This weekend all roads lead to Omagh for the 10th SPAR Tour of Omagh. The event has come a long way since it’s modest start in 2009, and has become the leading event of it’s kind in Ireland. The unique 3-day event caters for A4 cyclists and Women, with two separate races within the overall event.
Despite decreased A4 race numbers across the season, the Omagh event boasts another full field of A4 riders, travelling from as far as Ballina, Dublin, Tullamore in addition to teams from across Ulster. The St. Tiernan’s club from Dubln have provided winners in 2016 and 2017 are back looking for more success in 2019.
The Women’s race has been going from strength to strength and features the biggest field to date with 51 riders taking to the start line. Again, riders will come from right across Ireland including teams from Cork, Dublin, Westport in addition to teams from across Ulster. The race also will have a National team in the form of the Cycling Ireland Women’s Commission team, and also provincial teams with Ulster and Leinster also entering teams. A stellar field will start with 10 teams and over 50 riders chasing the famous pink jersey.
The favourite must be Katherine Smyth riding for a strong Ballymena team, she will be supported by past winner Eileen Burns and could be the rider to watch.
She won’t have it all her own way with strong provincial teams and an Irish Women’s Commission team all with riders capable of pushing Smyth all the way. For Cycling Leinster Yvonne Doran and Emma Desmond have both shown good recent form and with Aaron Fox form a strong threesome. For the Irish team Nikki Taggart has been showing everyone a sprinters instinct at the Corcaigh Park weekly races but may lack the experience of a stage race so it may be up to Sinead Molloy to lead her team.
For Ulster Laura Wylie is one to watch, a proven triathlete who has shown some good form any time she has transitioned to road racing. Last year TC Racing won both individual and team and this year field another strong team with Louise Hart possibly the one to watch. Another triathlete Hillary Hughes will lead the Westport Covey team. Hughes has been on top form of late and it will be interesting to see how her good tri form translates to road racing.
UCD rider Maura Claffey is another strong challenger after a series of excellent performances including a win in the Stephen Roche GP and an excellent top ten in the nationals.
The field includes ten juniors with Ciara Kelly and Lucy O Donnell carrying in good form from the Nationals in Derry City and will no doubt both revel in the hills of West Tyrone. The women’s race in Omagh for the last two years has been a classic and the 2019 edition has a start list that suggest a repeat.
In addition to the event celebrating it’s 10th anniversary, Omagh Wheelers cycling club also celebrates it’s 20th anniversary in 2019 so with plenty of excitement building, it looks set to be another cracking event. Action kicks off from Drumragh Sarsfields GAC on Friday at 5:30pm
Cycling Ulster are sponsoring one of the stages of this year’s event. We would like to wish the organisers and the competitors the best of luck!