It has been a long time since the county has had a county championship road race. Judging by the big crowds that turned up in wet conditions and the quality of riders in attendance, this is a race that will remain on the calendar from here on out. It is safe to say that the standard of cycling in the county is very good. New cycling teams are popping up in every town and village and it was great to see almost every club making the effort to be there. Friendly rivalries are being built and that can only be good for the county in the future.
After a week of fine weather, the Gods decided to bring the rain to Birdhill yesterday. Luckily for us the organisers, Tipperary folk are made of tough stuff and 56 cyclists made it to the start line. The 65km course is a safe one for racing so the slick conditions didn’t make much of a difference bar people’s back wheels slipping going up that little b#####d of a climb, Chapel Hill.
Shortly after 7:00pm, the cyclists assembled on the start line. There were 3 groups with a large A4 group getting a 2 minute head start on a large A3 and junior group, who in turn had a 2 minute handicap on the smaller A1/A2 group. There were plenty of strong riders in the A4 and A3 groups so the A1/A2 group knew they would have to ride hard from the start. The race set of at a lightning fast pace. There was a tail wind out to Nenagh so average paces were hovering between 45 – 47km per hour.
The A3 group were flying it from the gun and they were eating into the lead of the A4 bunch. Passing the Yellowbridge the group ahead were very close. Aichlinn O’Reilly plus two Raparee cyclists took the opportunity to break out of the A3 group. They made it up to the A4 group and the speed of that bunch increased greatly. At the roundabout in Nenagh there was only 20 seconds between the two groups but by the time they got back to Birdhill the gap had grown again by over a minute. The A3 group had stopped working well and were just waiting to be absorbed by the A1/A2 bunch.
The A1/A2 bunch worked well together with everyone putting in a strong effort to close the gap. Seán Yelverton, Peter Leahy and Simon Ryan were driving the pace but to their surprise the gap to the A3 bunch had not come down by too much by the first roundabout. They didn’t let the heads drop and they stuck to the task and soon the gap started to come down quickly as the bunches turned into a head wind on the way back to Birdhill. Coming into Birdhill for the first time, the A1/A2 group caught the A3 group but the A4 group were still out of sight.
Unfortunately for the A3 group, being caught in Birdhill was not ideal. Chapel Hill was only 1 mile away and the pace up that was going to have a lot of people in trouble. There was plenty of jostling for position coming into the 20%+ gradient hill with the A1/A2 riders and top juniors making their way onto the front line. Simon Ryan and Sean Yelverton led a full on sprint up the hill. They were closely followed by Shane Scully and Aaron Kearney over the top. As they swung left back to Birdhill the back of the A4 bunch came into view.
The A4 bunch had survived up to the top of the climb and were able to adjust to the increased pace as the front group passed back through Birdhill. The race was strung out behind the front 15 riders with cyclists from the former combined A1/A2 /A3 group trying their hardest to get back in touch. By the time the race hit the hill at Kilmastulla we had a front group of 20 or so and small groups all over the road behind.
Seán Yelverton was calling loudly for a fast pace up the climb as he looked to keep the pace high. The fast pace was too much for a large number of the A4 riders and one by one they went out the back. The group reduced to around 14 riders close to the top of the hill. The pace slowed a little and Shane Scully used this opportunity to break off the front. He was dangling out there for a while before being joined by Simon Ryan. The two lads were joined by Seán Yelverton, Dermot Radford, Aichlinn O’Reilly and 1 other. This was a very strong group and the pace being set by Simon Ryan soon meant that they had a nice gap to the chase bunch behind.
Coming through the Yellowbridge, the race had taken a more orderly shape. You had the break of 6 out front (soon to become 5 as one rider punctured out). Behind that, you had a chase group of about 8 riders and then you had a large main pack which had reformed after the chase from Chapel Hill. At the roundabout in Nenagh the gaps were about 40 seconds between the first two groups and a further 20 seconds to the main bunch. All that was left in the race was the final spin back to Birdhill and then up the ramp (roughly 20km).
