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National Road Series Kicks Off with Des Hanlon

National Road Series Kicks Off with Des Hanlon

ITALIAN coach Matteo Cigala says the standard has ‘never been higher’ as Ireland’s elite domestic riders prepare for the first leg of this year’s Cycling Ireland National Road Series in Carlow on Sunday.

The 36th running of the Des Hanlon Memorial Race, hosted by Carlow Cycling Club and supported by Condron Car Sales, kicks off the seven-race series with a hilly, 152km route on demanding roads.

Cigala and his AquaBlue Sport team mate Sean Lacey, last year’s National Road Series Champion, are set to be on the startlist for the test, Cigala already topping the A1 elite rider rankings on 40 points.

He said: “I started racing four weeks ago and am riding very consistently, which is great as I didn’t do many hours over the winter; just enough to be riding competitively during the first part of the season.

“But this year the level of riders is very high. I think there are 10-15 riders that can win every race, whereas normally it’s only two or three.

“There are many factors working with this, but I think a key one is that the winter season weather was quite good and everybody has been able to benefit from good conditions for training. It is going to be a tough race and a tough series this year.”

A new 38km circuit has been laid out for the 36-year-old race, starring four repetitions up the long climb of the Rushes - previously only taken once for the KOH prime.

Race director Paul Keane explained: "The riders now go up the Rushes four times, descending each time back into the village and atmosphere.

"It's a shorter circuit, but that climb means there is still 1500m of climbing and the Women's National Road Series race is longer at 76km."

Not new for 2017 is that inclusion of the first round of the Women’s National Road Series; the league is running concurrently with the men’s for the first time this year, but started in Carlow in 2016, Phoenix CC’s Claire McIlwaine nicking the prize from breakaway companions Orla Montague and Monica Marconi.

All the leading contenders for the top rankings are expected in the line up, with several novices hoping to make their presence felt, including Orwell Wheelers’s Orla Walsh.

Walsh said: “I tried a handful of open races last year, just to see what it was all about, but I wasn’t ready. I’ve actually trained this winter so I’m feeling a lot more confident going into it this time.

“I’m aiming to do my best and to keep getting stronger throughout the season.”

Sign on is at 9am in Tougher’s Restaurant on the Dublin Road outside Carlow, with races starting at 12.20pm outside that venue.

Route details: https://www.strava.com/routes/3686142

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