By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent
Two clubs steeped in the tradition of cycling at all levels are set to ignite the 2006 Irish cycling season this coming Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday, Bray Wheelers will host a race in Co. Wicklow starting at 11:00 from the Wheelers' clubhouse in Bray. All categories will be catered for, but to make it interesting and fair, the race is being run on a handicap basis. If everything goes to plan, the handicapper should be rewarded with the scratch group making the junction and making it a spectacle for the public at the finish. The distance is 65 km and the finish is at Fassaroe, where the survivors will have to negotiate a sharp incline. Down south in the Kingdom of Kerry, the scene is set again for the Lacey Cup the following day. The organisers, the Earl of Desmond/Tralee Bicycle Club, state that it's not a race for the favourites, rather an early season form tester. The wind, occasional rain and rolling countryside of the Dingle Peninsula should take its toll on the riders as they begin another racing season. Sign on is from 10:30 at the KDYS hall, Denny Street Tralee. The race will be neutralised at 12:00 to the Dingle Road start line.
Like Bray, this event is also handicapped and the Earl of Desmond Club has an uphill finish to sort everybody out. It benefits the judges in sorting out the finishing order and avoids controversy about placings.
Whilst Bray has no obvious favourite to keep the title in the club for the Saturday event, the Earl of Desmond is in a much cosier position. Paul Griffin from Tralee, who is now with the Giant Asia team and has three tours in his legs, the most recent being the Tour de Langkawi, has to be the odds-on favourite to keep the spoils in Tralee. Paul will also have the support of the local club, and in particular Sean Lacey. The defending champion Rory Wyley is an early season specialist, and according to informed sources has been getting in the training miles.