Dean Harvey (Trinity Racing) delivered a masterclass on the mud to be crowned elite national cyclocross champion for the first time on the McCrystal Track in Jenkinstown, Dundalk this afternoon.
The 19-year from Belfast is one of the brightest prospects on the domestic scene and lived up to his reputation by crushing the strongest ever field assembled for the title race.
He’s been the form rider this winter, winning all four rounds of the national series, and he ended the domestic season in stunning fashion today with a gun to tape win over the brutal course.
“I’m very pleased, it’s been a good cyclocross season,” said last year´s Shay Elliott Memorial winner.
“I had a good bit of pressure coming in today but I handled it well, and with the conditions as well it was a tricky race but very little went wrong.”
A deluge of hail prior to the start and heavy rain throughout did nothing to dampen his enthusiasm as he attacked at the drop of the flag, surged clear, and was never passed again over the one-hour contest.
Last year´s silver medallist Sean Nolan (Navan RC) briefly gave chase but thought better of trying to go with the irrepressible Harvey and slid back the field, finishing outside the medals.
Of the challengers, U23 riding star Darren Rafferty from Coalisland, Tyrone, looked best-placed to take the fight to Harvey and he hovered around 30 seconds back for around three laps before succumbing to the strain of that concerted effort.
“I knew Darren would be there, at least for the start,” continued Harvey. “I just started pretty fast, kept it controlled and rode a good pace for a couple of laps and the gap went out. I kept doing what I was doing and focused on not making any mistakes.”
Defending champion Chris Dawson (Dawson Racing) made a determined effort to make up for a slower than usual start and after passing Rafferty around the midway point, he went about cutting into Harvey’s lead.
It was a brave but futile effort from one of the most talented and prolific riders on the home front, who will be more than content with silver this year after a disjointed season.
Rafferty, clinging doggedly to third despite a furious battle behind between JB Murphy (Kilcullen Geospacial) and 2018 champion Darnell Moore (Team Caldwell Cycles), held on for third and he’ll now switch his attention to the road season.
The women’s elite race went the way of US-based Mayo woman Maria Larkin (Cuttin’ Crew/Donkey Label) who won her third title despite a mid-race mishap that almost cost her.
Leading from teenager Hannah McClorey (RFDA) and Stephanie Roche (Scott Bright Motor Group), Larkin suffered disastrous luck on lap three when she suddenly became unable to clip into her pedals, an issue caused by the thick mud on the course.
She slipped to third before eventually getting her hands on replacement shoes, and that came just in the nick of time as she had enough time – and energy – to reel in the two leaders.
Once back on level terms she found another gear before going into the final lap.
Roche – a cousin of former professional Nicolas – had faded by now, and with McClorey on her last legs, Larkin summoned the strength to surge clear and cross the line with around 20 seconds to spare.
Elsewhere, there were emphatic wins for Corkman Liam O´Brien (Fermoy CC) in the junior men’s race and the ageless Robin Seymour in the M50 Masters race.
Irish National Cyclo-Cross Championships results:
M40; 1 G Kinning (Kinning Cycles CC), 2 A Bingham (Newry Wheelers CC), 3 R O’Flynn (Orwell Wheelers CC).
M50; 1 R Seymour (Team WORC), 2 T Woods (All human/VeloRevolution Racing Team), 3 J Henry (Inspired Cycling)
M60; 1 J McCabe (Cuchulainn CC), 2 P Birchall (Verge Sport PI Cycles), 3 C McCann (Banbridge CC)
Masters Women; 1 G Young (All human/VeloRevolution Racing Team), 2 H Foley (Yeats Country CC), 3 H White (Stamullen RC).
Junior Men; 1 L O´Brien (Fermoy CC), 2 J Mullen (Navan Road Club), 3 O Ferrity (Team Caldwell Cycles)
Elite Women; 1 M Larkin (Cuttin Crew/Donkey Label), 2 H McClorey (RFDA), 3 S Roche (Scott Bright Motor Group)
Elite Men; 1 D Harvey (Trinity Racing), 2 C Dawson (Dawson Racing), 3 D Rafferty (Hagens Berman Axeon)