UCD Cycling Club’s Maire Claffey scored a breakthrough Cycling Ireland National Road Series win at Round 6 of the event, in the St Tiernan’s Cycling Club Laragh Classic on Saturday.
The win for the 29-year-old is a first in the league, Ireland’s premier road racing series, and could not have come at a better time, with Claffey set to lead UCD’s first team at international women’s stage race Ras na mBan.
Her win came after several National Road Series placings this term, and after climbing the mighty Wicklow Gap twice.
With the lead group whittled down to just four as they ascended to the finish, Claffey made her move, attacking a trio which included last year’s series winner Katharine Smyth, and present leader Grace Young.
Reflecting on the win, Claffey said: “The Laragh Classic is just such a tough race all round. I was really gunning to do well in it, and it’s even better to win. I mean, I just went for it. At about 800m to go, I knew I had a bit of a kick and I just dug in and gave it 110. I looked round and I had a gap.”
Based in Rathfarnham, she added: “I wouldn’t train on the route specifically, but this area is where I do most of my base miles, and I was out here doing a few hill reps about two months ago on that same hill. It’s funny, you see it a lot differently when you’re racing it.”
Young, riding for STRATA3 VeloRevolution Racing Team, beat Ballymena’s Smyth to second, with fellow Ballymena Road Club rider Eileen Burns taking fourth, and visiting Team Boompods rider Ellen McDermott taking fifth.
The men’s National Road Series race at the Laragh Classic went to series leader Conor Hennebry, who launched a similar attack on the final ascent, to cross the line alone.
It means he is almost certain to land his second successive National Road Series title, despite the final round on September 22 offering double points.
“I’m delighted to win my second Laragh Classic,” he said. “The last time I won it was in 2016 when it was on a different circuit, and it was a hard race then, but it’s probably a harder race now.”
Of the finale at the Cork Grand Prix, he added: “It’s down in Whitechurch in Cork. It’s the same or a similar circuit to the Munster Champs, which I won last week. Hopefully, I can keep the form for another couple of weeks and get another result there.”
Hennebry, riding for Team Dan Morrissey-MIG.ie-Pactimo, beat Powerhouse Sport’s Lindsay Watson and Liam Curley, riding for STRATA3 VeloRevolution Racing Team. Charlie Prendergast, who went into the race leading the Cycling Ireland Men’s Rankings, finished fourth after being in the break for much of the 87km test.