Following on from his victory in yesterday’s Irish Elite Road Race Championships, Aqua Blue Sport’s breakaway specialist Conor Dunne spoke about how winning the national title had long been on his cycling wishlist, and he was “over the moon” to have achieved it.
Dunne took a commanding victory after an on the last of ten tough, 17.5-kilometre laps saw him solo to the finish line in Coolaney, Co. Sligo ahead of second-placed Darnell Moore (Team Caldwell Cycles), with Mark Downey (Team Wiggins) in third, earning the 26-year-old the honour of riding in national colours for the next twelve months.
“The national championships has always been a race that I have really wanted to win,” Dunne commented. “Every year I have just gone into the race with the mindset of just trying to do my best, and one year it would be my race. It turned out to be my race this year. I just managed to play it right, and I had the legs when I needed the legs.”
Dunne rode a tactically astute race, effectively combining forces with teammate Eddie Dunbar to maximise their advantage on an unforgiving parcours.
“It was a tough race – there was one steep climb on the course and then the rest of it was kind of flat, which meant that the race would split and come together again making it quite tactical,” Dunne explained. “The makeup of the groups were changing on every lap, some riders would get caught out and some wouldn’t.
“I managed to be on the right side of the split on every lap and Eddie and I played the team card well – every time I was away Eddie could sit on, and vice-versa.”
Sensing that he was on a good day, Dunne made his move on the seventh lap after a coming together of the main chasing groups, launching a huge effort to bridge across to a trio of escapees made up of Moore, Jamie Blanchfield (Team Viner Carepack Pactimo) and Robert Jon McCarthy (JLT Condor).
“Once I got to them I still felt good so I knew I was on a good day, and we just went all in from that point and worked well together,” Dunne added. “For the last lap it was down to just Darnell and I. He did his fair pull and I attacked with half a lap to the finish and just drove it home. I just wanted it. I wasn’t going to give it up without a fight.”
Dunne said that the honour of racing in his national colours meant a lot to him.
“It’s a massive, massive boost,” he said. “Winning the nationals has been really high on my list of career ambitions so I am over the moon.
“I’m proud to be able to wear the tricolour for a year, and my aim is to represent this jersey to the best of my ability, to have fun while wearing it and to enjoy the next 12 months. Now I’m just motivated to get back racing again and get in every breakaway that I can!”
Commenting on Dunne’s win, Aqua Blue Sport owner Rick Delaney said it was a proud day for the team.
“There is no rider more deserving of the privilege of wearing his national colours than Conor Dunne,” Delaney said. “He has always been a selfless and tireless worker for the team and it thrills me to see him achieve due recognition with the Irish title that has long been in his sights.
“Congratulations to Conor and to all riders who competed in their respective national championships this week and last. Now to the business of designing a jersey fit for the Irish national champion!”