The front break kept working hard until they were well out of sight. Strong chasing from the main bunch saw the back two groups merging not long after the roundabout. This caused the chase to the breakaway to falter a little and soon it was obvious that the break ahead was going to be a winning one. For the final 10km the break attacked the living s##t out of each other. Dermot Radford was on the receiving end of much of this but he was able to close down every attack. Aichlinn was very strong in the break but he was finding all this sprint / slow action hard to handle and he got distanced with 5km to go. That left just 4 up ahead.
The attacking continued all the way to Birdhill. Seán and Simon took it in turns one after the other to go. Dermot answered everything and Shane was just content to hang on in there and wait for the final hill. The 4 lads were altogether rounding the final corner onto the 1km long finishing ramp.The finish line was thronged with supporters all eager to see who would cross the line first.
There was a slight headwind on the way up so they were nervous about going too early. With 700m to go Sean shot up the road; he wasn’t followed. With 400m to go Shane attacked with Simon on his wheel. They put some distance into Dermot and closed the gap on Seán. With 200m to go Shane was out in front and he went on to take the win with Simon Ryan in 2nd and Dermot getting up for 3rd place, Seán in 4th and Aichlinn finishing 30 seconds later in 5th.
The bunch behind came in just over a minute later. There were still plenty of prizes and county titles to fight for. Leading home the bunch was Aaron Kearney cycling for NRPT. Aaron is just after finishing the Junior Tour and it was good to see him at the race. He took the prize for first junior. Next over the line was Bobby Coleman from Mego. In 8th place and 1st county A3 rider home was Matty Kennedy from Nenagh CC. In 9th place was Limerick CC’s Anthony Gahan (miracles do happen!). In 10th place and 1st county A4 rider was Slievenamon’s Richard Burke. First woman home was Niamh O’Dwyer, from Cashel Rock Pedallers.
Average pace for the day was very fast with the lead breakaway clocking close to 43 km / hour for the 65km race.
So the first Tipperary Road Race since I don’t when is over. It turned out to be a great race. Some of the new clubs in the county are absolutely motoring. There is plenty of talent in the county and I am sure the standard will improve even more for next year. Thanks to everyone for turning up on a damp evening in the North of the county. Fair play to my own club for taking on the task of organising this race at short notice. Thanks as well to Cooper’s Pub for the use of their facilities. Thanks to all our marshals and motor marshals. Thanks to our Commissaire Brian Jordan who took on this job at very short notice and helped us a lot. Finally, thanks to the many supporters who came along to cheer on their clubs. We will hopefully see ye all again next year, unless another Tipperary club want to bring the action down to their club. I am sure everyone in Nenagh CC will be there to support it.
More photos and videos will be placed on our Facebook page throughout the day >> click here
- Shane Scully, Nenagh CC
- Simon Ryan, Mego
- Dermot Radford, Tipperary Wheelers
- Sean Yelverton, Mego
- Aichlinn O’Reilly, Westport Covey Wheelers
- Aaron Kearney, NRPT
- Bobby Coleman, Mego
- Matty Kennedy, Nenagh CC
- Anthony Gahan, Limerick CC
- Richard Burke, Slievenamon
- Pat Ryan, Tipperary Wheelers
- Kenneth Kennedy, Nenagh CC
- Mark Bergin, Clonmel CC
- Darren Allison, Raparee CC
- Eamonn Hartnett, Nenagh CC
Team Prize: Nenagh CC – Shane Scully, Matty Kennedy, Kenneth Kennedy
1st Shane Scully, Nenagh CC
2nd Dermot Radford, Tipperary Wheelers
1st Kenneth Kennedy, Nenagh CC
2nd Peter Leahy, UDCC
3rd John Dempsey, Carrick
1st Matty Kennedy, Nenagh CC
2nd Anthony Gahan, Limerick CC
3rd Pat Ryan, Tipperary Wheelers
1st Richard Burke, Slievenamon
2nd Shane White, Raparee
3rd David Donovan, UDCC
1st Niamh O’Dwyer, Cashel Rock Pedallers
Nenagh Summer League – is now over for the year. No more marshaling duties left for the club so ye can all let out a big sigh of relief!! Thanks for the big efforts put in by all club members throughout the year. Without yere help the Rás team would never have got to the start line in 2016.