By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent/Evening Herald/Sunday Independent
With St Patrick's Day falling on Friday this year, Irish racers can look forward to an extended weekend of racing, and riders with aspirations of success in upcoming big events such as the Ras Mumhan or the FBD Insurance Ras will get a chance to test their form.
On Patrick's Day, Friday March 17, the action will be in Carrick-on-Suir where the local club, Dan Morrissey/Carrick Wheelers have a well packaged day of racing to suit all categories. The principal race of the day will be for the Carriag Challenge Cup sponsored by the Carraig Hotel.
The following day the ever popular Cicli Sport GP will be held in Moneymore and will be promoted by the East Tyrone CC.
No doubt the big race of the weekend will be the Des Hanlon which sets out from Carlow on Sunday at 11.30. This will be the first time since the start of the season that more or less all the Category One competitors will converge in the one spot for the first big test of the season.
For one rider, Rory Wyley from Dungarvan steeped in the tradition of cycling since he was knee high, it will be that extra special. Wyley is going for a unique three wins in a row in the Des Hanlon.
"I realise fully the importance of this event," said Wyley. "Every season since I returned home in 2002 from England where I had a love for athletics and cycling, the Des Hanlon was always my target for the year. The first success I had in 2004 went more or less unnoticed but last year my anonymity evaporated in space. Now all and sundry realise that I am no flash in the pan.
"On Sunday, it is going to be very difficult to make it a trio which if it comes to past will set me up for those questions that regularly do the rounds of quizzes!
"As far I am concerned, all I want to do is to get through the event safely, because then I'll have another event to race in," said Rory.
Last weekend was a particularly bad one for cycling with the Traders Cup in Dundalk being abandoned because of a crash between a competitor and a car. Whilst in the Mick Cahill race in Banteer, two promising competitors from the Earl of Desmond/Bicycle Club broke collar bones. Hopefully there will be no further hiccups in the races ahead!
Towards the end of last season a race was also abandoned in Co. Meath because of a crash between a competitor and a vehicle.