And so on Saturday in Wicklow as we head back for Quest Glendalough 2022.
Does expecting the unexpected make the unexpected expected? We are not sure about that but we are sure that our predictions are getting worse and what was once unreliable predictions based on unrepeatable analysis of irrelevant statistics has now become a repeatable and reliable exhibition of incorrect premonitions – like the Anti-Midas touch whereby everything we touch turns to the opposite of gold….but like a stopped clock who is correct twice a day we will soldier on and bask in the glory when one of these days we eventually get it right!!
On home turf and with a win at Kenmare 2 weeks ago in the bag then Niall Davis on paper is the firm favourite for the mens expert race. The drier/firmer terrain in Wicklow may suit a few other runners better than Kenmare so there will be some who may few they have a good shot here. Current National champion Seb is always likely to feature as is Shaun Stewart, Lonan OFarrell, Luke McMullan, Darren Quinn, Scott Graham and Shane Kenny. Mark Nolan has gone well in the past too. We think Niall should make it 3 wins on the trot but Shaun may have the race rustiness shaken off and the former national champion will want to get a win under the belt. Darren has been knocking on the door for the past year or 2 and was rewarded with a well deserved podium in Kenmare. He will be well in the pack as will Luke…with the hard work on the bike more or less finished by the time they reach Croaghanmoira we might get an idea of who has the legs to push on and take it. The stats and smart money would say local man Niall should win but the challengers from Galway, Donegal, Down, Gortahock and Glenamaddy will say otherwise….Philip Smith, Johan Muller, Pearse West, Jamie McMahon will all be well in the bunch….close to call between Niall/Shaun to win….and pick one of Lonan/Luke/Seb/Darren to make up the podium spots.
In the womens expert race Ellen Vitting still appears to have the upper hand on Laura ODriscoll and should take the win although the gap between them should be small. Rosemarie Rutherford may secure the last podium spot but Katie Nolan might get there…if Ger Kelly is back and fit then she also might be in with a shot.
In the mens sport race, Well this is a tricky one….Fortune favours the brave and Glendalough favours the runner so stage 4 should be where we see the action although we suspect there may be an early attack on the Shay Elliot…the strong bikers won’t want to be dragging those pesky runners around with them and keeping them fresh…Bernard Smyth and Kevin McGuinness may think their best shot is to drop the runners early. History and the stats though show that the first half of stage 4 run is where the past winners have grabbed the crown, powering up the hilly fireroads while us mere mortals are often reduced to walking. A fine win in Kenmare for Paul O’Brien has no doubt marked his card but he is a serious contender. Team west is savaged by injury and the captains armband falls to Dwayne Flynn to lead their charge and if he is in the mix at end of the bike then he is in with a good shot…will they get the tactics right, will he bide his time until Laragh or go with an early break on the bike. With Kevin OMalley, John McCarthy and John Brennan also moving well they might have at least 2-3 in the running for honours but we have a few sneaky euro on David Hickey as the one to watch.
There’s no clear favourite, top 5-6 should be Smyth/O’Malley/Flynn/McGuinness/O’Brien/Hickey but in what order we wonder….the favourite tag has to go to Pail O’Brien but historically the form guide has gone out the window in Glendalough so it’s a complete case of pick 3 of the 6-7 names out of a hat…..we are going for Smyth/Hickey/Flynn….O’Brien and McGuinness to maybe sneak in…perhaps…who knows how it will go!
The womens race looks equally close to call and there are some wrong contenders. Joan Mahoney was clear winner a few months back and is the likely favourite here again. Orlaith and Siobhan Smith are strong runners and Gill Heery is in good form. The bike legs may be about not losing time, and whoever gets to kayak first will likely not lose…a tough one to call but we will go with Orlaith, Joan and Gill for the top 3…Siobhan Smith, Sharon Martin amongst the chasers