Power is McCann's main challenger
CYCLING: Twelve months after dominant victories in Dundrod saw them retain their national titles, David McCann and Geraldine Gill will once again aim to extend their winning sequence in the Irish Road Race Championships on Sunday. Volksbank-Ideal professional McCann has returned from his Austrian base chasing a third straight victory while Gill has travelled back from racing in France aiming to extend her remarkable sequence to a record fourth win.
McCann's chief opposition is likely to come from fellow professionals Ciarán Power (Navigators), who won the FBD Milk Rás last month, and Ofoto Lombardi Sports rider David O'Loughlin. Former world junior Mark Scanlon finished second last year and is another who will be in the final reckoning, while French-based Tommy Evans, Denis Lynch and Aidan Duff could all surprise on the day.
Given Gill's dominance 12 months ago, the women's race looks less open but Lorraine Manning will do her utmost to frustrate the three time winner.
Manning competed for much of the first part of the season with the Atlanta Velo team, and while she has lacked international racing in recent weeks, the benefits of her American experience make her the most likely challenger on Sunday.
What is certain is that the tough course will produce a worthy winner in both events.
This year's races use the same circuit as is employed in the Stamullen Grand Prix, a tough 12-mile lap which includes the steep climb of Harbourstown and another leg-sapping drag near Gormanstown village which often proves decisive.
The men's race takes in eight laps, 96 miles, which afford the strong ample opportunity to thin out the field, while the women's contest will see them complete three circuits .
Before then, the first championship medals will be decided this evening when the national time trial title is decided on a 43 kilometre course at Navan. Taking in many of the roads featured in the Meath Grand Prix, the rolling roads make the solo trial an even tougher prospect than normal and there is a possibility that some of those aiming for Sunday's race will elect not take part.
Another complication is the last-minute change in date from the time trial's previously scheduled slot in August. Several full-time workers have indicated that they will not be able to make it to the sign-on before the official closing time of 6 pm. Cycling Ireland president PJ Nolan has indicated that there may be some leeway on this matter. It is clear, however, that numbers will be affected.
Should they line out for the time trial, the 2001 title holder David McCann and David O'Loughlin are obvious favourites, but others likely to figure include VC La Pomme team-mates Mark Scanlon and Tommy Evans. Northern TT specialist Jonathan Dempsey (Classic Walls), Paul Healion (Usher IRC) and Dublin Skip's Paddy Moriarty are also in the hunt for a medal.
Finally, Senior 3 and underage riders have their own event to aim for this weekend when the Stamullen M. Donnelly club, which is promoting the national road race championships on Sunday, host a series of races tomorrow evening for these categories.
Starting at 6.30 pm, the races will be held on a circuit from Stamullen to Balscadden and back through Gormanstown.
TODAY: National time-trial championships, Navan (sign on at Simonstown Football Club from 4 pm), starts 6.30.
TOMORROW: Stamullen Festival races, Senior 3 and underage riders, 6.30
SUNDAY: National Senior Road Race Championships, Stamullen, 1.0; IVCA 42 mile CP, Clane, 10.0.