Cyclo-cross National Series Round Four Preview
Maria Larkin in action during Round Three of the Cyclo-cross National Series (Picture: Atom Creates)
The inaugural Cycling Ireland Cyclo-cross National Series concludes on Saturday, January 7th with the fourth round at the Cyclo-cross NI track in Portadown.
Velocity Racing Club will play host as the series heads to Ulster after rounds in Westport, Thurles and Jenkinstown.
It’s been a successful first National Series for the discipline, reflecting the growing popularity and participation levels in cyclo-cross.
This was underlined by the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup stage in Dublin that saw 8,000 fans descend on the Sport Ireland Campus on December 11th.
And some of Ireland’s top cyclists performed well against the best in the world and showcased the best of Irish domestic cyclo-cross.
And with the National Championships looming on January 14th and 15th, the fourth round of the National Series provides one last chance for riders to shake off the Christmas cobwebs and sharpen the tools as attention switches to chasing a national champion’s jersey.
Dean Harvey has dominated the senior men's races in the opening rounds, taking victories on all three occasions, while in the senior women Aine Doherty won the opening two rounds before Maria Larkin picked up a win in the third round.
The race to be crowned senior women's champion is sure to go down to the wire, just six points separates the top three riders after three rounds of racing.
Veteran Grace Young leads the way with 156 points after two second-placed performances and a strong showing at McCrystals track in the third round. But she's just two points clear of Stephanie Roche in second place with 154 points. If either rider takes the win at Portadown, they'll also be crowned the overall winner.
"I have ave really enjoyed the National Series. I think it’s a great addition to the calendar. I'm honoured to be leading the series going into the final round. To be honest, I’m still not sure if I can make the last round in Portadown. I got a bad virus before Christmas that literally blew my socks off and I’m finding it hard to shake it off. All I can do at this stage is look back at the positives of the season so far and all the great results to date and anything after that will be a bonus. Fingers crossed I’m feeling good enough to travel this weekend."
“The National Series this year has been a great addition to the cyclo-cross calendar, going into the final round it’s a tight margin for the top spot and it’ll all come down to the results on the day and how many places you can put between yourself and the other contenders.“
Caoimhe May is still in contention heading into the final round in third placed. Her 150 points means that a win on Saturday coupled with both Young and Roche failing to finish second will see her also take overall honours.
"It’s been great to have a Cyclo-cross National Series for the first time and I’m pleasantly surprised to have ended up in contention for an overall podium, I can’t wait for the last round to see what I can do before the National Championships!”
At U14 boys level, Rian McCrystal and Caleb McGreevy have enjoyed an intriguing rivalry as the pair have finished in the top two in all three rounds. McCrystal leads by five points after winning round two and three respectively.
Event organiser James Wilson said:
"It's a 2.5km which has double pits, a flyover and a lovely gravel section at the top which consists of rollers, firms, jumps and a nice fast downhill towards the finish line. There's also a new section at the top of a field which is a hill made out of sand, the riders will be going back and forward across it maybe three times. Further on down the field towards the start-finish area there's the pits area, we've done a lot of work on the drainage so that it's in excellent condition and ready for race day."
"Overall I think it will take a good all round rider to win this race. The fact that the track has long straights and drags is going to suit people that can put out a lot of watts, but it can also suit the lighter rider - who is going to skip up those climbs. There's the technical parts which is going to suit the guys who can really throw a bike about."
The National Series standings after Round Three can be found here.
Entries for Round Four of the Cyclo-cross National Series are open here.
You can view the full results from Round Three here.
More information on the Cyclo-cross National Championships is available here.