By Emma Porter
Coming off the back of her BMW National Series win, and her first ever domestic standard distance triathlon, Maeve Gallagher was again in form yesterday at Dunmore East with a convincing performance to take the National Sprint Distance Championship title.
COVID restrictions saw the race divided in to three waves, with a staggered start within each wave. Athletes took to the water in groups of three, their timing chips activated as they crossed the start line. With a staggered start, and mix of men and women in each wave, race tactics will differ to the normal mass start many athletes are used to.
The 750m swim looked calm as the first athletes entered the water, with the water temperature described as “not too bad” by some of the athletes’ post-race.
Sunny south east, stunning performances and most of all, an amazing atmosphere…the 2021 Sprint Distance National Champs!🏊♀️🚴🏃🏆 🥇Con Doherty & Maeve Gallagher 🥈Aichlinn O’Reilly & Shannon Kelly 🥉Niall Cornyn & Shauna Doellken OShea 📖https://t.co/QFTRWOfQRf#BMWTriSeries pic.twitter.com/nRRssAise1— Triathlon Ireland (@tri_ireland) September 19, 2021
Upon exiting the water on to the beach, athletes then raced up a steep switch back path to grab their bikes in the transition area before heading out on to the 20km bike course. The non-draft bike leg took place over a tough but honest out and back course. Returning to transition, athletes racked their bikes before taking on another sharp hill followed by two laps of a cross country run around Dunmore East Golf course to complete the 5km run before crossing the finish line.
Gallagher proved dominant from the word go, exiting the water first in women’s race, hot on the heels of the top three men. Orla Walsh, who was recently awarded the title of “Best Young Irish Rider” in Ras Na mBan earlier this month, was in close pursuit as they headed out on to the bike course. Less than a minute later, Shannon Kelly was racing in to transition alongside up and coming junior athletes Olivia and Charlotte Moore, with all three hoping to narrow the gap to the front of the race.
Renowned for her cycling abilities, Gallagher returned to the transition area with a further lead on the chasing athletes. A strong bike from Shannon Kelly saw her pass Walsh and create a gap in the hope of chasing down the race lead.
With the race divided into three waves in total it became difficult to monitor the time differences between athletes in different waves. While the faster athletes will generally find themselves in Wave 1, all results remain unofficial until all athletes have completed the race. Despite this, Gallagher crossed the line with a convincing gap on Kelly. The final results saw Limerick’s Shauna Doellken O’Shea from Wave 3 put in a strong effort and work through the field to round out the podium.
Speaking on her win, Gallagher said it “was a great race” on one of the “hardest triathlon courses in Ireland.”
Eoin Lyons & Maeve Gallagher tamed the technical bike course and cross country run to win Round 9 of the #BMWTriSeries at @LoughCutraTri! ➡️Catch up on how their races unfolded in our race report: https://t.co/aExPySVDTX pic.twitter.com/vpBfi2pxaY— Triathlon Ireland (@tri_ireland) September 14, 2021
“It was a nice swim, it was nice and calm. Then the run was almost like a cliff going up to transition, that was really hard. I didn’t have a TT bike but I found the road bike was OK for the hills” she said.
“I found the bike was fine, and then there was another hill [out of transition two]! The run was just up and down, but it was a really nice course. I felt a bit tired after starting back in college this week and getting new routines in place.”
“I’m glad I came today and it was a great atmosphere. I’m doing Westport next week, which is my home race, so I’m going to that on Saturday. After that I have to plan my winter and go from there.”
Producing one of her best results this season, Shauna Doellken O’Shea was “delighted to make the podium today.” Having worked hard on her swim throughout the last year and setting a podium at National Sprint Championships as one of her main goals for this year, Doellken O’Shea said “it was great to see it all pay off.”