Sam Bennett and Ryan Mullen to miss national road race time trials

Parlympic star Eve McCrystal and Olympic sailor Annalise Murphy in action in women’s races

Cycling Ireland’s national road race championships will get underway on Thursday evening in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, with the time trial races.

Defending men’s champion Ryan Mullen (Bora-hansgrohe) will miss the 32 kilometre event as well as Sunday’s road race. He won both titles last year but has chosen not to travel this year as he will make his Tour de France debut on Saturday week.

Teammate Sam Bennett will also forgo both championship events because of his Tour ambitions.

In their absence fellow WorldTour professionals Ben Healy (EF Education – EasyPost) and Eddie Dunbar (Ineos Grenadiers) are the biggest names.

Defending women’s champion Joanna Patterson will be up against paralympic star Eve McCrystal and past sailing Olympian Annalise Murphy, amongst others. The U23 champion Kevin McCambridge is hoping for a repeat win, and showed strong form last Sunday by taking the final stage of the Rás.

Other categories in action this evening include junior men and women, plus the paracycling riders. These will triple paralympic gold medallist Katie-George Dunlevy.

The road race championships will be held on a tough course in Kanturk on Saturday and Sunday.

In other news, Rás Tailteann race director Gerard Campbell has said that the attention of the organising committee is now fixed on securing a title sponsor well in advance of next year’s race.

The race made a successful return last week and saw the crowning of the first Irish winner in 14 years, Daire Feeley.

The event enjoyed long sponsorships from backers such as the National Dairy Council, FBD Insurance and An Post, with the latter vacating as title sponsor at the end of the 2017 edition. This year’s race drew on funding from Cycling Ireland and a number of other companies this year, but Campbell is clear in the need to secure a headline sponsor for 2023 and beyond.

”We need to get money, that’s number one,” he said, when asked what the organisation needed to ensure the long-term future of the race. “We’ve had some sponsors of the classifications this year, and we’ve had funding from Cycling Ireland. We’re fully aware that that that funding from Cycling Ireland was a one off to get this back on the road. We know that we have to stand on our own two feet going forward, or it won’t happen.”

“So we will be actively looking for title sponsor in the coming weeks. We are already targeting some people, prior to this year’s event, but they wouldn’t commit to it until they see what how competent we were in putting this on. So we fully expect to be talking to them in the next few weeks. And hopefully, we’d be in a better place, maybe 10 months out before next year’s race than a few weeks before it, to actually make plans.”

Campbell and the other members of the organising group Cairde Rás Tailteann received very positive feedback during and after the race. Spirit BSS, one of the visiting British teams, enthused about the race on Twitter on Wednesday. “Without doubt the best week @SpiritRT4 has ever had for fun and we do fun,” the account stated. “Been to some amazing European races and to Africa but Rás is the No1. IRE we love u.”

”Look, I think it’s been great,” Campbell said of the race. “Last week I said I hope the race would be a success. I was asked what success would mean to me. I said then was that if everybody was there on the Sunday morning, before the start of the last stage, with happy heads on them, shaking their hands and saying ‘well done’ and they want to come back. That’s success for me. Absolutely.”

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