Sunshine at Djouce for the National XCO Championships

The 2017 Irish National Cross-country Mountain Bike Championships took place at Djouce Woods in Country Wicklow on Sunday 23 July. The venue is one that host club EPIC MTB would be very familiar with having run many similar events in this location over the years. The car parking, sign on and event village were all based in the field beside the woods which offered a stunning view of Powerscourt Waterfall and the Wicklow mountains. Riders and spectators could enjoy an uninterrupted view of the valley with its peaks, fields, wooded areas and scattered houses. From the vista point we could watch the rain clouds approach or the patches of blue sky appear. This venue is know for the wind that whips up from the valley floor but today the wind conditions were favourable. The day started out grey with some light showers during the morning but by the afternoon blue sky prevailed and sunshine appeared. It finished on a very pleasant warm day allowing the volunteers to pack up and tidy up bathed in sunshine.

The first race of the day was for a championship category – the Under 12s. At the start line for this 3 lap race were 8 boys and 3 girls. Missing from the girls’ race was Hannah Mullin who had injured herself the day before. Charging away at the start was Luke Murphy (Killarney CC) who went on to take a comfortable win in the boys’ race finishing ahead of Adam Rafferty (Island Wheelers). The remaining podium place was a close battle between Oisin Ferrity and Shane Scullion (both from Island Wheelers) and Travis Harkness (Carn Wheelers). They were still togther at the end of the final lap with Shane taking the third place ahead of Oisin and then Travis. In the girls’ race Aine Doherty (VC Glendale) had another terrific race to finish well clear of chaser Keela Smyth (Apollo CT) with Faith Robinson (Bray Wheelers), stepping up from Under 10s to take part, coming away with third.

During the break between the championship category events, there were youth support races at the other end of the field for Under 6s, 8s and 10s. They had their own separate course and all finishers received a medal and a bag of sweets.

The next championship category event started at 10:25 with 6 individual races:- Junior men, Under 16 boys, Under 14 boys, Under 16 girls, Women then Under 14 girls, starting in this order. The Junior men and Under 16 boys had to complete 4 and 3 laps respectively of the whole course including a section called “Double Trouble”. The Under 16 girls and women missed out on this section but still had the rest of the main course to do. The Under 14 boys and girls had a reduced course with a split in the course pointing the Under 14s one way and the rest the other.

In the Under 14 girls’ race Caoimhe May (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) put on another impressive display of power finishing well clear of chasers Erin Creighton (XMTB) and Annie Roche (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club). The Under 14 boys’ race was a very exciting battle between the top two riders Dean Harvey (Kinning Cycles) and Darren Rafferty (Island Wheelers) with Darren leading out into the field on the final lap and having to sprint to the line to keep ahead of Dean who was chasing hard. Donnacha Desmond (MBCC) rounded off the podium in this category.

Niamh McKiverigan (Powerhouse Sport) was on a mission today in the Under 16 girls’ race as she gave everything to this championship to cross the line well ahead of her closest rival, Darcey Harkness (Carn Wheelers) who, in turn, was well clear of third placed rider Amanda Draper (MBCC).   Adam McGarr ( put on a dominant display in the Under 16 boys’ race to take the win. Drew Armstrong (Killinchy Cycling Club) had a mechnical issue having to call into the pits but still managed to hold on to second place ahead of Harry Byrne (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles). Lee Harvey (Kinning Cycles) was missing from the front of the action today as he had managed to “bin himself” in practice down a steep section the day before.

Last year’s winner of the Women’s race, Ciara Macmanus (Summit Mountain Biking), was in a class of her own this year again taking the win easily. Behind Ciara there was a good battle between Anne Duffy (Cuchulainn CC), Niamh McGreen (MTB Assoc of Dublin) and Ruth Doorley (MTB Assoc of Dublin) with Anne taking second and Ruth taking third.

