By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent
There will be Irish racing in all four of the country's provinces this weekend, which will afford those wishing to race the opportunity of limiting their travel.
Last Sunday the first real test of the season was unveiled in the Des Hanlon Trophy in Carlow, where the real divide between pros and amateurs came to the surface. Paul Griffin, now based on the Asian continental where he plies his trade as a professional bike rider with the Giant Asia outfit, was the hero of the competition. He stole all the plaudits when he had a resounding success against all the odds. Paul had no team support or back up, and still he came up trumps.
His win emphasises the gulf between those in the amateur and professional ranks. Even the might of the newly formed Murphy & Gunn/Newlyn Group, which had four competitors and was regarded as the 'bees knees' in the final miles of a very hard and demanding course, was unable to prevent Griffin's victory. Paul was also bridging a 10 year gap to his last success in 1996.
Based in Tralee, Paul will probably avoid the travel up country. He will go into the fray in the Jim O'Keeffe Trophy, which is being staged in Whitechurch, Co. Cork by Karl McCarthy, whose real claim to fame is that he got the better of Stephen Roche in the Wicklow Three Day over two decades ago.
In Leinster, the main attraction will be the Beggan Shield in Bohermeen, Co. Meath, which has five events on the program, including Under Age racing. Organiser here is Marie Reilly. According to ex-president of Cycling Ireland, Michael Lawless, who was very instrumental in the development of cycling for ladies, "Marie undoubtedly was a very good cyclist. She had many podium places, both on the domestic and international scene, during her career, and I know that this part of her career as an organiser will be on a par with her racing career."
Over in Connacht, the Atlantic Coast Hotel/Sheeffrey Grand Prix in Westport tops the agenda and according to Irish Junior Team Manger, Dan Curtain, "any juniors wishing to have their names in the frame for Irish streams will be obliged to be on site. They will race with the seniors. Race organiser Joe McGuire has toned down the distance of the event to comply with the regulation for junior participants."
The PJ Logan Cup is scheduled for a 1.30 start in Coalisland, Co. Tyrone where all the other events have a mid-day start.
The 2006 Christy McManus Memorial Road Race takes place in Roundwood this Saturday, March 25. Bray Wheelers will also host the inaugural Roundwood GP on the same day to cater for elite A category riders. Racing starts at 11am, from Roundwood GAA Club. The course for both races will be circuits of the Roundwood, Rathdrum and Laragh roads. The Christy McManus is sponsored by Frank Duff's Lounge Bar, Main Street, Bray. Duff's Lounge is Bray's cycling pub - virtually a museum to the exploits of Elliott, Roche, Kelly and others, a great venue for post race analysis.
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