Corkagh Park… Here come the girls!

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Riders, L-R: Naoise Sheridan, Roisin Kennedy, Laura Cooke, Jennifer Bates, Catherine McAteer.

 

Corkagh Park continues to be the place to spend your Summer Tuesday evenings, the venue taking on a festival-like atmosphere from 6pm until long after the unknowing rush hour traffic has eased off on the neighbouring N7.

Lucan CRC were hosts this week, and their balloon-laden sign on gazebo, set a party-like tone for those rolling up to race… this was an especially inviting welcome for those from whom last night was their first ever race. So relaxed was the vibe, with race-goers and their supporters lolling on the grass eating cake and soaking up the sunshine before and between races, that it served to underline the huge addition that Corkagh Park, and the Tuesday Evening Race Series have been to women’s racing… what better introduction could there be to competitive cycling.

And while it is indeed competitive, it is not cut-throat. A bystander could only be impressed by the level of support and the calls of encouragement coming from the grassy verges of the track, and aimed at each passing rider, …. be they hanging on at the back of their group, or sprinting through to win.

Other than the balloons, the disco beat, and the tasty treats, the highlight of Lucan CRC’s program last night was surely the eighteen Junior and Youth riders who signed on across both A and B races. These girls were partaking in a three-day Junior Training Camp, organised by Orla Hendron and the Women’s Commission of Cycling Ireland, which included introducing them to race technique and strategy, …. and where better to do this than on the Corkagh Park circuit on a Tuesday evening in June.

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Girls Training Camp group getting their pre-race warm-up laps

B Race

Thirteen Junior and Youth women signed on for the B Race, and these were given various levels of handicap (staggered start times) depending on their ability, to give them some sort of advantage over the more experienced riders in the race. This CP (chase pursuit) race format allows everyone partaking to have a decent chance to be competitive, and gives the more experienced racers a target to race towards (the riders who started ahead of them).

The B race was 25 minutes long plus 3 laps, and in total thirty riders started the race. The two youth riders given the first start, Sarah McGrath (Killarney CC) and Eorann McCartan (VC Glendale), managed to hold their advantage for almost 2 laps.

As they were reeled in by the chasing five: Tara Russell (Killarney), Orla Conroy and Hanna Tilly (both Bray Wheelers), Chloe Wall (Navan RC), and Naomi Wade (Lakeside Wheelers), the other two bunches behind began to break up in the hot pursuit of those ahead.

By the time the third handicap group, consisting of Eva Brennan (Deenside Wheelers), Maeve Gallagher (Castlebar CC), Almha Russell and Saidbh Murphy (both Killarney CC), Orla Harrison (Covey Wheelers), and Lucy O’Donnell (Limerick CC) had made contact with the riders who had started ahead of them, mid-way through the race, so too did the main bunch catch them.

By the latter stages of the designated race time there were several bunches spread around the Corkagh Park circuit, some racing hard to stay in the front group, others racing harder to avoid being lapped by the groups ahead of them. As these groups formed and re-formed the Youth and Junior Riders rode comfortably in bunches with their elder peers, the ideal way to learn how to race well, from the experience of those around them.

As the 25 minutes elapsed, and the lap countdown started, Youth rider Maeve Gallagher (Castlebar) held her own in the front group, even when this group stalled strategically, and as quickly, ramped up the pace again. Then coming to the line for the final time, Maeve out-foxed the Senior women around her and took an excellent second place finish in the B Race, with Emma Molloy (McNally Swords) taking the win.

Third and fourth were Naas CC riders Caroline Hannon and Agnieszka Ruda, then Junior rider Orla Harrison (Covey Wheelers) crossed the line to take a fine fifth place, with Aoife Dempsey (Bush CC) finishing sixth.

Maeve Gallagher, pictured here (with her brother Conor) when she won her age category at Ras MhaighEo in March
Maeve Gallagher, pictured here (with her brother Conor) when she won her age category at Ras MhaighEo in March

A Race

The A Race was also 25 minutes plus 3 laps, and twelve riders took the start, including five Juniors. Of these five, Laura Cooke (Limerick CC) started with six of the senior riders, while Lauren Horan (Seven Springs CC), Laura McMunn (Sligo Tri), Naoise Sheridan (Orwell Wheelers) and Alicja Roslaniec (McNally Swords) started with senior rider Lorraine McGill (Blanch Wheelies), and with a half-lap handicap.

The front group of  five worked well together to maintain their advantage for the early stages of the race. But their high pace then took a toll, and some of this group found themselves losing contact at the back. Naoise Sheridan and Alicja Roslaniec continued on, working seamlessly, and managing to hold off the chasing group of seven for almost the full 25 minutes.

Meanwhile Laura Cooke stuck in with the most experienced of the senior riders who had signed on, closing every gap that opened in front of her, and upping her pace as her bunch did. When her group caught Naoise and Alicja those two hopped skillfully on board, and joined her and the six seniors, and this group of nine took the bell together.

Coming up the drag to the line the crowd was as tense and excitable as the racers… who would take it? Could the young proteges outsmart the established riders?

Lead bunch in the A race coming around to take the bell
Lead bunch in the A race coming around to take the bell

 

It took a video review to separate the first three, but Eimear O’Reilly (Towers CC) snatched it, pipping Emer Moran (Sundrive TT) into second spot by the width of a tyre. Sandra Telford (Orwell Wheelers) was a close third, then Catherine McAteer (Garda CC) was 4th.

Roisin Kennedy (Arcane Adamstown) was fifth. First Junior Rider home, and fresh from victory in the B Race last week, was Orwell Wheeler’s Naoise Sheridan, in sixth place. Jennifer Bates (Clondalkin CC) was seventh. The remaining Juniors in the front bunch finished next, Laura Cooke (Limerick CC) taking eighth overall, and Alicja Roslaniec (Swords) ninth.

While all riders who signed on to race last night are to be praised for the strength and stamina they showed in what was very fast-paced racing, and on a hot and humid evening… special mention in this report must go to the promising display of skill and endurance shown by each of the eighteen Youth and Junior riders who made the trip to Corkagh Park.

Sarah McGrath collects her Combativity Prize
Sarah McGrath collects her Combativity Prize

For her particular efforts, Youth rider Sarah McGrath (Killarney CC) was awarded the prize for Most Combatative Rider in the B race. Senior Lorraine McGill (Blanch Wheelies), relatively new to racing herself, was awarded the Combativity Prize for the A race.

And finally, thank you to the cheery team at Lucan CRC for organising last evening’s races!