||Last Updated: 2 Apr 2018 - 8:45:17 PM
Having taken bronze 19 years ago and again in 2008, Dubliner Joe McCall today finally stood on the top step of the podium when he dominated the national cyclo cross championships in St. Anne’s Park, Raheny.
The 37 year old went out hard on the first of the nine laps and, together with Liam McGreevy (Banbridge), they opened a gap over the rest of the field.
McCall dropped the young rider soon after and continued on alone, showing fine skill on the tough off-road course. He eventually finished one minute and one second clear of Ryan Sherlock (MAD). McGreevy held on to take bronze, fending off a hard-chasing Neill Delahaye (Usher IRC).
Last year’s winner Robin Seymour did not take part, with the Team WORC rider deciding to sit out this year’s championships.
McCall has been training hard for today’s race and was happy to improve on his two previous medals. “My best finish before was a bronze two years ago. And, 19 years ago, I got a bronze medal in County Clare – I was in a sprint finish with Joe Barr and Julian Dalby. I was 20 or something, on a mountainbike – I hadn’t a clue.”
He is known as a rider with strong technical skills and that ability was apparent on today’s slippery terrain. The course, he said, was a very good one. “It was very worthy of a national championships. It was great. Personally, it would suit me a bit better if there were more corners, but it was an excellent course, it really rode well.
“You ride a practice lap and you think, ‘that’s not a corner, that’s not a corner,’ but when you are at full tilt, you are sliding through the things. And the straights are a lot shorter because you are going so much quicker. The course was really good. It could have suited a lot of riders. I thought that Neill Delahaye would have been a bit closer as he usually does well on these kind of courses.”
McCall is used to fast starts when racing with Roger Aiken, Robin Seymour and Connor McConvey. They were absent today but he decided to follow the same pattern, breaking things up early and hoping that the riders behind would turn their attention to maintaining their own places.
“I put the head down right away,” he said, describing the solo lead he quickly built up. “Liam [McGreevy] got onto me on the second lap and then Ryan [Sherlock] was getting close; he was perhaps at 5 seconds by the end of the second lap, and so I said that he can’t get on. So I buried myself again. Neill dropped off and then the gap just kept on getting bigger.”
Sherlock said afterwards that two factors cost him time during the race. The first was due to the sudden start, and the second was a rather peculiar technical problem.
“The race just started, there was no countdown but just a whistle,” he said. “I wasn’t ready so I went into the first few corners in about 20th place. I spent the first lap just trying to catch up. I caught Liam and then there was probably another 15 seconds to Joe. It was getting a little bit closer and then my wheel came off.
“I arrived home last night at midnight from a training camp in Gran Canaria and was a little bit tired this morning [when getting the bike ready before the race]. I guess because of that, my rear wheel wasn’t right and it fell off. It was halfway around on the singletrack. I skidded to a stop and thought I’d broken my derailleur, but the wheel had come off completely. That threw me off for a lap.”
The only rider to actually get back to McCall after the start was 19 year old Liam McGreevy. The talented young rider from Banbridge rejoined the race leader on lap two, but eventually had to yield to his higher pace.
“I made a few mistakes on a few corners and he was a lot stronger along the sticky bit at the back, so I just had to let him go and ride my own race instead of blowing up,” he said. “Ryan came past I and I just settled into my own rhythm. Coming into the closing laps, Neill Delahaye was starting to get close so I started to up the ante a bit more; I didn’t fancy my chances of taking him to a sprint.”
“It was a good race, I’m happy with the result.”
Like Sherlock, Delahaye said that he got the opening lap wrong. “I just had a very bad start; when they went, I was gone, I was near the back of the field going around. I was trying to make up ground all the time – I was passing guys, but I am not great technically, so when I pushed hard I came down five times on corners. Unfortunately I wasn’t in contention then.
“I think I was making up ground but ah…if I had had a good start…”
Delahaye had closed to with ten seconds of McGreevy on the last lap, but the gap was up to 33 seconds at the finish. He said that he reckoned the Banbridge rider had probably kept something in reserve, and also admitted that he went down again on the final lap.
“It was a frustrating day,” he said, showing that he had hoped for more. “But it was brilliant course out there…much better than last year. There were two or three run-ups last year so they took those out. It was real fast and flowing and good for racing together; it was a very good, well designed course.”
All of those riders said that they wanted to keep their momentum going and chase more results later this year. McCall said that his goal will be the national MTB championships and, further ahead, that he wanted to aim for the European masters’ championships in 2011. That will be held somewhere in Ireland.
Sherlock will head to Cyprus in two weeks for the Sunshine Cup, then will go with his partner Mel Spath to Israel for two UCI C2 races there. He’ll then use some road racing here plus some UK NPS Series races to keep building his form, with the nationals being a target.
Similarly, McGreevy wants to peak for the championships, but also hopes that he has the chance to compete abroad. “I’ll see what the story is there,” he said. “I haven’t really raced internationally since I was a junior. There wasn’t really much last year happening for us. But hopefully this year things will be looking up.”
As for Delahaye, he mainly focuses on road racing and said that he wants to ensure he is in good shape for the FBD Insurance Rás.
Of course, a number of other categories also competed in today’s events. Small number of competitors meant that the women’s and junior events were not championship contests, but the participants nevertheless received prizes.
Francine Meehan (Tullamore) beat Cait Elliot (UCD) in their race, while Matthew Adair (Banbridge) came out best against William Boyd (XMTB) in the junior ranks.
There was a healthy number in the veterans category and medals were given out at the end of that. Aidan McDonald (Bike Pure) topped the podium, ahead of Peter McConville (Newry Wheelers) and Greg Campbell (Sundrive Track Club).
In the main event, Rocky Mountain was initially announced as the winner but a recalculation saw the team prize ultimately going to the Banbridge club of McGreevy, Don Travers and William Mulligan.
Mark McGauley (MAD), Mel Spath (DUCC) and Jason Milne (Piranha) were the victors in the MTB event.
Irish cyclo-cross championships, St. Anne’s Park, Raheny:
1, Joe McCall (Rocky Mountain) 9 laps in 1 hour 7 mins 11secs
2, Ryan Sherlock (MAD) at 1 min 1 sec
3, Liam McGreevy (Banbridge CC) at 1 min 48 secs
4, Neill Delahaye (Usher IRC) at at 2 mins 21 secs
5, Aidan McDonald (Bike Pure) at 2 mins 50 secs
6, Conor Campbell (Newry) at 2 mins 53 secs
7, Richie Feille (Thinkbike) at 3 mins 3 secs
8, Evan Ryan (WORC) at 4 mins 9 secs
9, Don Travers (Banbridge) at 4 mins 49 secs
10, Peter McConville (Newry Wheelers) at 5 mins 15 secs
11, Sean à Tuathail (Bray) at 6 mins 2 secs
12, Noel Carr (WORC) at 6 mins 53 secs
1, Francine Meehan (Tullamore)
2, Cait Elliot (UCD)
1, Matthew Adair (Banbridge)
2, William Boyd (XMTB)
1, Aiden McDonald (Bike Pure)
2, Peter McConville (Newry Wheelers)
3, Greg Campbell (Sundrive Track Club)
1, Mark McGauley (MAD)
2, Mel Spath (DUCC)
3, Jason Milne (Piranha)