National title glory is truly special for me, says Dunne
Conor Dunne took a popular victory for the Irish-owned AquaBlue Sport professional team yesterday when he soloed into the village of Coolaney in Sligo to claim the Elite Men's National Road Race Championship yesterday.
Dunne was part of a four-man group containing Jamie Blanchfield (Panduit Carrick Wheelers), Darnell Moore (Caldwell Cycles) and fellow pro Robert Jon McCarthy (JLT-Condor) that went clear of the peloton with three-and-a-half laps of the 17.5km circuit remaining.
On the penultimate time up the climb, Dunne found himself with just Moore for company after the 21-year-old from Omagh put in a big turn at the front and dropped the other two escapees.
With around 7km to go, Dunne seized his chance and attacked Moore on the flatter section of the course.
Dunne suffered through the crosswind section with 3km to go, dragged his 6ft 8in frame over the climb and pulled out a 40-second advantage by the finish.
"It's so special for me to win this jersey," said Dunne as he fought back tears at the line.
"I've gone through so many tough moments in this sport. Last year I took so many kickings, really put myself through some agony, not just physically but mentally.
"My uncle Roger got me into this sport and he was so proud of his Irish roots.
"He was a racing cyclist himself and he brought me to France when I first started cycling. He taught me how to ride a bike."
A courageous Moore held on to claim the silver medal and also won the U-23 title in the process, adding the title to the national cyclo-cross championship he claimed in January.
"If you'd told me that at the start of the race, I'd have been well pleased," admitted Moore.
"I'm pleased to get the jersey. Conor attacked me with about 7km to go. I expected him to have a bit more in the tank than me."