CONOR Halvey is a young man in a hurry. A transition year student at St Eunan’s College in Letterkenny, Conor became the first Donegal winner of Ras Dhun na nGall in its 27 year history last weekend.
The 16 year old Junior who rides with Nicholas Roche Performance Team, won the Young Rider competition as well as claiming the Yellow Jersey in what was his first time competing in the three-day event which attracts many of the country’s top young cyclists.
His coach David McCann, a former Olympian, had told him to target a top 10 finish but that wasn’t how the young Letterkenny speedster saw it – he wanted a podium finish.
Conor, who signed with NRPT Titan at the start of the season, has enjoyed a very successful youth career coming through the ranks of the Errigal CC Youth Development Programme. He had been getting good results in the early season races and would have been fancied for a good finish in Donegal.
“I had been hoping to get a stage win but I wasn’t expecting to win it. It was a lovely surprise,” he said.
Several Donegal riders had top 10 finishes in the past but none had an overall win in the history of the race before last weekend.
“It’s an honour to be the first. I’ve watched the race these past three or four years and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. A lot of the country’s best cyclists take part and there’s tough enough competition,” he said.
Past winners include Mark Downey who has gone on to compete on the international stage and that, ultimately, is where Conor would like to see his career path go over the next number of years.
The young Letterkenny man took part in his first event – a Sprocket Rocket race in Glenveagh – four years ago and he hasn’t looked back since.
“It all kicked off from there. I had tried other sports and wasn’t that bothered but I really enjoy the cycling,” he said.
That same year the Errigal club took over the International Youth Tour event in Churchill.
“I did that (Youth Tour) in my first year cycling. I took off at a high level and I’ve been hooked on the sport ever since,” he said.
As a first year junior, this was Conor’s first time to compete in Ras Dhun na nGall and he’s already looking forward to coming back in 2018 to defend his title.
In the meantime, his attention now switches to next month’s Junior Tour of Ireland – a six-day event based in Clare – while qualification on the Irish team for both the World and European championships later in the year, in Norway and Italy respectively, are also prominent on his radar.
His talents have already taken him to Belgium and Scotland as a member of the Irish junior squad, while he has also raced in France and the UK on numerous occasions.
That journey, which started out with Errigal CC and the support of local man Sean McFadden, has taken him to NRPT Titan, via Four Masters CC. His coach is David McCann, while Ray Kenna is his physio.
“I would like to pursue a cycling career to see how far I can get with that. I would look up to the likes of Philip Deignan (also from Letterkenny). He’s just after finishing the Giro d’Italia but I’ve to try and get through the juniors first before, hopefully, teams will start looking at me,” he said.
Chasing that dream means many more road miles but it’s a challenge which the young Letterkenny man appears to relish.
Ras Dhun na nGall 2017
As well as winning the Yellow Jersey, Conor also won the Young Rider competition, Dillon Corkery won the Mountains Jersey, Nathan Beard won the Masters competition and Nicholas Roche Performance Team won the Team Classification.
Other notable Donegal performances came from Michael McGlynn (Belgian Project) who finished 8th overall, Aaron McBride (Donegal Bay CC) 18th overall and Cormac Keaney (FTT Oslo) 19th overall. The event promoting club Four Masters CC had all 5 team members finish the race, Mark McGinley 32nd, Kevin Doherty 46th, Mitchell McLaughlin 52nd, Dinny Doherty, who has ridden this event many times in its 27 year history, 53rd and Keelan Carberry 75th.
Top 10 on General Classification
• Halvey, Conor NRPT 6h20’38”
• Corkery, Dillon NRPT 6h20’56” @18″
• Gallagher, Conor Castlebar CC 6h21’13” @35″
• Downey, Ethan Island Wheelers 6h21’47” @01’09”
• McLaughlin, Eoghan NRPT 6h22’20” @01’42”
• Roche, Alexis NRPT 6h22’42” @02’04”
• Hanley, Liam Cycling Leinster 6h22’44” @02’06”
• McGlynn, Michael Belgium Project 6h23’03” @02’25”
• Moore, Calvin Caldwell Cycles 6h23’09” @02’31”
• Ryall, Shane NRPT 6h23’11” @02’33”