By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent
With less than a week to go before Easter when stage races click in, Irish competitors have the option of getting back to back events this Saturday and Sunday, which will be valuable preparation for next week. Easter fell in April last year, favouring those who wanted to peak for the stage events because it was later in the year. No matter what, racing miles will have to be bagged this weekend.
For those who are contemplating having a go in the Gorey Three Day, they can go to Roundwood on Saturday for the Christy McManus. This event has the support of "Duffs" of Bray, who have certainly been in for the long haul. This will be the 23rd occasion that the brown envelope has been passed over to Bray Wheelers and they are extremely supportive of all the help they get.
Those who want to perform on the bigger stage (Credit Union Ras Mumhan) over the Bank Holiday weekend will have to spread their wings and head down to Carlow on Sunday for the Des Hanlon Trophy. This event is the first in the series of the Classic League. It's rumoured that the 'League' has been beefed up with a generous sponsorship which will benefit the overall winner after six events.
Hopefully when the Sheffrey Challenge is run off at the latter end of August in Westport, Co. Mayo, the interest that is being generated at the moment holds true to form. Last year's series did not really strike a chord with anybody and it turned out to be less than a damp squib, with no interest being shown at the finish of the series. So now it is all go for the 'Hanlon' which rolls out from the Cattle Mart in Carlow town at 11:30 for a 140 kilometre event that includes a fair amount of climbing.
The climbing will favour Rory Wyley, the defending champion. He has started the season in rip roaring form with two successes and a second place from three starts. The consensus is that Wyley is the form man despite a similar approach to the season by the Usher Irish Road Club stalwart, Shane Baker. Shane's form is also high up there, with two wins, two seconds and the fastest in a competitor paced event on Patrick's day.
Michael Hennessy from the Fermoy CC, despite not getting his wheel in front to date, could be the one who will give Rory something to think about before the finishing line looms.