GRACE YOUNG and Darragh O’Mahony were among the leading Cork performers, of what was an extremely challenging cycling season.
Both riders medalled at national level, making the most of the interrupted 2020 campaign.
Young was crowned national champion, when she won gold at the National Criterium Championships, in Galway, back in September. She then took silver in the masters’ event at the National Road Race Championships, in Limerick.
The Douglas native finished sixth in the elite race overall. Formerly of De Ronde van Cork CC, she joined Strata3 VeloRevolution — a team with its roots here in Cork— in 2019.
She won her first race for Strata3 VeloRevolution, on her first start for the team last year, when pedalling her way to victory in the Des Hanlon Memorial. She later suffered a broken collarbone towards the end of that first season.
In many ways, her second season with the team was even more challenging, given the cancellation of a lot of races, and the uncertainty surrounding the calendar due to the pandemic. But it’s fair to say that Young enjoyed another successful year in the saddle.
‘‘It was a very weird season. We didn’t really get a proper season. There was no Women’s National Series or anything like that. Any racing I did was at men’s races really.
“A lot of that was preparation for some of the big elite races like the Irish National Championships. Any training I was doing was in preparation for one or two races. It was hard to stay motivated definitely.
“For a season that was so bad, the team and I got great results.
‘‘My biggest focus this year was the Irish National Criterium Championships. I got gold in that.
“That would have been the best result for me this year. My teammate (Eve McCrystal) was third. So that was gold and bronze. In the road race, it was a sprint finish and I was thereabouts again, only beaten a couple of seconds.
“I was sixth overall and second in the masters’. My teammate (McCrystal) was second overall and first in the masters’. And we won the overall team prize. So we came away with some fantastic results.
“It’s great to be a part of a team where everyone has the same focus. I love the social side of cycling as well but for now it is (all about) racing,’’ she said.
Young is currently gearing towards, what she hopes will be, the National Cyclo-Cross season, which is set to begin in January. Her focus will then switch to the 2021 Women’s National Series, due to get underway in March.
Meanwhile, O’Mahony took his first senior medal this year, when third in the elite road race, at the Irish National Championships.
The man from Rockchapel, who was U23 national champion in 2019, produced a fine effort to take bronze, in Limerick, capping his highlight of 2020.
A graduate of the renowned O’Leary Stone Kanturk CC, O’Mahony now races in the team colours of the UK Continental outfit, SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling. Among his other standout results this year was his win at Rás Ceatharlach.
‘‘2020 was strange for everyone in any walk of life — not just cyclists or sportspeople. From March onwards, you couldn’t predict what was going to happen. You couldn’t adapt your training around any races in particular, because you wouldn’t know if they were going to go ahead.
“So, it was strange. But it was strange for everyone. We got through it. Hopefully, next year we’ll be back to normal. We can live in hope. To be fair to Cycling Ireland, they did run some races at least.
“In the UK, they had zero road races this year. At least we got some few races to tide us over.
‘‘(The bronze medal win) was the highlight. It was a decent performance. I think I only raced three or four times this year so it’s easy to pick a highlight! But I was happy with it.
“I don’t think I could have done any better on the day. Ben (Healy, winner) and Nicholas (Roche, runner-up) were far too strong for myself. I’m as happy as I could be with finishing third.
“It’s a first senior medal so it’s nice to tick that one off. Although I hoped it would be a different colour. But on the day I was beaten by the better men,’’ O’Mahony said.
It has been an impressive rise through the ranks for O’ Mahony, considering he only took up the sport at the age of 16. A former Junior Tour of Ireland stage winner, O’Mahony is set to return to college in the New Year, having taken some time out to race on the continent.
The student of chemical engineering at the University of Limerick has previously finished eighth at the World University Games, in 2018.
‘‘I’m going back to college in January. I’d been on leave for a few years but now it’s back to reality. I’ll be riding for SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling again next year.
“Our sponsors have stayed on board. Whether there will be races to do is another question entirely. My focus will be on the second half of next year, because I’ll be in college and, more than likely, there won’t be racing ‘til the second half of the year anyway. That would be my guess,’’ he said.
It’s great to be a part of a team where everyone has the same focus. I love the social side of cycling as well but for now it is (all about) racing.