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Patrick Casey had already showed his international pedigree earlier this year, but he really shone on his way to gold in the junior road race at the National Road Championships (Photo: Sean Rowe)

Patrick Casey (Team GRENKE-Auto Eder) may have already taken two National Road Championships in junior racing – both TT bronzes – but in Athea, Co Limerick, on Saturday morning the 18-year-old took the big one; road race gold.

Casey had already marked himself out as one to watch; securing a place in GRENKE-Auto Eder – the junior team affiliated to Bora-hansgrohe – after an international trial process before securing significant early season results this year.

But others who took to the start line in Limerick also have international pedigree and that he would win the Irish champion’s jersey at the end of the 108km was far from a done deal. However, he put up a very impressive showing; racing from the front for much of the race before pouncing late to assert his superiority.

And though the others behind him rode very well – and some will have their day in the not too distant future – Casey sailed over the line on a beautiful sunny day for racing all of 1:31 ahead of the chasing group fighting for silver and bronze; those medals won by Samuel Coleman (AS Villemur Cyclisme) and Killian O’Brien (Veleka Team).

After the opening hour racing today, in the 108km race, what would become the winning scenario began to play out, but only after a four-man breakaway group had made much of the early running. That group was comprised of Conor Murphy (Caldwell Cycles), Sam Coleman (AS Villemur), Cameron Henry (Inspired Cycling) and Killian O’Brien (Veleka Team).

Breakaway men | Sam Coleman leads in the remains of the breakaway – behind Patrick Casey – from Killian O’Brien, Joseph Mullen, Rory Condon, Matthew Walls and Willem O’Connor (Photo: Sean Rowe)

Once they were caught by the small peloton with about one hour of racing completed, Joseph Mullen (Zappi Racing) attacked and pulled out a gap of about 30 seconds very quickly. He was soon joined by Sam Coleman (AS Villemur) and Willem O’Connor (JEGG-DJR Academy).

Behind them, a chasing group formed, comprised of Patrick Casey (Team GRENKE-Auto Eder), Killian O’Brien (Veleka Team), Rory Condon (O’Leary Stone Kanturk) and Matthew Walls (Lucan Cycling Road Club).

And once that seven-man group formed at the front, they made for a formidable unit, though their advantage never went above one minute. With three laps of the 27km course completed, leaving one to go, the leaders had an advantage of just 45 seconds on the chasing group.

However, that gap then shot out by another 30 seconds in the early stages of the final lap, before Casey took flight solo; putting in an attack that would prove the winning of the race.

With about 20km to go he had a gap of some 25 seconds on the six riders he had attacked, with the remains of the peloton at 1:45. And that was the way it stayed until the finish, with Casey putting his head down and powering his way to the gold medal.

The chase group then stayed away, with Coleman giving them the slip, for silver, as the finish approach, before O’Brien proved best of the rest, for the bronze medal.

Mullen finished in 4th, but on the same time was Coleman and O’Brien, with Condon – stepping up and underlining his abilities in a tough title race – taking 5th competing against riders exposed, so far, to more international racing.

Then came Walls – another who shone in the title race – for 6th, just a couple of further seconds back. O’Connor, the last of the breakaway men, took 7th at 1:41. Then Josh Callaly (Lucan CRC) finished with Thursday’s TT winner, Murphy, and Michael Collins (Newcastle West Cycling Club) – in 8th, 9th and 10th – some 2:43 down on the impressive winner Casey.

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