Eve out to regain national crown
Irish Road Race champion Eve McCrystal is hoping to regain the National Road Race Series title she won in 2017 as the season kicks off this weekend - but not at the expense of chasing more Paracycling glory with tandem partner Katie George Dunlevy.
Rio gold medallist McCrystal will miss the start of the road season as she and Dunlevy make their final preparations for the upcoming Paracycling World Track Championships which represent one of the two most important events in her racing season.
The other is the Paracycling World Road Race Championships in September and these two events will bookend a season which offers McCrystal important opportunities to hone her strength and chase personal goals in solo racing.
'First of all I've the track worlds and when I have that done I'll be on to the road,' says the Rio Paralympic gold medallist. 'Always my main focus is the tandem with Katie but I will use solo racing at home. I'll do the domestic season and I'll do the National League races as many as I can do.
'That is a goal for me. Then I suppose we've the nationals and after that, unfortunately, I won't be home for Rás na mBan because we have the Road Worlds with Katie but for me I think [the main domestic road focus] is the National League.'
McCrystal, the reigning national road race champion and 2017 National Road Series winner, has extra motivation thanks to moving to a new team to which she has brought her National Road Champion's jersey won in Sligo last June.
'I'm riding with Strata 3 so I'm really looking forward to that. It's a motivation in itself when you start riding with a new team so I'm really looking forward to it.
McCrystal sees her tandem paracycling and solo racing as complementary and mutually beneficial.
'The two of them do work hand in hand for me. It is important for me to get out on my own as well but the main focus is Katie and Tokyo 2020. So everything else after that is secondary but I think when I'm wearing the [national champion's] jersey this year it is really important for me to do well so I'm glad that as a motivator to keep pushing me, you know?'
McCrystal's solo goals are not just domestic. Having ridden on the Irish team in the Kreiz Breizh Elites Dames in Brittany last year she is eager for more opportunities to ride UCI events in green.
'I'd love to do that this year again. We did it last year. We were lucky enough to send a team away so that is goal for me as well. If I can get one or two in, it'd be huge. I found that a massive, massive benefit for me when I hopped on the tandem. It's just faster paced racing and, yeah, I'll try and fit that in hopefully if I get selected or an invite to one of them I'll go surely.'
McCrystal also sees great opportunities in riding against men and her coach Neill Delahaye has included plenty of A2 races in her 2019 programme
'[Neill's] put me in to as many of the A2 races as I can just to try and push me a little bit. After track worlds we will sit down and fill out the plan but he did say to me that he was going to get me to do a few of them, I suppose to get the speed and the handling.'