Friday 19 January 2018

Roche faces battle for title

Dungarvan’s John Hodge takes first place ahead of Paul McCarter from Donegal Bay at the M40 section of the National Championships. Photo: Seán Rowe
Dungarvan’s John Hodge takes first place ahead of Paul McCarter from Donegal Bay at the M40 section of the National Championships. Photo: Seán Rowe

A stellar field will go to the start line today as cycling's National Championships reach a crescendo with the elite men's, under 23 and women's road races on a circuit around Wexford town.

Nicolas Roche of BMC will be defending his title against the likes of Sam Bennett (Bora Hansgrohe), Matt Brammeier and Conor Dunne (Aqua Blue Sport), Ryan Mullen (Cannondale Drapac) and the An Post Chain Reaction trio of Connor Hennebry, Damien Shaw and Sean McKenna.

Matthew Teggart of An Post Chain Reaction will be looking to continue his return to form in the under 23 race, where the start list also includes elite internationals Eddie Dunbar (Axeon Hagens Berman) and Michael O'Loughlin (Team Wiggins).

The 18.95km circuit is set around the town of Wexford, taking the riders right through the centre of the town and back over the Wexford Bridge.

The lap is quite short but the Elite men and under 23s will cover 175.9km as they tackle nine laps, while the women's race is 97.6km, taking them around the course five times.

The course isn't particularly tough, with the highest point of elevation hitting 54 meters coming at the 11km marker. The overall elevation gain for one lap is 149 meters.

However, the short, punchy climbs will eventually begin to tire the riders' legs and we could see only a few of them left by the last lap.

There are three short climbs along the route. The steepest been daubed 'Muur de Ferrycarrig' by the locals for its similarities in length and steepness to the famous Muur de Grammot in Flanders.

"On paper the route doesn't look so hard, but it will be a battle of attrition, possibly separating the peloton, so only the stronger riders will be left by the last lap," said Patsy McCaffery, the route designer. "I think it will come down to a sprint finish at the end between a small group of riders."

Bennett and Lydia Boylan are on form and could be in with a chance of winning out in a sprint, although it will be a tough day in the saddle as attacks are expected from riders like Dunbar who will be trying to break up the peloton at some stage.

The races begin at the Wexford County Council buildings at 10.0 and the finish line is on Carcur Road.

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