Firmus City of Derry National Sprint Champs - Preview

Two new National Sprint Champions will be crowned this weekend at the Firmus City of Derry Triathlon in Round 2 of the 2017 Super Series.

Both the men's and women's start lists are packed with top class athletes, promising two enthralling battles over the fast city centre course on the banks of the River Foyle.

Last year Derry hosted a draft legal Super Series race for the first time - won by Olympians Bryan Keane and Aileen Reid - with Keane's retirement and Reid cheering from the sidelines, neither will be competing this Sunday leaving both fields wide open. 

Bryan Keane Derry Finish

The Course

This year's course mirrors last year's popular route with a 750m swim in the River Foyle, a 20km - two lap bike course that takes athletes across the river and along the fast, smooth A2; and an out-and-back 5km run course that includes the iconic Peace Bridge.

While the Super Series men's and women's races will decide the National Champions for 2017, there is also lots to strive for in the non-drafting race, as gold, silver and bronze Age Group medals will be contested throughout the field.

Men's Race

With last year's champion James Edgar not on the start list, the title will be finding a new home by Sunday afternoon. Where that home is looks likely to be decided among a select group of High Performance development athletes. Most of this squad have spend the past three weeks training at altitude - a fact that throws a certain degree of uncertainty in to their performances - since athletes often react differently in the early days once they return down to sea level.

Last year's series winner Darren Dunne came closer than anyone else to Bryan Keane in the City of Derry 2016 and knows the course well. Dunne will also be more than familiar with his main rivals for the victory in the shape of training partners Con Doherty, Aichlinn O'Reilly, Kieran Jackson and Chris Mintern.

Doherty posted a very respectable 22nd place result last weekend at an ITU World Cup Race in Cagliari and already has an Intervarsity Championships title to this name this season from North Tipp Sprint.  

Chris Mintern City of Derry

Chris Mintern was first out of the water at last year's race in Derry before finishing 4th but Mintern went on to win both of the other two Super Series races he entered in 2016 (including the Standard Distance National Champs at Hell of the West).

Third in last year's City of Derry race was Kieran Jackson, who like Doherty is already hunting his second national title of 2017. Jackson has gained in strength and ability through the winter and will be aiming for nothing less than victory in Derry.

One man who didn't travel to France for the high Performance training camp is Aichlinn O'Reilly. Instead, O'Reilly spent his time dominating the middle distance Gauntlet race from start to finish at Lough Cutra - just one day after finishing 4th in the Super Series event.

As with Lough Cutra (where the men's podium was made up entirely of overseas based athletes), Derry will see a number of visiting athletes make things interesting.

Richard Horton Pulse 2016

Richard Horton is the most familiar of these, having raced Hell of the West where he finished 12th last year and City of Derry where he posted a very impressive 5th place. Alastair Rogers is also no stranger to racing in Ireland - he was the runner up at Dublin City Triathlon (behind Chris Mintern) last year.

Harry Speers also returns home from his studies in the UK to race in Derry. He had a disappointing outing last year but can't be discounted to be in the shake up for the final results and is the reigning Aquathlon National Champion.

Women's Podium Derry

Women's Race

In the women's race, National Champion from 2016 - Carolyn Hayes will defend her title against an increasingly competitive women's field. Hayes has more national titles to her name than any athlete in the men's or women's field and having finished her medical studies will be looking to start 2017 by winning the sprint champs for the third year in a row.

Hayes's main rivals will come in the form of 2016 Super Series runner up Heather Foley, the rapidly improving Kirsten Huysamen, Laura Tighe and Ailbhe Carroll.

_DSC7803

Hayes and Foley have traded first and second places on a number of occasions and last went head to head in draft legal racing in the final round of 2016 Super Series with Foley winning the race but Hayes winning the series. Both women will need to watch out for Laura Tighe however who beat both Hayes and Foley on her way to winning the Standard Distance national champs at Hell of the West last year.

Huysamen, Ellen Murphy and Ailbhe Carroll (who finished 3rd at Lough Cutra) will almost certainly have an influence on the race and can't be ruled out for a podium placing. The women's field also features a host of young up-and-coming athletes whose form is harder to judge but holds promise for the future. These include Niamh Corry, Erin McConnell, Caron Ryan, Jemma Speers, Elizabeth Carr and Lauren Strange. 

International Age Group Athletes

For the first time, a Super Series race will also host a number of athletes preparing for the draft legal format of international age group racing. If you are interested in racing in the Super Series or have ambitions to race at an international Age Group competition, drop us a line.

Coverage

The men's Super Series race begins at 09:45am on Sunday morning, with the women entering the water approximately 10mins later.

Triathlon Ireland will cover both races live on our facebook page and will also post updates to twitter.