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Patrick Casey of Ireland, Team Grenke Auto Eder Rookies, during the Eroica Juniores – Nations Cup in Siena, Italy in April; one of the juniors in contention to become champion this evening

Though there are some excellent riders – including multiple former winners – down to start the elite TTs at the National Road Championships in Limerick this evening, the fight for the medals will be among small groups of riders in the men’s and women’s races.

That cannot be said for the U23 and junior ranks, where Ireland now has a lot of talent on the way up. This is especially so in the men’s U23 and junior title races, as the junior women’s championship event perhaps has a clearer favourite, though everyone can be beaten of course.

In the U23 men’s race Liam O’Brien (Lidl-Trek Future Racing) will be going up against Adam Rafferty (Hagens Berman Jayco), not to mention Dean Harvey (Trinity Racing), Conal Scully(NIPPO-EF-Martigues) and others.

This TT is fairly long – at 36.6km – and it is lumpy. Starting at Athea and going in the direction of Carrigkerry, after just 4km there is a 3.6km incline, averaging 2.5 per cent gradient.

And for the following 5km or so – until 12km completed – the terrain continues to be draggy. When the riders get to Glin, with 24.5km completed, the road kicks up for 6.2km, again averaging 2.5 per cent, though some sections are steeper.

The road then flattens out before descending from about the 31km marker to the finish. Overall, while the inclines are not steep, they are long enough to allow those who can climb gain on those who are more powerful, purer, TT riders.

The length and difficulty of the TT may be suit Harvey as he better of distances and terrains against the watch that demand staying power and a big performance late into a hard contest.

Rafferty, the junior champion last year, is just coming back from exams and though he is a fantastic TT rider, it is unclear where his form is at. Meanwhile, Scully was brutally unlucky in the Rás, when he crashed as he was up the road and in contention for the stage win on the penultimate stage, meaning he will be out for a medal this evening.

O’Brien has enjoyed a fantastic season so far, including being called up to the Lidl Trek World Tour team for several races. And the fact he is now effectively a professional rider means the pressure perhaps falls on him to be fastest.

The junior men’s race is just too tight to call, with several top quality riders in contention for the medals. Last year’s winner and runner-up – Rafferty and O’Brien – are not up to the U23 ranks. The rider who finished in the bronze medal position in Dungannon 12 months ago, Patrick Casey, is riding the junior race again this evening.

The Team GRENKE-Auto Eder rider has really moved up a gear this season, taking 3rd overall in both Eroica Juniores-Nations’ Cup (2.Ncup) and Grand Prix West Bohemia (2.1).

But the same can be said for last year’s junior road race winner at the championships, Seth Dunwoody. The Cannibal B Victorious has enjoyed superb results through the season so far, including wins in E3 Saxo Classic (1.1) and at Course de la Paix Juniors (2.Ncup).

Samuel Coleman (AS Villemur) has also excelled at home and abroad with wins in La Route d’Éole Juniors and Mapei Classic, both in France. Meanwhile, first year junior Conor Murphy (Caldwell Cycles) has been in monster mode several times this year, including winning the Gorey Three Day and Eroica Juniores-Coppa Andrea Meneghelli (1.1) in Italy.

There are also other very talented riders down to start this evening in the shape of Cal Tutty (JEGG-DJR Academy), Willem O’Connor (JEGG-DJR Academy), Patrick O’Sullivan (Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club), David Gaffney (Villeneuve Cycliste) and others.

Irish cycling is in the very happy place with this junior group of being spoiled for choice and stickybottle wouldn’t dare to call this one. This evening gold, silver and bronze could go anywhere; a conclusion based on strength in depth.

There is no women’s U23 title race so the only female race to preview is the junior contest. It was won last by Lucy Benezet Minns from Aine Doherty and Lucy Brown.

Benezet Minns (Tofauti Everyone Active) is the only one of last year’s medal winners back in action this evening and she goes into the contest as the favourite, though that doesn’t mean she can’t be beaten.

Aliyah Rafferty (Tofauti Everyone Active) will also give a very strong account of herself and she will be gunning for that gold medal. The others fighting for a place on the podium are Kate Murphy (Sliabh Luachra Cycling Club), Sophie English (TC Racing) and Mia Smith (Brother UK-Orientation Marketing RT).

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