Darren Rafferty belies his youth to power to national road championship victory

Twenty year old reaches the line in Limerick 16 seconds clear of dillon Corkery with Rory Townsend taking third place

Darren Rafferty won the men's race at the national road championships. Photograph: Zac Williams/SWpix/Inpho

Prodigious young Irish cyclist Darren Rafferty powered to an important victory on Sunday, leaving some of Ireland’s top riders in his wake as he soloed to victory in the national road championships.

The 20-year-old EF Education-EasyPost professional reached the line in Athea, Co Limerick 16 seconds clear of Dillon Corkery (St Michel – Mavic – Auber93), with 2022 national champion Rory Townsend (Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team) outsprinting under 23 category winner Dean Harvey (Trinity Racing) for third, 1′07 back.

”It’s pretty incredible. I had my expectations pretty low after Thursday’s disappointing TT,” Rafferty said, speaking of his fourth place in the time trial. “I wanted to redeem myself a bit but didn’t really think I had the legs or the fitness to get a good result. I came in with pretty low expectations and thought we will see how it plays out.”

Things went far better than he envisaged, with the Dungannon native getting into the day’s key breakaway of nine riders, returning to that group after two bike changes during the race, and then forging clear with 2023 Rás Tailteann winner Corkery inside the final 25km.


Corkery suffered cramp with just over 10km remaining and lost contact after that, but chased hard all the way to the line to take silver. Eddie Dunbar (Jayco-AlUla) had started as a big favourite after winning Thursday’s time trial, but likely did too much early on and ultimately finished eighth.

Rafferty’s win keeps the national champion’s jersey within the EF Education-EasyPost ranks. Teammate Ben Healy won last year but missed the race due to his anticipated debut in the Tour de France next weekend.

Earlier Lucy Benezet Minns (Tofauti Everyone Active Women) finished a staggering 5′36 clear of teammate Aliyah Rafferty in the junior women’s road race, completing the double after winning the junior time trial title on Thursday evening.

Fiona Mangan (Cynisca Cycling) triumphed in Saturday’s elite women’s road race, successfully bridging across to longtime leader Grace Reynolds (Brother UK – On Form) to also complete the road race/time trial double.

Defending champion Lara Gillespie (UAE Team ADQ) and Megan Armitage (EF Education-Cannondale) were also very strong but missed out tactically and had to settle for third and seventh. Caoimhe O’Brien (DAS-Hutchinson-Brother UK) was fourth and won the Under 23 title.

”I’ve actually raced with some of the girls in Europe as well over the year, so you know their strengths,” Mangan said. “But with Nationals you never know what’s going to happen.

Patrick Casey (Team Grenke-Auto Elder) blitzed the field in the junior men’s road race, finishing 1′31 ahead of Sam Coleman (AS Villemur) and Killian O’Brien (Veleka Team).

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about cycling