By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent
The opening two races of the Irish cycling season last weekend, saw familiar faces in Shane Baker of the Usher Irish Road Club and Rory Wyley of Dan Morrissey/Carrick Wheelers sending out signals that they have both wintered well and that they are keen to be wearing the national jersey when it comes to selecting teams for international duty. They will have the option of staking their claims when they go into action on Sunday in Navan and Banteer, where it is expected that last weekend's turnout will be exceeded.
Admittedly there were teething problems with the issuing of licences prior to the start of the season by Cycling Ireland. "All the requests for licences up to Thursday were looked after," said Brendan Kilbride of CI this week. "The race commissaires were also advised of this and they duly let those people participate. Unfortunately, human nature as it is means that club secretaries may have sent in late requests, thus causing a little anxiety. At least they had the option of purchasing one day licences which would have let them partake in either Bray or Tralee."
Two very competitive fields turned out last weekend with 100 in Bray on Saturday and 98 in Tralee on Sunday. Both races saw solo wins with Shane Baker etching out the biggest winning margin with Wyley having a four second advantage. Still, a win is a win and both were upbeat about the coming season.
"I have to admit that win in the cyclo-cross event in January and the long hours every weekend over the winter months that I put in with the members of the club bore fruit today," said Shane. "I know it is a long season but when you come out of the blocks with a win and it was fashioned out of hard work. I was never at the back of the race. It was head down all the way. Hopefully there will be a lot more success this season for the Usher Irish Road Club."
In Tralee, Rory Wyley was pleased with his win last Sunday. "Yes! It is good to be back in the winning mould," he said. "Things got off to a flier last season and up to the FBD Milk Ras I was involved with the National team, but I had an injury in the Ras which more or less sidelined me for the rest of the season. Thankfully, I am fully recovered and today's win fully vindicates my enthusiasm for the coming season. What's more, it was a great win for our new sponsor, Dan Morrissey."
Both winners have indicated that they will be action this Sunday. Whereas, Shane is heading for Navan, Rory is still keeping his cards close to his chest and may opt for Banteer in preference to making the journey from Dungarvan to the Leinster venue.
Paidi O'Brien, who won last year in Banteer, may make the trip home to his roots from Belgium where he is racing and training at the moment. Word from the Co. Cork venue is that the "Hill" is out this year and they are hopeful he'll show up and retain the trophy which he won in fine style. Paidi was in the Telekom Malaysia Le Tour de Langkawi last month where the members of the Discovery Channel team of Lance Armstrong had nothing but praise for his commitment and dedication to the sport. Coming from that quarter, Paidi will not be found wanting this coming season with that kind of recognition.