Strong field to battle for Irish national time trial titles on Thursday

Ben Healy, just 21 years of age, has taken the decision to declare himself as an elite rider

Shane Stokes

Cycling Ireland’s national road championships will get underway on Thursday morning at the Beehive Inn in Wicklow with a 22.3 kilometre time trial.

A number of professional and international competitors are due to take part, with the elite men's field including WorldTour professionals Ryan Mullen (Trek Segafredo) and Nicholas Roche (Team DSM), who between them have won the TT title six times. Also last year's winner Conn McDunphy (EvoPro Racing), last year's quickest rider Ben Healy (Trinity Racing), talented time trialist Marcus Christie (Performance SBR) and the in-form Matthew Teggart (Velo Club Villefranche Beaujolais) are all listed.

Healy was unable to receive the gold medal last year despite his fastest time as he was an Under-23 rider. He took gold in the younger age category. Consequently, although he is still just 21 years of age, he has opted to ride the time trial as an elite rider to avoid the same problem.

He will also compete as an elite in Sunday’s men’s road race. Last year he won the combined elite and Under-23 event and took the overall title.

Cycling Ireland announced his decision this week. “Ben Healy, Trinity Racing, has taken the decision to declare himself as an elite rider for the upcoming National Time Trial and Road Race Championships to be held this weekend,” it said in a statement.

“This allows him to start in the elite category TT and road race, and be eligible for only elite titles and medals should he be successful. Also, in line with regulations, once declared as elite for National Championships there is no option to return to Under- 23 for future Cycling Ireland championships.”

The women’s race will see the defending champion Eve McCrystal (Bellurgan Wheelers) take part weeks after winning two gold medals and a silver at the Paralympics, where she competed with tandem partner Katie George Dunlevy, as well as the Cycling Ireland National Road Series winner Fiona Mangan (Illi-Bikes Cycling Team), plus the Continental-based riders Gabriella Homer (Team Rupelcleaning Champion Lubricants) and Jennifer Neenan (UVCA Troyes).

The junior men’s time trial will include last year’s winner Darren Rafferty (Villeneuve Cycliste), who has been in very strong form this season and who was fourth in the junior time trial at this month’s European championships. Defending champion Caoimhe May (Orwell Wheelers) will aim for a second title in the junior women’s race.

The time trial events feature a number of other categories, including masters men and women, plus Paracycling competitors in the tandem, C1-C5 and H1-H5 classes.

The road races then follow on Saturday and Sunday.

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

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