Adventure Racing season officially gets underway this weekend in Kerry as Quest Kenmare plays host to the opening round of the Continental National Adventure Race Series 2019. With Continental Tyres as the title sponsor for this year there are some super prizes up for grabs at the end of the season and also along the way at selected races.
Quest Kenmare is our first chance to see who has wintered well and who will be the ones to watch for the rest of the year. There will likely be a few who have put in the hard work over the cold winter months and will be hoping to hit the ground running and there will be new contenders hoping to make their mark on this year’s points table but as it is the first race of the series we can expect the unexpected! Three of the current National Champions are back to start the defense of their crowns so winning won’t be easy!!
With some changes to the Expert course the participants now have 79km of running, cycling and kayaking to negotiate and it’s going to be a tough challenge! In the women’s Expert race it looks like it will be between Laura O’Driscoll and Ellen Vitting to take top spot. Both had hugely successful years last year across adventure races, triathlons and other events and both are already hitting top form this year. Having recently won the National 50k championship in Donadea a few weeks ago we suspect Laura will continue the winning ways here in Kenmare. Ellen won the Setanta Duathlon last weekend so will be anxious to continue the winning streak, this battle could go right to the wire. Getting off the first run in the right group may be the critical factor, getting left on your own for the tough 32k second bike stage could dash any hopes of winning. The chasing bunch for the top 5 spots will feature Aine Mahony, Ann Horan, Deirdre O’Gorman and Ger Kelly. There are a few others who may show but we think one of these will take the last podium spot, again it will depend on who has a good second bike stage, Ann Horan should have the edge on the bike and may be able to hang on to a top 3 finish.
In the men’s Expert race it’s difficult to see anyone outside of Dessie Duffy, Mark Nolan and Michael Buckley going home with the gold, Mark should edge this one but Dessie is never one to bet against and I think he may open the season with a big effort and finish top of the pile here. There is a formidable group of racers who will be hoping one of those 3 slip up and open up a podium spot. Matt Casey and Sebastien Giraud have The Race in Donegal in their sights in 3 weeks’ time and may not be keen to empty the tank here, although at 79km this is a long course for early in the season and the long winters training may stand to them. One of the most improved racers last year was James Crowley and expect him to feature regularly in the top 10 this year and maybe grab a few top 5 spots also. Others who will be in the shakeup in Kenmare include Liam Aherne and Derrick Evans. The course may also suit strong cyclists and Robert Staunton should turn in a decent performance here.
In the women’s Sport Category, 2018 National Champion Regina Sheehan will be looking to get the new season off to a winning start. Emer Monaghan, Maria Flynn and Martina Dunne should all have good races here too and a chance to finish in the top spots. Niamh Garvey and Ava Williams are in with an outside shot here as well.
Niall Smith will be hoping to open up his 2019 account with a win and on current form there looks to be no stopping him. With some super results in the road running world over the winter he looks to be continuing the unreal form which saw him win last year…we don’t think he will be beaten on Saturday. There will be a few who will be hoping to get close to him, Bernard Smyth, Gary Lawlor and last year’s winner Philip Smith….while Liam O’Donnell, Anthony McGibney and Dave Sheehan won’t be far away….going for a Smith/Lawlor/Smyth top 3.