Lara Gillespie Sprints to National Championship

Lara Gillespie Sprints to National Championship
Grace Fisher
Grace Fisher

Lara Gillespie was crowned national champion on Saturday, June 24th, after picking up momentous victories in the elite women (incorporating U23 women) road race in Dungannon, Co. Tyrone.

Hosted by Island Wheelers CC, Gillespie proved strongest from a reduced group sprint after an attritional day.
In searing heat and sunny conditions, spectators were treated to a thrilling race along a course that offered something for every kind of rider.
The senior women's race ultimately proved a war of attrition following an early breakaway move from Ellen McDermott.
Making a move in the opening loop before four laps of the race circuit, McDermott opened a gap that extended out to over +1:45 as the riders approached their first crossing of the finish.
But in a talented field featuring eight professional riders, the big names came to the front as McDermott was reeled in before the fireworks began.
In the following laps, Imogen Cotter, Megan Armitage and Lara Gillespie looked strongest as they continuously tried to whittle down the leading group.
However, with each elite selection made over climbs, riders such as Orla Walsh, Jemma Speers, Kelly Murphy and Aoife O'Brien continuously fought and got back on to the group.
As the riders hit the final lap with just over 20km to go, spectators were given a preview of what was to come as the eight at the front would ultimately make up the first eight across the line.
Gillespie, Armitage, Cotter, Alice Sharpe, Caoimhe O'Brien, Linda Kelly, Fiona Mangan and Eve McCrystal made up that group.
Kelly looked particularly impressive as McCrystal produced a huge effort to get back to the front following a bike change on the previous lap.
Other chasers would get back on but on the last sharp climbs the group stayed together as they lined up for the final 500m.
Cotter was first to open up the sprint, but it was Gillespie who had that extra kick of speed as O'Brien also finished fast to take second place. Megan Armitage rounded off a talented elite podium.
Gillespie and Caoimhe O'Brien claimed gold and silver in the U23 women's podium as the latter's sister Aoife O'Brien took bronze in what was the first-ever inclusion of the U23 women's category at the Road National Championships.
Winning her second national title, Gillespie was delighted to pick up a brilliant win:
"[It feels] Amazing, yeah. I think everyone says it doesn’t really sink in, you kind of just forget it straight away because it was so hard, but I was so happy and I can’t wait to wear it for the next year, this jersey. It means a lot."
 
"Really the top ten girls are all super, super strong internationally and nationally. It was just every hill there was an attack whether it was Megan or Imogen. Megan was really, really strong today and I knew she had the most punch out of everyone, so I really tried to stick on her wheel and cover all of her attacks."
 
"I couldn’t necessarily follow through with the attacks, but I was able to be there all the time. It kept splitting and coming back, splitting and coming back, I was always there at the front so I knew I was strong and then I backed my sprint in the end."
Speaking about the strength of Women’s cycling in Ireland, Gillespie said:
"It’s really cool, there’s a lot of under-23 girls in there as well, and the programme is definitely getting stronger and there’s just a really positive atmosphere around Irish cycling, so it’s nice to be a part of."
Results
Senior Women's Road Race
1: Lara Gillespie (UAE Development Team) - 3:27:15 (U23)
2: Caoimhe O'Brien (Belco Van Eyck) - "  (U23)
3: Megan Armitage (Arkea Pro Cycling Team) - "
4: Alice Sharpe (Israel Premier Tech-Roland Development) - "
5: Imogen Cotter (Fenix-Deceuninck) - "
6: Linda Kelly (Spin The Bean Power by Coffee) - "
7: Fiona Mangan (Soltec Team) - +19
8: Eve McCrystal (Bellurgan Wheelers) - +23
9: Ellen McDermott (Team Boompads) - +29
10: Vanessa Fursden (Clones Cycling Club) - "
11: Aoife O'Brien (Spellman-Dublin Port) - +1:50  (U23)
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