McCann ahead by a nose in scramble for the line
There was no outstanding cycling personality in 1996. The top honours were shared around. But, although David McCann did not win the FBD Milk Ras or any championship, he had a slight edge.
McCann had good wins in the Tour of Ulster, Shay Elliott memorial, West Down Grand Prix, Tour of the Mournes and Meath Grand Prix, but he really earned his cyclist of the year award with his victory in the Manx International over three laps of the 37.75 mile Isle of Man TT course in June.
For pre season training, McCann rode across America from Florida to California and took part in a few races along the way, but his Manx triumph also clinched his selection as the lone Irish representative in the Olympic road race.
McCann has a place with a French club, at Pontivy, for next season and as it is a nursery for the Festina squad, the 24 year old Belfastman has a chance of making a breakthrough to the elite class.
Declan Lonergan recorded a top ranking international success when he won the points race at the World Cup track meeting in Cuba. McCann was also a stage winner in the Tour of Hokkaido in Japan, while Richie McCauley won a stage in the Tour of Malaysia.
On the home scene, French based Kilkenny man Peter Daly took the road race championship at Portglenone, with Bill Moore second and Aidan Duff third. Tommy Evans from Banbridge, riding with the Derry Clarkes team, emerged best in the Ras, with team mate McCann just 24 seconds adrift.
Scott Hamilton was fastest in all three time trial championships, 10, 25 and 50 miles, while Paul Griffin was best in the Classic league series with Evans second.
With Lonergan and Philip Collins in the points and pursuit events on the track at Atlanta and Martin Earley and Alastair Martin in the mountain bike race, there was the largest Irish Olympic cycling squad yet, but none of them got near to the shake up for medals.
McCann achieved his principle aim of finishing - he was in the main group and at 72nd, two minutes and 53 seconds behind the winner Pascal Richard. Collins was 16th fastest of the 18 qualifiers, Lonergan finished 22nd of 27, Earley was 25th, with Martin 32nd of 36 finishers.
Although Robin Seymour missed out on Olympic selection, he emphasised his superiority on the cyclo cross and mountain bike scene by taking both titles again.
Barry Twohig, who was second to Paul O'Callaghan in the junior road race championship, took the overall honours in the Junior Tour.
With the national team director Alasdair MacLennan not seeking an extension of his contract after seven years in the job, the FIC revert to the old style set up for the coming season, with Frankie Campbell heading a committee responsible for the selection of teams. We can only look forward to 1997 with more hope than confidence.