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In just three races, Conor Murphy has found his feet and taken an historic result in international cyclocross racing for an Irish rider (Photo with thanks to Gareth Gibbons)

Conor Murphy (Caldwell Cycles) had already marked himself out as one to watch with his results over the last 12 months – including a medal at the European Youth Olympics – and today showed his potential in the cyclocross discipline.

Just three races into his festive period racing trip to Belgium, Murphy has come from the back of the field in the junior race at Azencross-Loenhout (C1) to take the best ever finish by an Irish rider in an international cyclocross race of this level.

He told stickybottle he was “delighted” with his result, which came after just a few days of racing saw him very much find his feet on the European scene.

Murphy began his Belgian stint – gridded at the back of all races due to his lack of prior international competition – with 71st in the junior race at Telenet Superprestige Heusden-Zolder (CJ) just two days ago.

Yesterday Murphy showed the first flicker of what he may be capable of in the mud in Europe, with a very significant improvement to take 25th, despite a late crash, at Telenet Superprestige Diegem (CJ).

And today he was well inside the top 10, placing 7th in Azencross-Loenhout (CJ); a result that says the first-year junior looks very much like a genuine contender for the future.

Murphy finished just 46 seconds down on Belgian winner, Senn Bossaerts, with Irish rider Cameron Henry (Inspired Cycling) also performing very solidly today and banking valuable experience at this level on his way to 44th today, at 4:30, from 67 starters.

“It was good race, it suited me well with the mud,” Murphy said of the 45-minute race, run off in very heavy conditions after heavy rain fell in the region.

“I was 52nd on the grid and took a while to work through the bunch. I got up into the front group but, unfortunately, I had a spill. But I’m delighted to come away with a top 10.”

The women’s race today was won by former world champion Sanne Cant (Crelan-Corendon), with three Irish women in the field.

Irish senior champion, Maria Larkin (Donkey Label), was 44th at 9:05, some three places ahead of Irish junior Aine Doherty (Cycling Ulster). Irish U23 rider, Roisin Lally (Loughborough Lightning Cycling Team), was 51st at 11:02.

In the elite men’s race today – won by world champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) – Irish campion Dean Harvey (Trinity Racing) placed 58th, at one lap, while 18-year-old Travis Harkness (Scott Bright Motor Group) was 58th at two laps.

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