By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent/Evening Herald/Sunday Independent
Sunday is D-day in the majority of countries for the national road racing championships. In Westport Co. Mayo, Mayo Wheelers, under the direction of Joe McGuire, are promoting the Cycling Ireland Championship, which is scheduled to start at midday from the Wyatt Hotel in the Octagon in the town.
David O’Loughlin of the Navigators Insurance team based in New Jersey is going for an unprecedented three victories in a row. Also, he would like to put behind him the misery of getting so close to victory in the recent FBD Insurance Ras. O’Loughlin has been campaigning in the USA and Canada in recent weeks and sources close to him are well pleased with his performance level, which may just have the edge on his chief rivals.
In years previous both Mark Scanlon and David McCann also had the treble insight, but alas it was a case of 'so near yet so far away.’ McCann’s preparation in the lead up to the championships has been very measured after his Spring program in Asia, which would indicate that he will be the one to watch. On the other hand, Scanlon’s form has been indifferent, along with fellow teammate Philip Deignan who has had the misfortune to be have had less competition than expected.
If he shows the same form that carried to two stage wins in the ‘Ras’ and the King of the Hills title, then Ciaran Power has to be up there as one of the probable winners. For the last six years, Power has been the aficionados fancy, but in the final analysis has just come up short. Only last month, Ciaran won the ‘Ras’ stage into Westport, so he’ll be keyed up for another victory.
"David and Ciaran came directly to the States after the RAS to compete in a block of races that should have them well prepared for Championships," said Ed Beamon, the manager of Navigators. "Ciaran has recovered nicely from his surgery, and is getting stronger with every race. David really picked up some good form from the RAS, and is one of the stronger guys racing in America at the moment. David had a very big day in Philadelphia recently. I think both guys should be good candidates for the Irish Championships, and will complement each other well."
Race organiser, Joe McGuire along with the Mayo Wheelers has mapped out a particularly hard course over 8 miles, with a double whammy on each passage through the town. "They’ll suffer with the High Street and Sandy Hill climbs, both within shouting distance of each other," said McGuire. "It is a real test and I have no doubt the best man will win."