Ireland’s O’Callaghan and Dunne claim stunning one-two finish at UCI Downhill World Cup

Former world junior champion O’Callaghan claimed victory from Irish national champion Dunne in West Virginia

Irish cyclists enjoyed stunning success with a historic one-two in the US late on Saturday, with Oisín O’Callaghan and Ronan Dunne topping the standings at the eighth round of the UCI Downhill World Cup.

Competing in Snowshoe, West Virginia, Dunne (Continental Nukeproof Factory Racing) improved substantially from his 10th-place in the qualification round to post the fastest time of 3:08.120, over half a second ahead of the American rider Dakota Norton.

Former world junior champion O’Callaghan (YT Mob) had qualified fifth and had more to give, thundering down the start section, pushing hard, and ultimately finishing a brilliant first, fractionally under half a second faster than his compatriot.

“It’s surreal,” he said. “I think I’m about to have a heart attack, I actually have a pain in my chest right now. And to do it here ... the crowds were amazing, everyone the whole way down absolutely roaring.”


O’Callaghan pushed hard from the start and was already nine tenths of a second faster at the first split. He continued to pull ahead at each timed segment and while Dunne was quicker at the bottom part of the course, O’Callaghan’s early gains saw him end up 0.496 seconds clear.

“About halfway down I was like, ‘I’m feeling it’ but I just kept going. Near the bottom I was able to push through. There was only a small bit left, so I kept working.”

Hampered by injury in the past, he has made clear gains this season. O’Callaghan showed promising form in August when he took ninth in the World Cup in Pal Arinsal in Andorra and 12th in the world championships, but has moved to a new level now.

National champion Dunne is also soaring, with his best World Cup result ever. It improves on his fourth place last year in Snowshoe, as well as eighth in the World Cup round held in Leogang, Austria, in June.

O’Callaghan was cheered home by Lawlor, and acknowledged the historic result.

“Ireland one-two, first time ever. Doing it for the boys at home.”

O’Callaghan is from Ardpatrick in Limerick while Dunne is from Ballyorney, Wicklow. Both are just 20 years of age and should go even faster in the seasons to come.

In other racing news, Archie Ryan was centimetres from victory in the Under-23 Il Lombardia on Sunday, being blocked in the sprint by breakaway companion William Junior Lecerf (Soudal-QuickStep Devo Team) and passing him just after the finish line.

The result is the latest superb showing from Ryan, who missed most of this season due to injury but returned to win a stage of the Tour de l’Avenir. The Jumbo-Visma Development Team rider was arguably the strongest rider in the race, being aggressive for much of it, taking the mountain prime atop the Ghisallo climb and cresting the summit first of the Colle Brianza.

He was joined by Lecerf and the two raced towards the finish together, with Ryan looking set to come around the Belgian in the sprint but he was blocked when his rival moved right and obstructed his passage. Ryan had to stop sprinting and raised his arm in protest, but the race judges didn’t change the result.

Fellow Irishman Darren Rafferty (Hagens Berman Axeon) was 21st, in a chase group sprinting for seventh 2′14 behind Lecerf and Ryan. The latter will be frustrated by the result as he had the legs to win. He and Rafferty will both turn professional with the EF Education EasyPost team next season after taking some key results as Under-23 riders.

They are two of the most promising young riders in Irish cycling and seem destined for big pro careers. Meanwhile Eddie Dunbar (Jayco AlUla) showed strong form in advance of his participation in next Sunday’s Elite version of Il Lombardia, taking 12th overall in the CRO Race in Croatia.

The Corkman had been up to ninth overall after Friday’s uphill finish in Labin but the flatter final two stages enabled other riders to pick up bonus seconds in sprints. Dunbar ended the race 17 seconds behind the winner Orluis Aular (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) and is clearly coming back into form after being injured in three crashes in the Vuelta a España and withdrawing from that race.

In South America Cormac McGeough (Canel’s Pro Cycling) won the final stage of the Vuelta Ciclista al Ecuador. He was also fifth on stage 4.

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about cycling