In this latest update, Conor McAllister reports from the DMG Visit Nenagh Classic in Tipperary, and the Red Hand Trophy in Broughshane. (Picture courtesy of Darren Crawford).
DMG Visit Nenagh Classic
This race was a last minute decision as we had planned to ride the race in Drogheda, but after reading the race preview we decided it would be a shame to miss it.
The race was 96 miles with six categorised climbs, some of which peaked at a gradient of 20%. Before the start it was uncertain if the weather was going to hold out but sure enough when rolling down to the town for the official start the heavens opened. I stopped to get a gilet from the car and tried to stay warm.
The rain paused for a short time and we were off – I was prepared for a tough day in the saddle. The attacks were constant but nothing was successful until Leo and one other rider broke the elastic and started to pull away from the bunch gaining 20 seconds in a short time. Meanwhile back in the bunch I was making sure that the next move to go I would be in it.
I eventually got away with three riders; we had to really go into the red to get clear. After 15 miles we caught the two out in front and we all worked well together to build a lead of almost a minute going into the second climb of the day. The pace was set high to ensure we held our lead and my legs were feeling good so I decided to go for the points at the top for the King of the Hill (KOH) competition. I was first over the top but on the descent I realised that Leo had been distanced, there was no way back now he had to wait on the bunch.
We rode the rest of the race in team time trial formation, one line each doing 15 seconds on the front before swinging off and dropping to the back; this meant we got more time to recover in the slipstream.
With a constant fast pace we were reaping the benefits of a continually increasing time margin over the rest of the field growing to almost five minutes. I was climbing really well taking the next two KOH primes, unfortunately this was not to last as with approximately 65 miles covered I started to feel sick and I was losing strength in my legs.
I struggled to hold the wheels on the next climbs and on the last of the day I lost contact with the leaders, at this point there was 15 miles to go and the bunch were three minutes down but it was a strong headwind. When over the top it was a sharp descent onto the main road and the pain really kicked in. I was giving it everything but felt like I was going nowhere, if I could just manage to hold the bunch off.
The team car informed me that there were two riders 20 seconds behind me with seven miles to go and the gap was closing gradually. I had to make a decision; I took a breather and waited on them. When they caught me I knew we had to give it everything to stay ahead of the rest of the bunch.
Coming into Nenagh for the finish we had 20 seconds, the cat and mouse started but we had no time for this or we would be swamped so I opened it up for the sprint but the tough day in the break had taken its toll and the other two passed me just before the line.
I came across the line to take sixth and I can say that I will remember the race for a long time.
Red Hand Trophy
A full field lined up for the start at the Michelin Club and rolled out for the neutralised section. The race started just after Broughshane and after an initial nervous lull the racing kicked off.
No attacks really amounted to much because it was a headwind until Armoy, 16 miles into the race, when a group of four pushed ahead including fellow team rider Leo.
I stayed up towards the front of the bunch to follow any other riders trying to make it across but by the time we got to Ballycastle the gap to the leaders was out to one minute. Unfortunately due to a mechanical problem Leo had to stop and was not able to make it back to the front group. When I realised what had happened and Leo was back in the bunch I went to the front to try and bring the break back.
It was a fast descent off the top of the climb at the vanishing lakes making our way over the viaduct towards Cushendall. Leo and other team rider Kyle made their way to the front and kept the pace high all the way to the detour at Garron Tower, where the road started to go up again, leading to a split of five riders forging ahead. We all rode up and over to try and maintain the gap to the bunch but they caught us before we swung onto the last climb of the day at Carnlough.
I attacked at the bottom and lined out the group and then swung over to the other side of the rode to see if it was splitting up but it was just one long line, I eased up and another rider attacked, I knew this was the move to go with so I put a big effort in to ride across.
Three of us rode over the top together and we knew we had to give it everything to stay ahead of the bunch. The speed rarely dropped below 30mph and before long we were coming round the last corner. I was keeping a close eye on the other riders and when one of them started the sprint I was straight on the wheel and timed it well to win the sprint and take third.
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