That was a war out there today. We certainly left the best quality ‘race’ to last with some excellent average speeds and average wattage being produced. After 2:15 mins of hard cycling, tired and broken bodies started crawling over the finish line back in Nenagh. The aim of this cycle was to act as a warm-up for the Lacey Cup next week and we certainly got that. Everyone that started today also got a trimming from a cyclist I am sure we will be hearing big things from this year – Mark O’Callaghan from Aqua Blue. Despite just recovering from two weeks of sickness he was able to go solo from 30km to go to win by 2 minutes from a talented chase bunch. The winner of WW4 always goes onto greatness, just look at Kenneth Kennedy’s season of bunch finishes last year for all the proof you need.
This is how the day went…….
There was a huge turnout for this cycle today. Around 45 cyclists assembled at Lisboney Ind Estate just after 10 o’clock. It was good to see our friends from Limerick, Tipp and elsewhere join up with us for this spin. This large turnout meant we had 4 groups on the road with handicaps at 0, 15, 23 and 27 minutes between each group. These gaps looked very big but in the end they weren’t even close to being enough as the scratch group set a searing pace to Roscrea, aided by a tail wind.
Apologies to the early groups – I got the times badly wrong on this one. But at least ye all got to see what it is like cruising along in a super bunch with a few of Ireland’s top A1 cyclists in tow. This is the last Winter Warrior so things will be back to normal next week. Thanks for putting up with us!
Back to the race – group 4 were holding close to 50km per hour for much of the first hour. At this speed, the gaps to the bunches ahead were coming down quickly. One lad making an early exit from the race was Newtown’s Great White Hope John Gleeson who got a puncture (sabotage??). On the long straight before Roscrea, groups 4 and 3 merged. Group 4 didn’t ease up and they went in chase of group 2. This big bunch was moving well on the same long straight coming back from Roscrea, group 2 were caught. Now the race proper could begin.
Eoin O’Connell, Mark O’Callaghan and Dermot Radford were very aggressive and it wasn’t long before two of them got away – Mark & Dermot. The bunch behind stalled a little and this allowed the lads to build up a nice lead early in the race. There was still a long way to go and with plenty of hills to tackle it was still unclear whether the alarm bells should have been ringing in the bunch.
No more breaks were being allowed out of the bunch and this results in the two lads ahead building a 2 minute lead by the time we got to Moneygall. Things kicked off in the bunch as they swung left onto Army Hill. Shane Scully was first to go and he forced Eoin O’Connell, Stephen Shanahan and Daniel Bresnan into action. The pace up Army hill was high with Eoin doing most of the work into a head wind. By the top there was a gap. The bunch had split into many different little groups. However, by Gortagarry the group of 20 or so had reformed coming onto the second climb of the day.
Up ahead, Mark had managed to distance Dermot on the climb and was opening up a nice gap. Dermot was in no mans land for a while and with the bunch closing in (+ not knowing the exact route!), he waited up for the bunch. On the Gortagarry climb, it was Eoin that once again pushed the pace. He strung out the bunch again but the elastic didn’t snap. A group of 20 came down into Toomevara and took the left over towards Seáníns. There wasn’t much of a chase happening in this bunch as very few were rolling over, with most just content to stay and at the back and save the energy for Seaníns. This allowed Mark to extend his lead. With the way he was moving, there would be no catching him now. Everyone else was vying for 2nd place.
On Seaníns, it looked like it was going to be a nice leisurely pace; that was until Henry Cooke put in a big dig on the outside and forced a chase (think he was just doing it for the laugh!). The tempo ramped up anyway and it was all out from there on. Once again it was Eoin O’Connell pacing the hill with Stephen, Shane and Dermot the only lads left. The 4 lads crested the top of the climb with a nice lead on the rest of the bunch and set about chasing down Mark.
Up ahead, Mark was well out of sight. Back behind, Denis Allen and Daniel Bresnan, Kenneth Kennedy and Mike Browne were going well, but on the final pull back to Nenagh, they were all reeled in by the remains of the bunch. Mark stayed away to the line to win convincingly by just under two minutes. Stephen won the sprint for 2nd ahead of Dermot with Eoin and Shane just behind.
It took another 20 minutes for all the rest of the cyclists to finally finish. Fair play to everyone for getting around this tough course and not giving in. The speeds here were as fast as you would see at many national races this year. It’s no shame if you couldn’t hang in there. At least you know where your form lies now. It’s up to you to kick on over the next few months as the season is only just about to begin.
Speed comparison: for those that are interested – the cycle today was 10 minutes faster than the winning time from last year. The average pace increased from 22.5 to over 24 mph. The standard is improving all the time. Just shows you how tough it was today.
Thanks to Bertie Sherlock and Sinead Kennedy for helping out at all the events.
That’s all folks, till next year.
Next up: Sunday lake cycle at 8:00am at Tescos. Recovery spin!