Sunday’s cyclo-cross event at Ballinrobe attracted a large entry drawn from Connacht and further afield but it was local rider Seán O’Malley who emerged victorious after leading for most of the 10-lap race.
Promoting club Western Lakes CC were delighted to see O’Malley score a home win in the first race of the winter league.
O’Malley had a winning margin of 29 seconds over second-placed Gary McDonald (Visit Nenagh ), while Dubliner Damien Creighton (Blanch Wheelers ) finished third a further 1-4 in arrears after a long battle with Chris Troy (Castlebar CC ), who claimed fourth spot.
Ballinrobe’s Cycling Centre was hosting its first ever cyclo-cross.
A 1.7 kilometre lap was somehow shoehorned into the centre’s grounds and approach road. It made for a tight course with numerous tight turns plus the switchbacks of the BMX track, loose gravel, grass paths and brief stretch of tarmac.
In cycling parlance, it was a ‘technical’ course - in other words, very tricky.
O’Malley, better known as one of the region’s top road racers, hit the front on lap one and soon opened a 30-second gap over the chasing group with MacDonald and Troy - competing in only his second cyclo-cross - scrapping for the minor places.
Paul Dunne (Ballina CC ) then moved into third place but a front tyre puncture ended his challenge.
The race had started in bright sunshine but a vicious storm swept across the course at the midway point, adding cold rain to the mud, which was already coating the riders.
O’Malley put in a storming last lap to keep plenty of daylight between himself and the chasing MacDonald, finally crossing the winning line after 54 minutes and 57 seconds of hard racing.
All the riders praised the new venue. “Padraig (Marrey ) knows how to put a good course together - there was a bit of everything,” said O’Malley.
There were a few tumbles but with soft going, thanks to the weather, there were no injuries.
Despite losing two laps after puncturing, Paul Dunne soldiered on to the finish.
Earlier, his son Conor had shown good example by winning the U12s race.
A race (10 laps ): 1st Seán O’Malley (Western Lakes CC ); 2nd Gary MacDonald (Visit Nenagh ); 3rd Damien Creighton (Blanch Wheelers ); 4th Chris Troy (Castlebar CC ); 5th Gary Collins (Cunga CC ); 6th David Walshe (Westport Covey ).
B Race: (7 laps ): 1st Stephan Mullane (Bottechia Sligo ); 2nd Leah Maunsell (MBW Moycullen ); 3rd Niall Watters (MBW Moycullen );.
U16: 1st Ben Walsh (Westport Covey ); 2nd Joe Clancy (MBW Moycullen ); 3rd Declan Maloney (Kanturk ). U14: 1st Orla Harrison (Westport Covey ). U12 1st Conor Dunne (Ballina CC ), 2nd Dylan Watters (MBW Moycullen ); 3rd Matthew Devins (Sligo ). U10: 1st Naughton Walsh (Westport Covey ); 2nd Emily O’Connell (Westport Covey ).