Nico races to Kilcullen double glory

by Gazette Reporter
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NICOLAS Roche claimed both the national road race and national time trial champion in the past week as he produced a series of brilliant rides at the event hosted by Orwell Wheelers in Kilcullen.
First up, in the time trial, the Dundrum man was too strong for Eddie Dunbar and Ryan Mullen at the end of the 40km course from Kilcullen to Athy and back.
Mullen was looking to claim back-to-back titles but a crash in the Netherlands a week earlier perhaps took its toll on his chances.
Roche, meanwhile, set the benchmark with 47.14 seconds with Mullen over a minute back on 48.39 and Dunbar shy of the mark, too.
Roche last won this title back in 2007 and means he will get to wear the national champions jersey for the next year. It will provide some solace for the Team Sky man who was omitted from their squad for the Tour de France – the first time he will not be in the marquee event since 2008.
He duly followed up with elite national road race title, again claiming the crown for the second time in his career despite rotten conditions on the road.
Roche did it in particularly trademark attacking style, pushing early and often to stretch out the field.
After one lap of the course, the main bunch lost heavy numbers while Roche’s breaks saw him go off the front a couple of times.
The main jump that stuck saw Roche lead a group of eight riders go clear including four-time champion Matt Brammeier, building a one-minute lead over the peloton who attempted to bridge the gap.
But, in harsh conditions, they struggled to make major headway. The gap did come down to 30 seconds at one stage but this served as the impetus for the leading pack to respond.
Going into the last loop of seven 26km laps, Roche made another bid for the front, one which dropped three more riders, leaving a bunch of five. He was joined only by Damien Shaw in this latest push for the line but he, too, would eventually be dropped as Roche put 34 seconds between the two to go free for victory.
This pair of wins came just a couple of days after the Stephen Roche GP took place in the Meadowbrook estate in Dundrum.
In the main event, 80 participants took part. Last year’s winner Jake Gray established the first break with four others, including Patrick Goszczyk, Gareth Enright and Freddie Stevens.
Gray and Stevens between them snaffled up the first two primes before that group began to shell riders, leaving Gray, Goszczyk and Enright. Gray took the third prime before Goszczyk won the fourth.
Phil Lavery closed the gap to the leaders and then went on a solo attack with 10 minutes still remaining in the race, taking the final prime.
He then counter-attacked with Eoin Morton, and the duo built up a six second lead. With two laps to go, it was clear they couldn’t work together well enough to hold off the baying hounds.
As the lead group came down the home stretch, it was anyone’s guess as to who would be at the head, but the National Criterium skin suit of ASEA’s Mark Dowling was fastest to the line. He was followed close behind by Cigala and the aggressive pair of Lavery and Morton in third and fourth.

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