Inside track on 2016’s races to note
THE best advice comes from someone who has experienced what you want to know about, so take note as new racing manager John Malone reveals his recommended races for 2016
AS promised, I’ve picked out a few races at different times of the year that I have enjoyed, or other club racers have enjoyed, to get you thinking about the year ahead.
This list is by no means conclusive, it’s my personal recommendations and lots of races have been left out, so if you had your eye on a race that’s not here and want to know more about it, drop me an email and I’ll do my best to help.
An important note before scrolling down is that, at this stage, the dates of races are subject to change. Generally races are run at around the same time each year, so you should be able to pick a few to aim for, but be sure to check Cycling Ireland’s competitive events calendar, or contact the organising club, if you want to be certain.
February & March
West Coast Wheelers Open Race – Loughrea, Co Galway
Down for February 14, the opening weekend of the season, this is a handicap race. It’s a lumpy course, with plenty of climbing, that I did last year, making the break of the day with John McGettigan. So I’ve good memories of last year’s race. The weather was foul, but it was a fab day.
Rás Maigh Eo 2 Day – Westport, Co Mayo
The first stage race of year, this is down for early March at the moment. It’s 2 day race for A2/A3/Jnr with an A4 race on the Sunday. There’s a Flat TT and rolling stages on exposed roads through stunning scenery. Westport Covey Wheelers are the hosts.
Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3
Des Hanlon Memorial Classic – Carlow, Co Carlow
One of the classics in Irish racing, this race is set on a large lap in mid-March, with four solid climbs – it’s definitely one for climbers. The A3 race last year had massive numbers, but it’s a great race despite the crowd and a good early season target. If you were to peak for Ras Maigh Eo, you’d still probably have good form for this race two weeks later. It’s run by Carlow Cycling Club
Gorey 3 Day – Gorey, Co Wexford
In this race celebrate’s its 50th year, looking to the future with a past finishers list including Tour De France champion Stephen Roche and one-day race legend Sean Kelly. It’s an A2/A3/Junior race that takes riders from Blessington to Gorey on the first stage.
There’s a TT and a stage around Gorey on day two and you head back on the reverse of stage 1 for Sunday’s final stage, finishing near the quarry on the Dublin side of Blessington. See hosts Usher Irish Road Club’s website for more details. We had a four man team with support last year and, depending on numbers and interest, could do the same again.
April to July
Deenside Cup – Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny
Lumpy one-day race in Kilkenny open to all categories and hosted by Deenside Wheelers. Great course, with each lap having a nice 6km 3% climb. There’s a flat finish not long after the end of the descent. The climb breaks things up, but isn’t super steep.
Mondello Park Criterium Series – Caragh, Co Kildare
These are run every second Tuesday evening from about the end of April until the end of August at Mondello Park Motor Racing Circuit. Each evening has a handicap race for all categories of rider, running for one hour and three laps. They provide some fast, closed-circuit racing that are great for improving handling and working on your speed. The Bikeworx-sponsored series is promoted by Usher Irish Road Club.
Shay Elliot Memorial Race (and SHA3) – Glenmalure, Co Wicklow
This is a hilly early classic steeped in history, with Bray Wheelers set to stage the 59th running in 2016. Fresh in the memory is Eddie Dunbar’s epic duel with Damien Shaw in 2014, a race in which the junior finished second, almost emulating Sean Kelly, who won as a junior in the race’s infancy.
The main event is restricted to A1/A2 category riders, but in recent years SHA3 has been added to the bill to allow A3s to race the challenging course. It’s rolling terrain before and after the big climb, meaning there’s still plenty of work to do after getting over the top of Glenmalure, and at over 3km and 8% this climb is certainly one for the mountain goats.
Ras Dhun na nGall – Ardara, Co Donegal
My favorite A3 event. An A2/A3/Junior stage race, it’s a step or two above any other A3 event in terms of pace. Held over exposed, hilly roads around Ardara, it’s one for hard mountain goats.
I’ll remember last year’s stage 3 as one of the hardest races I ever did – 50km/h winds on exposed roads won’t be forgotten in a hurry. It’s all worth it though for stage four, which takes you through roaring crowds in Ardara and on to finish on top of the brutally steep Glengesh. It’s run by Four Masters Cycling Club and a firm favourite for St. Tiernan’s riders.
Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4
Bobby Crilly Classic – Belfast, Co Antrim
This year this was a funny race in many ways. The A3 had three flat enough laps that were taken at sportive pace (we were caught by A4’s and told to speed up). Then the last 25 mins was a long, flat-out, max effort climb to a summit finish overlooking Belfast. It’s a great long climb to finish – 12km @ 4% – producing a small bunch, so a great race for climbers to focus on. If you carry some form from Donegal the previous week, you can target this one as well. Be sure to get an entry as they’ll sell out quick! It’s hosted by Phoenix Cycling Club.
