Maeve O’Grady, Leinster Cyclocross Champion, took a fine 2nd place in last weekends National Cyclocross Championships, in the largest ever field to line up for the women’s race. Maeve, riding with Cycleways CC, kindly recounts her race experience…
“I had done several CX races throughout the season and my goal was to get on the podium at the National CX Championships. I felt that my major weakness was the first lap as I tended to lose places early on so my plan was to go hard off the start line. When the whistle went, Emily Birchall (the rising star of cyclocross) and I jumped off first and sprinted for the first corner.
Emily has been seriously fast from the start all season, so I knew I was doing well to get to Corner 1 ahead of her. I heard some commotion behind me and someone banged into my back wheel but I kept upright and led down the hill and into the forest, complete with some wild cornering as I was going faster than my skills allowed.
Claire Oakley jumped ahead briefly but I passed her going up the grassy switchbacks. Claire unfortunately had to withdraw due to illness, which was a shame as she has been flying all season. I saw that Beth McCluskey, the pre race favourite, was a bit back and I estimated that she had been held up at Corner 1.
I had a great time leading the girls around with them nipping at my heels…
As I was going back to the pits for the second run through, Beth passed me and I shouted: “Well done!” to her, as she had made her way speedily through the field. I then found myself trying to jump on her whee,l while fending off Maria Larkin from Chicago Cutting Crew and Emily.
I managed to hold onto Beth until we got to the finish straight. But while I recovered after the sharp grassy climb, Beth powered on and I never got back to her for the rest of the race. I was a bit disappointed with myself as I had planned to try and stay with Beth for as long as possible. I felt I was on my limit and I was caught in two minds for a few seconds as I was afraid if I tried to go with Beth I would blow up and lose second. As Beth disappeared my focus switched to the battle for second.
Myself and Maria had a great fight, constantly switching places for the next lap, while Emily was right with us too. I got a small gap on Maria going through the finish at the end of the second lap and held it for a lap. On the fourth lap, I got a puncture in the forest. I was busy posing for a photo by my husband and pinched my front wheel on a stone!
I diverted to the pits and shouted to him that I had a puncture. Unfortunately, I had gone to the end of the pit lane and his bike, which I was using as my emergency bike, was at the start. He ran from his photographing position in the wood and brought the bike down to me.
I expected to see Maria go past while I waited but when I got going again I still had a few seconds. I didn’t lose much time with the puncture in the end, and it certainly didn’t affect the outcome, but I took off with renewed and panicked energy and just tried to stay in second place.
I heard the announcer welcome the new national champion Beth McClusky as I rode towards the finish straight. I had thought there was a lap to go but I was also relieved to finish this tough race.
I was delighted for Beth, who has been superb all season, and with my own result. Maria came in just behind me in third, with Emily having a superb ride in fourth. Both will be forces to be reckoned with next year.
It was a really enjoyable race and the battle for second with Maria and Emily was a lot of fun. Thanks to the organisers Dromara CC for a great race and to all who have organised races throughout the season -the Fixx Series, the DCCX Series, the Pi Cycles Series, Swords Cycle Club for the Leinster Champs and Ennis CX”.
Thank you for taking the time to give us that exciting report Maeve!