Thomas Creighton (McConvey Cycles) was out on his own at the front of the Junior men’s race but his determination to win his category was impressive. He looked like he was being chased by angry lions as he went through the event field at the end of each lap!! Behind Thomas was John Buller (Banbridge CC) who has come off the back of two stage wins in the 2017 Junior Youth Tour of Ireland (international road race event). John had to keep the pressure on the stay ahead of Jack Murphy (Killarney Cycling Club) who, alongside Thomas, will be competing in the European XC Championships next weekend in Italy.

Next up was a non-championship race for Sports Men and Sports women with Piotr Leczycki (Scott taking the win ahead of Paul McLoughlin and Brian McCabe. Natalie Grieve (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles) was the only female entry.

The next championship category race was for the Masters M40 and Masters M50 with a 2 minute gap between them. Current two-time World Master’s Champion Robin Seymour (Team WORC) was on the front row of the M40s and was expected to take the win. Robin didn’t disappoint the crowd as he put on a fine display of racing to show his vast experience of racing cross-country and of racing at Djouce Woods. Ex-motorcross legend Brian Steele (Shimna Wheelers Cycling Club) has come back to XC racing this year and put on a fine display of racing finishing almost 5 minutes ahead of Vinnie Fitzsimon (Team WORC) who has come into recent form. Derrick Evans (South-East Road Club) and Michael Dardis (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles) finished 4th and 5th respectively. Peter Buggle (Un-Attached Leinster) lead the 3 lap M50s race but, more impressively, Peter made up the 2 minute gap between the race categories and was up among the leading M40s where he was up to 4th overall. Last year’s winner Aiden McDonald (Cuchulainn CC) had been in 4th place in the M50 category for laps 1 and 2 but jumped to 2nd place on the final lap. John Doris (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles) dropped from 2nd to 3rd to 4th with Mick Jordan (Team Cycle SuperStore) taking the final podium place in this category.

The final races of the day were for the Senior men, who had 5 laps to complete, followed 2 minutes later by the Masters M30 men, who had 4 laps to do. In the M30 race Richard Maes (Killarney Cycling Club) lead from the start line to finish 90 seconds clear of the chasing pack.   Christopher Campbell (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles), one of the event organisers, made good use of his intimate knowledge of the course, as he improved from 3rd place on laps 1 and 2 to 2nd place overall. Last year’s winner Alfie Wallace (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles), lost a huge amount of time at the end of lap 1 with a puncture and charged back from 10th place, to 5th, to 4th and then finally to 3rd. Evan Ryan (Team WORC) took 4th with Michael McCutcheon taking 5th. In the Senior men’s race Gareth McKee (Banbridge CC) had the expectation of the crowd on his shoulders and he didn’t let himself or the crowd down. Gareth has had a great season racing both locally and at the British XC series and added the Irish championship jersey to his collection of awards. Coming into recent form was Under 23 rider David Conroy (Scott taking second place. A new bike for David Montgomery (Chain Reaction Cycles) has allowed him to start competing again in cross-country and, after a slow start, David powered up from 6th to 3rd. Lindsay Watson (Powerhouse Sport) was in third for laps 1 and 2 before getting caught by Montgomery but still finished an impressive 4th ahead of Gareth Hegarty (Scott and Ray O’Shaughnessy (Cuchulainn CC). Missing from the top 6 was Graham Boyd (McConvey Cycles) who suffered a puncture on lap 2 dropping him to 10th with 7th his final position today.

Prize giving for the championship medals and jerseys was also accompanyied by prize giving for the overall National Point Series trophies.

Many thanks to all the volunteers from the host club Epic MTB for putting on a great national championships. Thanks to the sponsors of the event, Expert Cycles, Vilicom, Michael Devoy & Co and Quilter Cheviot.  Well done to all the riders who took part and many thanks to the spectators for coming along to support them.

The next off-road championships will be the Marathon Championships which will be held on Sunday 24 September at Ballyhoura.

Commissaires: Martin Grimley, Maciej Staroniewicz, Gary Shiels

Championship results here

Non-championship results – here

Report by Martin Grimley

Sean Rowe (Facebook) – here  and here