2024 CRITERIUM NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: Racing Preview and Event Information Manual download link

6 May 2024
6 May 2024 Aaron Wallace

Town centre bicycle racing is coming back to Banbridge with the Irish Criterium National Championships promoted Banbridge CC on the evening of Friday 10th May.

Banbridge town has a long history of criterium racing, hosting events for 30 years and attracting the very top Irish racing talent. The town famously hosted the Criterium National Championships in 2016, seeing the streets lined with spectators and enjoying the fast paced spectacle.

There will be 2 races hosted on Friday evening with the Women’s National Championship race kicking off the action at 7pm on Newry St.  Following 2016 when a women’s ‘demonstration’ race was promoted as part of the championships, we’re delighted to see the progress in women’s cycling and welcome their return, not just as a full championship race, but one that is littered with international talent and features multiple World and European Champions.  The Open Championship race is also stacked with home talent and includes 3 previous men’s National Criterium Champions.

The Women’s race is undoubtedly headed up by Lara Gillespie, the UAE Development Team rider having taken her first UCI international road victory in recent weeks at the Giro Mediterraneo Rosa in Italy where she claimed two stages and the overall victory, just weeks after being confirmed for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.  Annalise Murphy is another standout name on the start list, already an Olympic medallist in sailing but now focusing her talents on cycling, with great success, and convincingly winning the first 2 rounds of the 2024 Cycling Ireland National Road Series.

Eve McCrystal, a multiple World Champion, Paralympic Champion and National Champion is always a force to be reckoned with. The Dundalk powerhouse loves a hard fight and will be determined to make the racing as hard as possible for her competitors. Many will have a close interest in how up and coming first year junior Aliyah Rafferty performs against such a strong line-up. The promising Coalisland 16 year old is already racking up her Elite National titles, having won the Women’s Elite National Cyclo-X Championships in her first month out of the youth ranks in January, and has performed well overseas on the road this year for her Tofauti Everyone Active team.

Enniscorthy’s Lara Gillespie has been on fire performing internationally for her UAE Development Team in 2024 and heads up an exciting Women’s start list destined for Banbridge (Photo: Giro Mediterraneo Rosa)

The Open Championship race is sure to excite the spectators, with plenty of local interest.  Double Criterium National Champion, and on the hunt for his 3rd successive title is local Banbridge CC rider John Buller.  Buller has won multiple times on this challenging criterium circuit, as well placed 2nd to Matthew Teggart here in 2022 and no doubt will take that knowledge and lessons into the ’24 Championships.  He leads a strong Banbridge CC team featuring Olympian Mark Downey, Johnny McRoberts and Paul Antoine Hagan, who is also a podium finisher in the 2022 Criterium National Championships on a similar short town centre circuit in Kells, Co. Meath.   Another previous Criterium National Champion, Mark Dowling returns to Banbridge having also won on this circuit numerous times, including the National Championships in 2016.  He is joined by All Human VeloRevolution teammate Daire Feely. If Feely is on the start line, he will always be considered a favourite;  Dominating the Cycling Ireland rankings for 4 years in a row he shows no sign of letting up and has already claimed 5 victories and 9 podiums in the opening 2 months of the ’24 season.  Alongside Dowling, who knows the Banbridge circuit so well, it could easily be the winning formula.

Another local rider, Lindsay Watson of Powerhouse Sport, has always shown well in the Banbridge Crit, and is one of the most consistent performers in Irish cycling.  Living a stone’s throw from the circuit he will be backed by local support and would be a hugely popular winner.  Double National Cyclo-X Champion and continental professional Dean Harvey of Trinity Racing will certainly be in the midst of the action and could easily upset fellow favourites. Other likely contenders to lift the 2024 title and don the Irish Champion’s jersey include Luke Smith of Moynalty CC, Liam Crowley of UCD, Darnell Moore of Team Caldwell Cycles and the Team Skyline duo of Conn McDunphy and Cian Keogh who bring extensive international experience.

One thing that is guaranteed is plenty of action and with nowhere to hide on the energy sapping circuit, a very worthy winner in both races.  Racing will commence from 7pm with the Women’s Championship, followed by the Open Championship at 8pm.  Both races will feature ‘hot-spot’ prime sprints after 15 and 30 minutes.

Defending Champion John Buller will be hoping the home crowd gives him the advantage to score a hattrick of Criterium National Championship titles (Photo: Toby Watson)

To facilitate the evening’s activities and provide a safe event a number of roads will be closed between the hours of 17:00 & 21:30 on Friday 10th May, including;

  • Newry Street (Dir. Newry side only)
  • Rathfriland Rd (B10), from Newry Street to first roundabout with Kenlis Street / Tesco’s access.
  • Park View / Kenlis Court
  • Kenlis Street
  • Old Kenlis St
  • Bridge Street E

In addition to the above closed roads a greater volume of cyclists are expected in the area, both as competitors and spectators and supporters.  All are encouraged to come out and enjoy the evening’s event, but are asked to take extra care if having to cross roads for access during the times of closure and avoid parking vehicles on the main race circuit.

The National Title came down to the tightest of margins in 2016 when the Championship was last held in Banbridge town with the top 3 podium steps being decided in a dramatic sprint finish (Photo: Toby Watson)

The Event Information Manual can now be downloaded here.


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