National Road Race Championships – TBC, Munster
Pencilled in for the last weekend in June, the National Road Race Championships incorporate races for A1s, A2s, vets and masters. A3’s and Juniors have separate champs in August. The course and hosting club changes each year. In 2016 it’s Clonmel CC for the second time, but keep an eye on CyclingIreland.ie for updates on the course.
Eddie Tobin Memorial – Bunclody, Co Wexford
Another hilly race, the main drag to the finish on the 25km circuit being about 5km long at 2% of gradient, but it goes up and down during that 5km. It was really wet when I did it last year, but it’s a nice course and is worth doing. Hosted by Slaney Cycling Club, it has races for A1/A2, A3 (Noel Redmond Memorial) and A4s.
Newry 3 Day – Newry, Co Down
Currently down for the same weekend as the Eddie Tobin, the Newry 3 Day is a stage race held in the rolling hills around Newry city. It has a short, flat TT, with a nice mix of rolling and hilly stages. This race will have smaller numbers than other stage races on the calendar and is ppen to A2/A3 and Juniors. It’s run by Newry Wheelers, but it’s probably more useful to look for updates on CyclingUlster.com.
Suir Valley 3 Day – Clonmel, Co Tipperary
A step up again from Ras Dhun Na nGall, Clonmel CC‘s renown Suir Valley is open to A1, A2 and A3’s, with a sprinkling of international riders. It takes you over some big climbs in a high quality field, making it a tough few days – not one for the weak-hearted! To get a real sense of the action, click through to the Suir Valley’s website and watch the video.
Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4 Road Book
August & September
A3 National Championships – TBC
Currently penciled in for early August, these are often the main end-of-season focus for A3 riders, riding out the season on any form from that race. In 2014 St. Tiernan’s took the team prize, with the late, great Martin Vereker getting up for fourth despite two crashes. It’s a race that will more than likely be given support if enough riders want to race – and are going there in-form. Like the main National Championships, it is a moveable feast with a different course and hosting club each year and nothing has been revealed yet.
Stafford Wholesale Wexford 2 Day – Camaross, Wexford
Revived in recent seasons, this late season stage race has had a hilly TT in between two long road stages. They have tried before to have the TT on the quays, but run into difficulties. It’s a possibility that could be revisited so the course is not necessarily set in stone. Run by Wexford Wheelers, there are races for A1/A2, A3/Junior, and two open races on each day for A4’s.
Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3
SPAR Tour of Omagh 3 Day – Omagh, County Tyrone
This is an A4-only stage race that is widely-regarded as one of the best run races in the country – hats off to Omagh Wheelers. It’s a must-do for any A4 in my opinion and a race the club has consistently done well in over the last few years – Newcomer of the Year Darren Guy finishing second
on a stage overall this year (apologies for the error Darren) and treasurer Adam Greally winning 2014’s final stage to take third in general classification.
It has a great mix of courses, with flat, fast circuits on the Friday and solid, hilly routes to finish off the weekend. If you’re starting off in racing, this would be a great race to aim for towards the end of your first season. It’s always been very popular with St. Tiernan’s and is another that would almost certainly get support staff.
Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4
Charleville 2 Day – Charleville, Co Cork
Last stage race of the year, with races for A2/A3/Junior, and a separate race for A4’s. The hilly final stage and a flat TT mean this is a race that should suit a strong TT rider, who can get over the drags. It’s run by Charleville Wheelers.
Stage 1 Stage 2 (A2/A3) Stage 2 (A4) Stage 3
Friends First Laragh Classic – Laragh, Co Wicklow
This is our own race and most – if not all – club members will most likely be donning the high-vis and waving a flag on a corner for the 2016 Friends First Laragh Classic. But the club does try to make it possible for there to be St. Tiernan’s representatives in all three races – A1/A2, A3 and A4.
It’s grown into one of the best one-day races in the calendar and any club member who has been lucky enough to ride in it will tell you it is an experience to strive for. It’s a hard course on tough, tiring roads, with a good climb to break things up, and the weather is often foul so any points are hard earned. But the real bonus for Tiernan’s riders is having your club mates on every single corner shouting for you.
In order to get into the race as a Tiernan’s rider, you first have to be showing the form of your life, and secondly just be a good club member. The racing manager, me, and the race committee, have to believe that it’s worthwhile everyone else working hard to fill your place on the safety team.