Mullingar to welcome cream of Irish cycling

Mullingar is to welcome the cream of Irish cycling to the county’s roads at the end of the month with a mini-street festival on Church Lane, it was revealed this week.

“This is such an important event and we are so proud that most of the visitors are staying in the town of Mullingar. This is a great opportunity for the town, and we hope that all the shops and businesses in the town will come on board with the Chamber to dress the town, hang bunting, run retail events, and really showcase how wonderful Mullingar is to our visitors,” said Pat Whelan, president of Mullingar Chamber of Commerce.

More than 400 competitors are expected in the area for the weekend of June 26-29, along with their support crews, friends, and families.

With the primary events of the national cycling championships centred on Multyfarnham and Rochfortbridge, the Chamber of Commerce is hoping to tie it all together with an event in the county’s capital.

The Chamber is planning a big family event on the Saturday night, with a main stage set up in Church Avenue car park where Joe Duffy from Lakeside Wheelers will be hosting a Q&A session with the elite riders.

The rest of the evening will be filled with family entertainment, including bands, and there will also be afternoon entertainment in the Market Square.

Nicholas Roche, Dan Martin, Phillip Duignan, and Martin Irvine are all coming for this highly competitive weekend, and these stars will be pushed all the way by newcomer Sam Bennett, and local phenomenon Damien Shaw.

“He’s a serious, serious talent - he’s the Rory McIlroy of Irish cycling. This guy is going to be our next big cyclist,” said Shay O’Toole, from the host club Lakeside Wheelers, about Bennett (23 ), who hails from Carrick-on-Suir, the home town of Irish cycling legend Sean Kelly.

“Although, our own Damien Shaw, without doubt, without a shadow of doubt, he’s going to put it up to them,” said Shay about the winner of last year’s Rás Mumhan, this year’s Tour of Ulster, the Shay Elliott Memorial, and the top amateur (fifth ) in this year’s Rás Eireann - which coincidentally came through Delvin, Collinstown, Castlepollard, and Coole last month.

The time trial will take place on the old N6 on Thursday June 26, starting in Rochfortbridge, before turning in Kinnegad, and returning to Rochfortbridge.

However, the local organisers have a little surprise up their sleeve for the visiting cyclists over the last quarter of this trip, by sending them on to Tyrrellspass and back.

This will require the triallists to face the toughest road hill in the county - Gneevebawn - twice before finishing the 40km spin back to the start - in less than an hour.

Friday will be a rest day, before the action resumes on Saturday morning in Multyfarnham when the veterans (10am ) and the women (2pm ) do battle over six laps of a 19km circuit incorporating Ballinalack, Knockdrin, Taughmon, and Crookedwood, before returning to Multy, where the races will be headquartered at the GAA centre.

“The people of Multy have welcomed us with open arms. It’s an unbelieveable reception we’re getting out there. I mean, the priest is changing Mass times,” said Mr O’Toole.

The elite race starts at 11am on Sunday, and will comprise nine laps of the circuit.

The 500m of the N4 between the Covert and the turn-off for Knockdrin will have the eastbound lane closed, and a professionally-managed stop-go system will be in operation for the five hours estimated to complete the race.

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