Alice Sharpe On What Makes Road National Championships 'Difficult Race To Win'

Alice Sharpe joined on the podium by Mia Griffin (left) and Fiona Mangan (right) after the 2022 women's road race

Despite twice being crowned Irish National Champion, Alice Sharpe admits it's becoming an increasingly difficult race to win.

With women's cycling going from strength to strength both home and abroad, reigning Irish champion is in a better position than many to break down just why defending her jersey will prove a tough task.

Eagle-eyed fans would have spotted the Irish champion's jersey among some of Europe's top races such as Scheldeprijs Vrouwen and Brabantse Pijl in 2023, but the Israel Premiertech Roland Team rider has spent plenty of the season on the track with Irish National Team. 

But reflecting on the Irish National Championships, Sharpe noted the increasing talent and quality of the field with every year as female Irish cyclists continue to make their mark on the domestic and international scenes. 

Sharpe said: 

"It's always a really difficult race to win. The women's peloton in Ireland is getting so much stronger that there's now so many people to watch out for. There are riders who can be dangerous in different ways, it's so exciting to be a part of and to see it grow so much."
"(Compared to) when I first started five or six years ago, the peloton is so much bigger but so much stronger. It's exciting to see everybody improve, but that makes the racing harder but in a good way. You always want in the National Championships for the strongest person to come out the winner."

Not only does the next national champion have to be physically the strongest on June 24th in Dungannon, mental strength will be key to success for the eventual winner.

Sharpe admits that previously she's put pressure on herself in National Championships, but is hoping to do do herself justice on the day.

Sharpe continued: 

"I think in the past, we've sometimes raced a bit negatively, in the last few years it's been aggressive and proper racing. It always makes sure that the best person wins. It's always a stressful race, you have a lot of expectations on yourself and maybe others will have a lot of expectations of you."
"If you want it too much, you don't race well if that makes sense. The last time I was trying to defend my jersey in 2020, I didn't race well, and I let the pressure get to me. I just want to enjoy this year; I've really loved my year in the jersey and if it doesn't work out then that's the way it is."
"I just want to go out there and show myself in the best way and race in the best way I can. If that means a result, then great, but if not, I know that I did the best that I could to try and make that happen."

Sharpe has sported the jersey in stage races across Belgium and France as well as Belgian classics such as Scheldeprijs Vrouwen and Brabantse Pijl. She'll also be competing in the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Del Sol this week as she fine tunes preparations for the National Championships. 

An honour to wear the jersey racing across Europe, Sharpe admits there is an urgency to be at the front of the race and do the legendary jersey justice. 

Sharpe said: 

"It's always really special getting to wear the jersey in Europe, it's a special feeling to be able to show the country off and be racing in the biggest races at the highest level. It's just an honour to be able to wear the jersey. It gives you that extra motivation to do it proud."
"You want to have it there at the front of the race and to be showing it in the best light. I think it always gives you that extra bit of motivation."

With her father living close by in Belfast, Sharpe hopes to get to sample some of the course in the week leading up to the women's road race.

But Irish national team commitments will come first in the coming weeks, with scheduled track events in Slovakia and Czech Republic in the coming weeks as Ireland seek to earn key points for qualification for the madison event at the Track World Championships. 

Sharpe said:

"My dad lives in Belfast and is from Belfast so it's not too far away! I'll spend a week or so before and have a proper look at the course and get excited about it then. It's (the route) exciting and will be good for racing."

"I've got a stage race this week so that will be good to build up some form. We're still trying to qualify in the Madison for the Worlds this year, so I think I have to go off and do some track races."

More information on the 2023 Road National Championships, including dates, route details and entry links for all races, can be found here.