We are off to Killaloe and Ballina for Quest Lough Derg, the newest event in the Quest Calendar and a new challenge for 1,500 adventure racers!
The sport route in Lough Derg will provide some unique challenges for our regular Sport contenders, at 57km is one of the longest sport courses but it also has 9 stages which means that transitions will play more of a key role than usual, there will be a lot of on/off the bike and finishers should be over the 2 hours mark. The trail runs look class and at 7km and 6km distances will be interesting to see if they wil enable the stronger runners to make up much ground. The longest bike stage of 30k is broken up by a short 100m run section where competitors will cross the Shannon on a manmade pontoon before remounting the bike for the close out of that bike stage.
In the womens race there is a very strong field. Current points leader Niamh Garvey has completed all 5 races to date so a top 3 finish will pick up a few point here. With the course relatively unknown we wait to see where the gaps will start to appear. The first short cycle run has 300m of ascent in 7k so you would expect the stronger cyclists like Lorraine Horan, Shauna McCabe and Catherine Hallahan to break early and try and build some buffer here. Niamh Garvey, Orlaith Smith, Sharon Martin, Geraldine Gill won’t want them too far ahead and with about 14k of running across the course it they will be well in contention. The second cycle could be the critical, 26k is a good distance to open up the field an leading directly in to the kayak will allow to a bit of recovery before tackling the 6k trail run. Tough to call here as we don’t know how the athletes will deal with the trail runs and all the transitions. Local knowledge may swing it for Lorraine Horan and knowing the course here when everyone else doesn’t is a great advantage…so we are going for Lorraine to win, Orlaith second and then Catherine, Niamh and Sharon to duke it out for the last podium spot.
In the men’s race it’s also a very decorated field. Every single one of the top 15 in the points table are lining up at the start line tomorrow morning in Lough Derg!!!! Although it’s been a few weeks since the last series event at Race2Glory there has been plenty of action and most people have been competing in other events. Bernard Smyth has been quiet on the racing front as he was crewing for adventure racing legend Graham Macken on his amazing solo attempt of Race Around Ireland (a super 3rd place finish)….so we are expecting a big push from Bernard here…and a well-deserved 2nd place finish for Philip Smith at Quest 12 a few weeks ago will have him eager to keep finishing in the prizes. Anthony McGibney is continuing to get stronger and is a legitimate contender too, as is Colin McGibney but if the Cavan trio of Niall Smith, Kieran Cosgrove and Philip Smith are on form then it’ll be tough to break in to the top 3. Declan Donnellan will show well and Adrian Farrell is never too far off the top 5 but maybe too much bike for him. Weighing all things up we think Kieran Cosgrove might take his first series win of the year. Niall won’t be far off though and will push all the way. If Philip is still feeling the effects from Sneem and Quest 12 then we see it between Bernard and Anthony for 3rd.
In the expert category we should have 2 cracking races!! The men’s race should be fast and furious and it’s the most loaded field we have had for a while. Shane Scully will be hot favourite for this as it’s practically his back yard training patch and he knows every bump and twist on turn on these roads. Shane and his brother Gary hit the National Series with a bang this year and have already amassed an impressive haul of silverware, more impressive as it’s been this race they have been targeting on their home patch. Two time winner already this year Mark Nolan returns to the staring line and will be a firm contender to ensure the gold doesn’t head with Shane back to Nenagh. Killian Heery is also back and with a few events and a few wins (Cavan Kayakarun, Quest 12 and Pink & Gold duathlon to name just a few) he looks to be getting back to his best and will also be eyeing top place. Barry Cronin is having an amazing year and going from strength to strength and an outstanding performance at the Boyne Adventure Race saw him take the win in a very competitive field. There are a few others who will want to put on a good show here, Series leader Darren Quinn has a few misfortunes down at Quest 12 ( a few punctures, starting the last run in the cycling shoes ?) so he’ll have the fire in the belly to and be eager to have a go here, Quest 24 winner Matt Casey should be well in the mix also and will push all the way. The stages are relatively short but we expect plenty of action and attacks…and after the last few races we don’t think anyone making a break will be let go and an early attack could burn off a few.
This will go to the wire, a high number of transitions, so a high number of opportunities for error but also for making up a few vital seconds. We can’t see Shane Scully outside the top 3 but which spot is a lottery…given recent form we are going for Mark, Shane, Killian and Barry for the top contenders…Mark for the win, Shane for 2nd and then a toss between Barry and Killian for 3rd.
In the women’s race Laura ODriscoll looks like the stand out contender. After adding the top spot at Quest 24 a few weeks ago to an exhaustive list of 1st places this year it’s very unlikely that she will be beaten here. Deirdre Byrne, Andree Walkin and Rosy Temple are going to want to perform on this new course but we suspect this will be for 2nd and 3rd spots…Laura for the win, Deirdre 2nd and Rosy to fill the top 3 spots.