We’ve just had an epic day of racing at the Dingle Adventure Race 2 weeks ago but there’s no rest for the competitors in the Expert Category of the Continental National Adventure Race series as this weekend sees the return of Gaelforce West to the series. The weather gods look to be smiling and it should be a dry and hopefully sunny day as the participants take on this iconic course making their way from Glassilaun beach to Westport town taking in the Famine trail, Killary Fjord and of course Croagh Patrick along the way!!
Laura O’Driscoll had a brilliant win 2 weeks ago in Dingle and it doesn’t look like she will be beaten here. A first timer on this course but she should be able to hold a comfortable gap to the chasing group and the removal of The Skelp from the last cycle back to Westport should keep her out of danger. The nearest challenger looks like it will be Aine Mahony who has had a great run so far this season with a few podiums and a win at Gaelforce Dublin, she missed out on Dingle so will be eager to catch up on winning ways here. There are several contenders for the last podium spot, Siobhan Murtagh and Catherine Hallahan may give it a go and Maura Ormiston could surprise on the day.
The men’s race sees the return to racing of current 2018 National Adventure Race Series champion Shaun Stewart. With some very impressive results under his belt this year (including fine wins at WAAR and Sliabh Liag AR) he will be looking to get his Expert series competition off to a winning start. Shane and Gary Scully were very impressive in Dingle, Shane added the gold there to his win at Gaelforce Dublin earlier this year. Although relatively new to the adventure racing scene, the Nenagh brothers have hit the ground running and have delivered some big results. Very strong on the bike, they have also adapted very well to the rougher terrain and mountains of the AR world. Shane recorded one of the fasted Stage 4 bike times ever here at Gaelforce West in ’17 (1:05 – Delphi to Croagh Patrick stage) when he finished in third place overall so he’ll be looking to go 1 or 2 spots better here on Saturday. The bike tactics will be interesting to watch on Saturday and we’ll be keeping an eye on what alliances are forged and how that will unfold and impact the race.
While GFW is more a runner’s course the bike section here will be critical and if he is in the mix at Croagh Patrick you wouldn’t bet against Shane closing it out on the last 13k back to Westport. It’s a much decorated field though, plenty of past winners including Luke McMullan, Peter O’Farrell and Dessie Duffy so expect a mighty race. Dessie has put in some top performances this year and looks to be in flying form and should be in contention all the way here. Last year winner Luke McMullan has a great chance here, if he doesn’t try and swim the Fjord and stays in the kayak then we should see a very tactical bike stage 4 and the race could be blown open by the time we get to Croagh Patrick. Barry Cronin has been the outstanding performer of the year so far… 2nd/3rd/4th spots already chalked up in 3 ARs (as well as a fine win in last week’s IMRA event) he is for a sure a contender here, the relentless training in the Dublin and Wicklow hills paying off, again he could take a podium spot here, the right positioning on the bike and then by CP he has as good a chance as any.
Others who may have top spot aspirations include Kieron Kelly, who if on form on the day could well put in a very serious challenge, Peter O’Farrell, who is the most decorated GFW’er and knows this course inside out, Sebastien Giraud will leave nothing out there and will for sure be in the mix, while Gary Scully is likely to be close to the leaders also. We think it’s going to be Shaun to take this one on Saturday, torn between Dessie/Luke/Shane/Barry for the other 2 podium spots, will really depend on how the cycle pans out we think and the removal of the Skelp will help Shane and Luke……but no sitting on the fence here, so we are going for Shaun/Dessie/Shane…..with Luke/Barry to push hard and maybe just take one of those spots