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Wheelers Turn On the Style for National Crit. Championships

posted 20 Jun 2011, 08:40 by Kevin Monaghan   [ updated 21 Jun 2011, 05:44 ]
(By Shay O'Toole)

Wow, what a night, June 17th will live long in the memory of many Lakeside Wheelers’ members for several years to come.   Firstly, it was a huge honour and compliment to our club to be approached by Cycling Ireland to host the National Criterium Champinships, but to see the event unfold as it did on the main streets of Mullingar last Friday was a sight to behold. Great credit must go to Race Director Joe Duffy and his team, who left no stone unturned to ensure that the people of Mullingar were treated to a spectacle which was as close to professional as you will get. The planning for this event commenced a year ago and having attended a round of the Halford’s series of professional criteriums in Dublin last July, Joe and club chairman, Shay O’Toole decided there and then that this was what Lakeside Wheelers would strive for in Mullingar.

Thankfully the weather Gods stayed on our side but as every Wheeler who has cycled over the last two months knows, they owed us one.

The programme of events got underway with a ladies race which, it is hoped will pave the way for a National Ladies Criterium championships. Lakeside was well represented with Muirna Walsh, Wendy Bates and Sarah Piner donning the jersey for a tough 30 minutes of racing. For those who are not familiar with crit racing, it is a seriously intense environment where you must be at your best just to survive. With both Wendy and Sarah still feeling the effects of recent illness it was always going to be very difficult for them to show their true class.

Muirna on the other hand was fresh from her debut in crit racing in the Orwell league but this was a huge step up for her and one from which, she will learn a lot from. Notwithstanding the circumstances, Sarah and Wendy did very well to finish 4th and 7th respectively and it was a measure of the three girls’ determination that they put wheels to the start line at all.

In the men’s race, Lakeside Wheelers fielded a team of five riders who were still on a high after their recent success in Donegal. Peter Rimmer, Johnny Murray, Damien Shaw, Robbie Kenny and Stuart Cox were all eager to pit themselves against a peloton which included the best riders in Ireland, some of whom are professional athletes.
The course, which incidentally has since received great acclaim from both riders and Cycling Ireland officials alike, was laid out in a very tight, fast but safe manner. It wasn’t long before there was a string of cyclists stretched along its entire length but with strict rules being enforced by the Cycling Ireland Commissaire, Gary McIlroy, the lapped riders had to retire.

However, the Lakeside boys were still in the thick of it with Damien Shaw taking up position on the wheel of reigning champion, Martyn Irvine, of the professional outfit, Kenda Giant Asia at the front of the race as Johnny Murray and Stuart Cox rode brilliantly just behind. Unfortunately, Robbie Kenny experienced some mechanical difficulties and availed of the “lap out” rule whilst former Wheeler, Steve Franzoni, now of Kilcullen Murphy Surveyors was unfortunate to be brought down in the Blackhall area of the route.

With the initial period of fifty minutes coming to an end and the cheering spectators lining the streets in record numbers, the scene was set for a thrilling finish with Damien Shaw, barring a disaster now guaranteed a National medal.

The colour of this medal was all that was to be decided and as the leading trio rounded the Market Square corner to huge cheers and applause, it was Irvine who took up the running with Damien in pursuit. As they crossed the finish line it was the professional rider Irvine, who took gold, with Lakeside Wheelers’ Damien Shaw claiming his silver, and Lakeside’s first ever Irish senior medal in cycling.

This was an unbelievable achievement considering that in the 2010 Lakeside Crit, Damien raced in the A4 event and did not win, which gives some indication to the phenomenal progress he has made in the last year.
At the well attended presentation ceremony held afterwards in the Grevile Arms Hotel, Cycling Ireland’s CEO Geoff Liffey, was full of praise for the organisation and the very evident team effort from Lakeside Wheelers to stage this event. The Chief Commissaire has since stated that Lakeside Wheelers were “top class” in their attention to detail and treated this event with “all of the importance which it, as a National championships, deserved”.

On the basis of this I would like to pay tribute to every club member who assisted on the night as you should be extremely proud of your efforts. There are several people who need to be thanked but owing to space restrictions I would just like to mention Westmeath County Council, Destination Sport, Mullingar traders and residents on Oliver Plunkett St, Dominick St, Grove St, Jail Hill and Mount St, Mullingar Gardai, the Civil Defence, Greville Arms Hotel and our friends in Midland Triathlon Club.

Click here for more pictures of the 2011 National Criterium Championships