Tuesday, June 21, 2016

National Cycling Championships this week

It was a clash with American politics and an important charity event that allowed Kilcullen to become become a late choice of venue for the 2016 National Road Championships organised by Cycling Ireland, writes Brian Byrne.

More than 5,000 spectators are anticipated this weekend to watch the event, which will involve 500 competitors.

Among the many cyclists taking part is Ciara Staunton, a para-cyclist from the Kilcullen Cycling Club. Ciara has her sights firmly fixed on Rio 2016, following success in two world cups in South Africa and Belgium where she was presented with the World Cup leader’s jersey. Selection for Rio is now only weeks away and Ciara looks forward to the possibility of representing both Ireland and her home club in Kilcullen at the Olympics.

The original venue selected by organisers Orwell Wheelers was the Phoenix Park in Dublin, but that had to be changed because of an upcoming visit by US Vice-President Joe Biden to Dublin. The alternative Blessington base then had to be changed because the dates clashed with a local charity event.

Kilcullen Cycling Club then offered to provide local support for the prestigious championships to be relocated to the County Kildare town, and they'll now take place over routes in the Kilcullen and Narraghmore areas.

Local representatives, including FG TD Martin Heydon, were involved in working with Kildare County Council to facilitate the event, which will include a Time Trial on Thursday 23 June that gets under way at 6pm and will include categories for Para Athletes, Senior Men and Women grades, and U23 riders. The Trial route will be a 40km distance from Kilcullen to Athy and back, with the Para Athletes doing the Athy-Kilcullen leg.

The Road Races on Saturday 25 June will include close staggered starts from 10am for participants doing two, three or four laps of the 26km circuit which starts at Main Street, Kilcullen. The Sunday racing will involve a longer lap that includes the Brewel Hill loop.

Within the overall weekend racing are Championship events for Elite Women, Elite Men, U23 Men, M40, M50 and M60 categories.

Among those riding will be Nicolas Roche, Dan Martin and Philip Duignan, and Angus Fyffe from Omagh, grandson of the late Tommy and Carmel Byrne of Kilcullen and a recent recruit to the An Post-ChainReaction professional cycling team owned by Sean Kelly.

The route for the main race on Sunday 26 June will see elite cyclists travel from Kilcullen out to Kilrush, up through Narraghmore to Blackrath and around Brewel Hill to Kilgowan and back to Kilcullen.

Cycling Ireland paid particular tribute to Kilcullen Cycling Club's Liam Walker for his assistance in relocating the event at short notice, due to the 'two unforeseen circumstances' which arose in recent weeks.

"Cycling Ireland would also like to acknowledge the support of the Garda Síochána and Kildare County Council who have been enormously supportive with the venue changes," Cycling Ireland President Ciaran McKenna said.

A test run of the course took place on Thursday last, June 16, with Murphy Surveys using their skills to help set out the route.

The Championships have a pedigree going back to 1877, when the race had a 50m/80km distance.