Reigning Champion Conor Hennebry and former cyclist of the year Grace Young won the first round of the Cycling Ireland National Road Series in Carlow promoted by local club Carlow Road CC (all pictures Sean Rowe and report Jessica Lamb CI media)
In the historically challenging Des Hanlon Classic, the pair achieved landmark wins, Hennebry describing the race as “massive”, and Young returning to the form shown when crowned 2016 Irish Female Cyclist of the Year. Now riding for STRATA3 VeloRevolution Racing Team, Young won a bunch sprint to land the 67km race, beating one of the strongest fields of women ever assembled for an Irish cycling race. “It was a super-strong field,” said Young. “It was conservative until we got to Castlecomer, where I decided to attack the climb, which caused a bit of a split. One of the girls came with me and we kept it going for a while, but it all came back together into a group of 10. “The last 20km we were just driving it into the finish line, as we knew it was going to be a sprint at that stage.” “There were some really strong riders in that group, and some sprinters in there too, so I just thought I’d see how I felt. Coming in, I knew I had good legs, I felt strong all day, and I just went for it.” Young, from Cork, pipped Lara Gillespie, a highly-decorated junior with Scott-Orwell Wheelers, and last years Des Hanlon winner Katharine Smyth (Ballymena Road Club). Hennebry, from Carrick-on-Suir, had already won this year at Rás Luimni and the North Tipperary Open Races and benefitted once again from the strength of his team – Dan Morrissey-MIG.ie-Pactimo. Towards the end of the 133km battle, Hennebry and several teammates established a lead group, including U23 National Champion Darnell Moore, 2015 Des Hanlon winner Mark Dowling and Irish International Marc Potts. After submitting the day’s climb Bilbao, Hennebry made his move and held his advantage for a comfortable victory. His team mate James Curry was second, winning a sprint against Moore on the line.
“It was a hard race, very fast for the first couple of laps,” said Hennebry. “I tried to get into a couple of moves but couldn’t get across to them and it came down to who could get up the hill (Bilboa) the fastest at the end. “It was pretty full on up there every time but I was in the front group coming over the hill the last time, and had a couple of team-mates with me. So I gave it a go on the descent and held the gap to the line, with the guys doing a bit of a marking job on the rest of the chase. I’m delighted to get the win in such a massive race.” The Cycling Ireland National Road Series is Ireland’s premier road racing league. The next round is in Blarney, County Cork at the Donal Crowley Memorial Road Race on Sunday, April 14.