Nicholas Roche is double Irish National Champion for 2016

Post date: Jun 27, 2016 3:55:32 PM

(By Shay O'Toole - Sun. 26th June 2016)

With the Tour de France looming, it is that time of year when all nations hold their National Cycling Championships. Last Sunday, Kilcullen, Co. Kildare was the venue for the Orwell Wheelers promoted Irish championships. Despite the numerous obstacles which the hosts had to navigate - and some unkind weather - the weekend was a big success.

Lakeside Wheelers had no involvement in the Individual Time Trial on Thursday night but the big news from this event was the devastating form of Team Sky rider Nicolas Roche who stormed to victory in the 40km test. The Pro tour rider completed the course in just over 47 minutes with an average speed of 51KM/H.

The road races on Sunday saw our ladies team of Michelle O’Halloran, Sonja O’Mahoney and Aishling O’Loughlin take to the start line. The route was a testing 30km loop with some rolling roads and a nasty 3.5km drag along a very narrow road. From the start the racing was not as aggressive as expected but when it eventually kicked off the peloton was quickly split into two clear bunches. Unfortunately the Lakeside girls did not make the decisive split and although they tried hard to stay in contention, the power up front was too much. The winner was Lydia Boylan who showed great determination to win the sprint finish to regain the crown which she won last year in Omagh. Well done to the Lakeside Wheelers team on what was a difficult day out and credit to the girls for their resilience in finishing finish when many of their rivals took an early shower. Michelle ended the day in 23rd place whilst Sonja and Aishling finished in 28th and 29th slots respectively. There is no doubt that this team will bounce back for our own GP which takes place on July 17th.

Lakeside Wheelers Women's Team - L/R Sonja O’Mahoney, Michelle O’Halloran & Aishling O’Loughlin

who took part in the 2016 National Road Race Championships in Kilcullen on Sunday 26th June 2016.

At precisely 10.30am the main event of the weekend, the Elite and U23 men went to the line for the 187km race spread across 6 laps of the same circuit. The start list was peppered with the cream of Irish cycling talent and included World Tour riders Nicolas Roche (Sky) and Matt Brammeier (Dimension Data), 2014 champion Ryan Mullen (Cannondale), young guns Eddie Dunbar (Axeon Hagens Berman), Michael O’Loughlin (Team Wiggins) and Daire Feeley (iTap) and amongst all of these was the reigning champion, our own Damien Shaw (An Post Chainreaction).

The race was lit up from the drop of the flag with Roche being instrumental in the first attack but his aggression was matched by that of the chasing peloton and his effort was soon neutralised. The race remained jumpy for the next 15kms but then a serious move went off the front and once it settled it proved to be the decisive break of the day. This 8 man group consisted of those named above except for Mullen who missed out but Shaw’s teammate Conor McConvey and former An Post rider Mark Downey managed to infiltrate and for the next 5 laps this was the making of the race.

Well done to Nico on a great performance all weekend and best of luck in his Irish Champion’s kit for the coming season. Well done also to Orwell Wheelers for pulling this year’s race out of the fire.

Without doubt there was disappointment and signs of “what could have been” etched on the face of the Mullingar man after the race but as ever, he was gracious in defeat after yet another excellent performance. It must be remembered, that in his five attempts at this prestigious race, Damien Shaw has never been outside the top ten which, considering his short time in the sport is an amazing statistic and of course, after Omagh 2015 he can always put Irish Champion after his name.

Some chasers did try to get something going behind but the firepower up front was awesome and nothing got even near to joining them. As usual, this race turned into a war of attrition and so it was, on a slight drag on lap 6, Shaw launched a blistering attack up the left hand side of the road which split the break and cast Dunbar, Feeley and Downey adrift. He was however chased by Roche and Brammeier who brought what remained of the break back up to his wheel. Now, the race was on and as they commenced the final climb Roche jumped clear, the break hesitated and that was that. The Sky man’s advantage went form 6 seconds to 25, to 35 and very soon it was clear that the rest were competing for secondary podium places.

On the run in to the uphill finish in Kilcullen town centre, Shaw made one last brave effort to put daylight between himself and his rivals but the 185kms on hard roads combined with crashes in his last two races were beginning to take their toll and his last match was struck. After four and a half hours of racing Roche went on to take a fine victory over Brammeier 2nd, O’Loughlin 3rd, McConvey 4th and Shaw 5th all @ 34 seconds.

Nicholas Roche takes the 2016 crown of Irish national road race champion