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National Road Series Final Round - The Red Hand Trophy

National Road Series Final Round - The Red Hand Trophy

SIX men and three women are still in line for the Cycling Ireland National Road Series Champion titles, as the premier domestic league reaches its climax at the Blair International Red Hand Trophy this Saturday.

Staged on a 103km course through The Glens of Antrim, the Red Hand Trophy is run by Ballymena Road Club, who would dearly love to see their own Katharine Smyth be crowned Women’s National Road Series Champion on home roads.

Smyth won the opening round in Carlow at the Des Hanlon Memorial Road Race, but has since found her match in old foe Eve McCrystal, Paralympic, World, and Irish National Road Race Champion, and newcomer Aine Donegan.

Dublin’s Donegan, riding for Scott-Orwell Wheelers, crashed out metres from the line in the last round at the Friends First Laragh Classic. She remounted to finish sixth, but was subsequently awarded third position for the purposes of National Road Series points.

It means she leads Smyth and McCrystal by 26 points and, with double points on offer for the first 20 places in this finale, would guarantee overall victory by finishing third - regardless of where her rivals finish. All three riders are already guaranteed series podium positions.

In the Men’s National Road Series title race, Conor Hennebry leads for Viner-Caremark-Pactimo, who lost leading hopes Sean Lacey and Matteo Cigala early in the season through injury and transfer.

A strong performance at the Laragh Classic for Waterford’s Hennebry saw him pull 42 points clear of unplaced second, Jamie Blanchfield. Team Gerard-DHL riders Sean Moore and Cian Sutcliffe both moved up in Wicklow, but it is John Beggs and Laragh Classic winner Dermot Trulock who stands out.

The leading under 23 from Lucan Cycling Road Club, is 62 points off the lead and a mere 17 points outside the top three. The last man mathematically capable of taking overall victory is Laragh Classic third Ben Walsh.

While Hennebry’s form has remained solid, Blanchfield’s has now dipped, the Panduit Carrick Wheelers rider missing the top 20 at the Laragh Classic. Hennebry can decide his own fate and win the Men’s National Road Series by finishing no worse than fifth on Saturday, but his often training partner Blanchfield may well have to win the Red Hand Trophy to take the title.

Along with those in contention for the top prize, almost any other rider could battle their way onto the podium, with a victory offering 80 points and third-placed Moore having just 97.

The Red Hand Trophy, sponsored by haulage company Blair International, begins at 11am in Ballymena this Saturday. The Men’s and Women’s National Road Series races will follow the same 103km route, the Men’s expected to finish first on the Carnlough Road outside Ballymena at around 1.25pm.

Follow the Blair International Red Hand Trophy live on Twitter at @CINatRoadSeries.

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