Dean Harvey (Trinity Racing) powered to victory in the national cyclo-cross championships in Jenkinstown, Co Louth, on Sunday, finishing well clear of defending champion Chris Dawson (Dawson Racing) on a muddy, slippery course. Darren Rafferty (Hagens Berman Axeon) remained within touching distance of Harvey for a period before crashing and ending up third.
The women’s race saw US-based Irishwoman Maria Larkin (Chicago Cuttin Crew) land her third consecutive national title, overcoming a problem which forced her to stop and change a shoe. She recovered to beat junior rider Hannah McClorey (RFDA) and Stephanie Roche (Scott Bright Motor Group) to gold.
Liam O’Brien (Fermoy CC) retained his junior title, Glenn Kinning (Kinning Cycles) was best of the Masters 40 riders, and multiple national champion Robin Seymour (Team WORC) added the Masters 50 title to the European championship he took in November.
Grace Young (All Human VeloRevolution) and Johnny McCabe (Cuchulainn CC) triumphed in the Masters women’s event and Masters 60 race respectively.
Harvey had gone into the men’s race as the big favourite having won all four rounds plus the overall in this winter’s National Series. The 19-year-old gapped his rivals right after the start, with Dawson crashing early on. Rafferty worked his way through to second and reduced his deficit at one point to less than 10 seconds, but Harvey appeared more at ease on a tight, technically demanding course, rendered more difficult by rain and hail, and pulled further ahead again. Dawson overhauled Rafferty when the latter crashed and raced in for second, but was approximately two minutes back.
“I am very pleased,” said Harvey. “It has been a good cross season, I think. There was a good bit of pressure coming into this, but I think I handled it well. With the conditions it was a really tricky race. I am happy, not much went wrong.”
Rafferty was in improving form in the final round of the National Series last Saturday, and Harvey had identified his as a big threat. “I knew I knew he would be there, at least for the start,” he said. “I started pretty fast but kept it controlled. I rode my own pace for a couple of laps and then the gap went out. I just kept doing what I was going, made sure I made no mistakes.”
Dawson had dominated last year’s race, putting six minutes into Harvey, but the tables had completely turned 12 months on.
“I am probably in better shape now that this time last year when I won it,” he said. “I think Dean has just lifted the level this year. So hats off to him, he rode a blinder. I can’t complain with second. I did all I could, I am happy with that.”
US-based Mayo woman Larkin had won the past two championships and while she hasn’t raced as much as some of her rivals of late she was a class above. She opened a clear lead on the opening lap and was soon 10 seconds clear of McClorey and 12 ahead of Roche, Stephen Roche’s niece.
She then ran into problems with her shoe approximately halfway through the race, adding some unexpected drama to the action. She was unable to clip her foot back into her pedal, and was forced to change both her shoe and her bike in the pits and lost vital time.
Larkin remounted but was behind solo leader McClorey and Roche, leaving her with a lot to do. However, she was riding very strongly and was soon back to the head of the race, with 17-year-old McClorey gradually slipping back. Larkin eventually hit the line 19 seconds clear, with Roche one minute 13 back.
She was glowing in her praise of McClorey. “She was fantastic. She had an issue with her shoe at Baal [in Belgium] when she was racing, so I am sure she knew what was happening with me. She is just amazing. All the juniors are just incredibly inspiring. I am so excited for the youth coming through. The racing here is fantastic. They are just brilliant…I am so proud of all the juniors.”