The Irish Senior National Cycling Championships took place last weekend with approximately 440 cyclists racing around the streets of Wexford.
The route took the riders over Wexford bridge, out through Ferrybank, into Castlebridge and back in the Enniscorthy Road.
But the real racing began over Codds lane hill. The 22 percent gradient would bite into the elite men/U23’s legs nine times and five times for the elite women’s.
It was the first time a Nationals had been in Wexford in 30 years. The committee who organised the event were given permission by Cycling Ireland and planning began eight months ago.
Logistically, it was a nightmare. Tons of obstacles were put in their way. The Time Trial route they had finally settled on was their third option. As Wexford hadn’t run a Nationals in years there was no infrastructure or past committee to guide the operations.
Podiums, barriers, route design, stickers for the cavalcade of cars, race numbers, accommodation. It was no easy task. In the end the committee had come up with a course that looked easy on paper, and an event that looked nearly impossible to organise.
The circuit was ambitious. Running a race over Wexford bridge hadn’t been done before in over two decades. The circuit received a lot of criticism from riders and on-lookers alike. One man who came down for the race said to me in with a distasteful look, that this course was “the flattest Nationals route ever.”
Nicholas Roche, one of the fan favourites for the race was most notably critical of the course for not been hard enough. However, after the race he did say that it was a technical course that led to tactical racing, which was probably better for spectators.
Patsy McCaffery, one of the course designers made it to resemble a Flemish Classic: Lots of false flats and short steep climbs leaving the riders little recovery time over distances as long as 179km.
There were three main short climbs along the route. The steepest been Codds Lane which was daubed ‘Muur de Ferrycarrig’ by local cyclists for its similarities in length and steepness in comparison to the famous Muur de Grammot in Flanders.
But the sport’s popularity has grown over the last couple of years. This was evident from the number of parents and excited children who came down to get pictures with Ireland’s cycling heroes and lined Codds lane the whole way up.
The race even inspired some of the under 23’s who were able to race alongside professionals.
“There are very few sports where aspiring riders like myself get to compete with the riders that are at the very top level in that sport and that is one of the best things about cycling,” Connor Lambert, one of the Under 23 riders said.
The Nationals also highlighted some of the local talent as the masters’ races were held on the Saturday.
Derek Webb, the Race Director said; “Saturday was also great, we were thrilled to see the Wexford men like Anthony Doyle, Conor Crowley and Paul Bolger up in the results. It shows the strength and depth we have here in Wexford.”
Mr Webb also said that the race wouldn’t have been the same without Codds lane. He also said the race won’t be back for “another ten years or so. So, we as a county and town were lucky to see the best cyclists of our generation race by the front door.”