The All-Ireland cycling championships took place last week in the picturesque town of Carlingford, Co. Louth. The event is the highlight of the Irish cycling calendar and unites the best riders on the domestic scene with their international compatriots.
Laois cyclists Joe Fenlon and Eoin Whelan put in impressive performances, both coming home with top 10 finishes in their respective events.
The championships kicked off with the time trial on Thursday evening. Eoin Whelan took to the start line for the 25 mile race against the clock. With a long climb on the outbound journey, and a strong headwind on the return leg, the course was not going to be conducive to fast times.
Whelan put in an excellent performance to finish in a time of 54 minutes and 58 seconds. This was good enough for 9th place. Whelan’s performance was even more impressive considering that 6 of the cyclists that finished ahead of him are full time professionals.
Joe Fenlon lined up for the veterans road race on Saturday morning. Having taken the title last year in Clonmel, and winning the prestigious Tour of Ulster stage race this year, Fenlon was a hot favourite to retain his title.
However, the 132 other riders in the bunch were well aware of Fenlon’s pedigree and he was always going to be a heavily marked man over the 70 mile race. The racing was aggressive from the start with numerous breaks going clear. None were successful until the 2nd lap when a group of 12 riders, including Fenlon, opened up a 45 second advantage over the bunch.
That group worked very well together and when the rain began to pour down, the chase from the bunch behind all but ceased. With three laps to go, this leading group started to attack each other.
Eventually, Hugh Mulhearn (Carrick Wheelers) and Greg Swinard (Usher Road Club) went clear and took the gold and silver. Fenlon put up a strong defense of his title and crossed the line 30 seconds later in 5th position.