league race on that circuit midweek up until last year, so we know every inch of the road – it’s quite challenging.”

Of his Ras Mumhan performance, a prep run for the Blarney CC team being aimed at this year’s Ras Tailteann – Ireland’s only UCI-ranked stage race, O’Connell added: “I was actually a little bit disappointed. In a large bunch it’s hard to always pay attention and though I felt I had the power, I fell asleep a few times.

“The weather did not help. It was definitely tough on the Sunday stage, out around Waterville. To give you an example, I started with gloves on, then it got warm and I took them off, then it started lashing rain and the temperature dived, and I couldn’t get them back on.

“I had to put my hands in my mouth to get the feeling back to change the gears.”

O’Connell got in the winning breakaway at last month’s Cycling Ireland National Road Series Round 1 at the Des Hanlon Memorial Road Race, but was distanced on the last lap. He managed to finish in the top 20 nevertheless and lines up on Sunday on the NRS2018 Men’s leaderboard, which got a boost last weekend as fourth-placed James Davenport (Strata3 VeloRevolution) landed the Cycleways Cup in Navan

O’Connell said: “The Strata3 VeloRevolution guys are very strong right now. Sean Lacey (Team Viner Caremark Pactimo) is always very good on these courses too, and the two guys from Tralee Manor West iBike could go close – Cormac Daley and Cathal Moynihan (2016 winner) – Cormac especially; he’s a young guy really coming up.”

Poignantly, Michael Crowley, nephew of the late Donal Crowley, will also ride. He won the event in 2013, and two stages of the Kanturk 3 Day last year, but has found form slipping in 2018.

He said: “I was at the Des Hanlon, but got caught in the crash after 5km, and I was at Ras Mumhan, but it wasn’t my strongest. I was in college for the last few years, and this year started working full time. I have been trying to get the balance right, but I don’t think I’ve been able to do that and it’s reflected in my form, unfortunately.”

Of his famed uncle, and father Patsy, he added: “Donal and my father cycled for Blarney and they also cycled for Crowley Cycles. They were both involved in the underage in Blarney and between the two of them they produced a lot of champions under age, Junior Tour winners, and riders that went on to represent Ireland.”

The Donal Crowley Memorial Road Race begins at 12.30pm on Sunday in Blarney Village, the Men’s Cycling Ireland National Road Series field racing out of the town and on to a hilly 27.5km circuit, covering that lap five times, before returning to Blarney to finish their 154km race. Former winners include Eddie Dunbar, the 21-year-old now a professional with Aqua Blue Sport.

The Women’s Cycling Ireland National Road Series Race will start shortly after the Men’s and follow the same route, racing the lap section twice for a 72km test. Former winners include 2014 National Champion Fiona Meade.


Photos by Sean Rowe - Katharine Smyth and Sean McKenna winning Round 1 of the National Road Series at the Des Hanlon last month.
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