Philip Lavery and Lydia Boylan were victorious at the weekend in Laragh at the Friends First Laragh Classic while the Martin Vereker Memorial went to Luke Smith.
The Friends First Laragh Classic played out in almost perfect conditions under blue Wicklow skies last Saturday with two of Irelands finest riders taking home the spoils in the title races. The men’s race was taken by Philip Lavery, riding for Canadian outfit H+R Block Racing, after an aggressive day at the front of a quality field.
The women’s race was claimed reigning and three time National Champion Lydia Boylan of Team WNT. The undercard Martin Vereker Memorial A3/Junior race ended up in a convincing victory for Luke smith of The NRPT – Titan Containers team.
Lavery was aggressive from the off forging his way into a breakaway group of 10 riders as the race approached Rathdrum. It was there he stayed, firstly following Lucan Cycling Road Club star Dermot Trulock on the first ascent of the Wicklow Gap before the initial break group re-joined on the N81 near Blessington.
Knowing they would not have made it to the finish with the chase being organised behind, Lavery was happy to be caught and follow the next wave of attacks and that he did, riding clear with Sean Lacey of Aquablue Sport Academy.
Lavery was able to push away from Lacey on upper reaches of the second ascent of the Wicklow gap and descend to Laragh with 55 seconds to spare. Lacey would eventually be caught by his pursuants, Adam Stenson (Bikworx) and Conn McDunphy (Team Raleigh GAC), with the final podium consisting of Stenson and Lacey respectively.
Lacey’s third place allowed him to claim the Cycling Ireland National Road series of which the Laragh Classic was the final race.
The women’s Laragh Classic followed the same circuit with the iconic Wicklow Gap climb dictating the shape of the race. On the first ascent a selection of five riders was forced containing National Champion, Lydia Boylan (Team WNT), Alice Sharp (NCC group-Kuota-Torelli), Claire McIlwane (Phoenix CC), Katharine Smyth (Team Madigan CC) and Sharon Bird (Team Madigan CC).
This group would stay together to the finish, pulling out time on the pursuers as they worked throughout, even a little too much according to Boylan, as she explained: “The group was riding really hard, which I didn’t think we needed to do so I was playing the sprinters card a little and trying to hide.”
Boylan went on to say: “From the perspective of women’s racing, putting on a race that is almost 100km long and takes in such an iconic climb is fantastic and all credit to St. Tiernans for doing that as it makes you want to enter, it certainly made me want to ride! It was a great days racing and I am very proud to have won my first Irish National Road Series Race.”
Boylan now moves onto the An Post Rás na mBan which kicks off in Kilkenny this week.
The A3/Junior Martin Vereker Memorial was run on the same course and was won in convincing fashion by Junior star Luke Smith of NRPT-Titan Containers. Finding himself solo on the Wicklow Gap after 30km he pushed on over the climb and that was how it stayed, Smith increasing his gap to the chase group and the splintered race to win comfortably by a margin of over five minutes.
Smith complimented the tough but safe course where the team tactic was non-existent, the NRPT riders were left to race and test themselves.
“The World Championships selection is approaching and I am hopeful of selection which has been the plan from the start of the season,” said Smith. “Our national championships are next week so another strong performance there and then we can see if it works out.”
Brian O’Neill, Strategic Marketing Director with Friends First said: “To have the calibre of the three fields here combined with this new exciting course and good conditions for racing it was bound to be a successful a day. We were treated to some fantastic riding with Philip taking the main race but not by a huge margin. Looking at the Martin Vereker Memorial race winner Luke Smiths performance we will be seeing a lot more of him in the future and to have the women’s Laragh Classic won by our national champion was fantastic to see. The race will only grow from here.”
Friends First Laragh Classic, Co Wicklow, Promoted by St Tiernan’s CC
Men’s Laragh Classic, A1-A2
1 Philip Lavery (H&R Block Pro Cycling)
2 Adam Stenson (Team Bikeworx)
3 Sean Lacey (Aquablue Academy)
4 Dermot Trulock (Lucan Cycling Road Club)
5 Conn McDunphy (Raleigh GAC)
6 Matteo Cigala (Aquablue Academy)
7 Mark O’Callaghan (Aquablue Academy)
8 Sean Moore (Team Bikeworx)
9 Greg Swinand (Aquablue Academy)
10 Mark Dowling (Unattached)
Women’s Laragh Classic
1 Lydia Boylan (Team WNT)
2 Alice Sharpe (NCCgroup-Kuota-Torelli)
3 Clair McIlwane (Phoenix CC)
4 Katherine Smyth (Team Madigan CC)
5 Sharon Bird (Team Madigan CC)
6 Fiona Guihen (Black Rose Racing)
7 Orla Walsh (Scott Orwell)
8 Maeve Gallagher (Castlebar CC)
9 Laura Blair (Ballymena CC)
10 Nicole Evans (South East Road Club)
A3-Jnr Martin Vereker Memorial
1 Luke Smith (NRPT-Titan Containers)
2 Liam Curley (NRPT-Titan Containers)
3 PJ Doogan (Powerhouse Sport)
4 Cian May (Lucan Cycling Road Club)
5 Sean Murnane (Scott-Orwell)
6 Liam Hanley (Lucan Cycling Road Club)
7 Paul Forristal (Scott-Orwell)
8 Steven Darby (Cork County Cycling Club)
9 Richard Bourke (Slievenamon Cycling Club)
10 Paul Bolger (Slaney Cycling Club)