Stage 4 - The battle for Pink and Yellow go to the wire
The Spar Tour of Omagh has delivered yet another “Super Sunday” with exciting racing and a nail biting finish. A grey but dry morning with the potential for rain added to the tension in the air as the final stage started. There were many questions to be answered – In the A4 race, given so many riders were in contention could a rider or team control of the race or would it be decided on the roads above Gortin.
In the ladies race there were even more questions; could the powerhouse that was Ballymena ride te legs of the other GC riders and potentially expose any weaknesses, would one of the other GC riders decide to give it a lash or would the Cycling Leinster Ladies provide a repeat of their 2018 attempts to win the final stage. In the battle for the W3 jersey would a strong Cycling Ulster team be able put the present holder in the red and snatch the jersey for leader Laura Wylie. An enthralling morning of racing was to provide us with all the answers.
The A4 race began as another cagey affair with attempted breaks quickly snuffed out. The usual contenders Mc Kenny (Emyvale) and Mc Cauley (Strabane Lifford) fought out the first KOH prime and as the race progressed beyond Castlederg, it looked like Lenamore was going to decide the fate of the Yellow Jersey. Nicky Gormley from Carn had other ideas and after a number of attempts the second on the GC was to get away, unfortunately for him he had the yellow jersey for company (Fallon UCD). They were to forge ahead and establish a 90 second lead on the bunch as they approached lenamore. This was to prove decisive and although Gormley won the stage in the sprint young Fallon was to win the GC and the coveted yellow jersey by a mere two seconds. Ciaran Mguire from Harps led the chase to fill the podium. James mc Kenny from Emyvale showed a climber instinct to take the Polka dots and Fallon was also to take the Young riders jersey with Harps winning the team prize.
With the A4 finished it was over to the women and they didn’t disappoint, in fact throughout the weekend their race was as good as any stage race in Ireland this year it had everything and Sunday was to prove no different. As the race commenced the Ulster team went straight to the front and with assistance from Newry began to real drive this group on. Experience cyclists like Julie Rea gusting for Newry key in organising the effort. The W1/2 group started at a leisurely pace, “A Sunday Coffee spin” according to commissaire Tommy Mc Cague. Laura Campbell found herself of the front and decided to put the head down and “give it a go”. Her Ballymena team mates were happy to let her go and leave the chase to other teams. Laura was to extend her lead on this group to just over two minutes but never really make any inroads on the W3 group who continued to race hard.
The commissaries and moto marshal were superb in running regular time checks and keeping all groups involved. In fact this galvanised the W3 group who down towards Victoria Bridge kept up a relentless pace and by the time they reached the second QOH prime they had a lead of over 6 minutes on the W1/2 group. The Irish women’s commission had also joined the effort in the knowledge that their leader Nikki Taggart was now in the virtual pink jersey and that a real shock could be on the cards.
As the W1/2 group turned towards Victoria Bridge the pace suddenly increased with the GC contender realising the virtual Pink jersey was now up the road.
On the second QOH the W1 group were to catch the valiant Campbell, this though is a gutsy rider and to help her team she was to attack again on the climb pushing rider out the back. As they turned at Newtownstewart the time to the W3 group had halved and the race was well and truly on. This group contained all the GC contenders bar Yvonne Doran (Leinster) who had regrouped with her team less than a minute behind. They were working hard to get her back on but their effort was in vain and she was to finish in the second chase group almost two minute down.
As the race approached Gortin and Lenamore the W1/2 group was really driving on and the gap to the W3 group was rapidly falling and Lenamore was to prove crucial. On the foot of the climb four riders from the W3 were to go clear: Wylie and Kelly (Ulster) Taggart (Women’s Commission) and Havern (Newry) with the Ulster Girls attempting take time of Taggart in the battle for the W3 jersey. Meanwhile in behind a select group of W1/2 riders (GC Contenders) were also on the climb and less than 30 seconds behind.
On the descent Wylie (Ulster) was to go it alone and with the rest of the W3 group on swallowed up by the W1/2 group we witnessed a superb battle for stage victory and the pink jersey. Wylie was to be rewarded and was to claim a stunning stage victory holding of a charging chase by just 11 seconds.
Louise Hart (TC Racing) was the first to from this group with both stage and GC in mind she was to attack just beyond the 1km mark on the drag to the finish. She was to be caught in the last 10m with Smyth winning the sprint for second and Hughes (Westport) in third and claiming some crucial bonus seconds, in fact with Claffey(UCD) in the pink jersey just behind her on the stage the four second bonus awarded to Hughes was to see her clinch the pink jersey by just 2 seconds.
The determine Taggart was to cling to the back of the chase group and win the first ever W3 jersey while the UCD team who so gallantly defended the pink jersey but saw it snatched at the line were to be rewarded as Claffey retained the Polka Don’t jersey.
What a race, The W3 group must be given heaps of praise for their efforts in identifying the inactivity in the W1/2 group and have the courage to really have a go
Well done to all the ladies who entertained us this weekend.
Stage 3 - Fantastic Bird “Flies” for Solo Victory
The summer weather was to continue into the afternoon as the riders faced stage 3 and two demanding climbs through the village of Carrickmore.
This years A4 race is proving to be a really cagey affair with most attacks quickly covered. In today stage the climbs through Carrickmore would see James Kenny strengthen his grip on the Polka dot Jersey although with some great climbing tomorrow Jay Mc Auley from Strabane Lifford could still claim this jersey.
Once the climbs were completed the race settled into the same pattern with attacks quickly chased down although Niall Mc Shane (Foyle CC) and Barry o Hagan (Dunloy) who eked out a 26 second lead before being caught, Mc Shane was to go again but was caught approaching the final mile. In the sprint Jamie Mc Mahon (DB Cycling) was the victor with Duncan Halliday (Errigal) again on the podium and Paul Little (Breffni Wheelers) completing the podium.
In the GC Davoren Fallon continues in Yellow with Hallidays bonus second seeing him leapfrog Gormley into second in the GC. Overall this is still a very tight race with as many as forty riders still in contention.
In the afternoon the ladies served up a real treat, with attacking, chasing, some brilliant team riding and then a fantastic solo effort for stage victory. The action was furious from the get go with in the W1/2 group Laura Campbell from Ballymena attacking at the flag, she was to take Louise Hart (TC Racing) with her but although they managed to get a 15 second lead they were soon caught by a bunch led by Cycling Leinster and Westport. This early flurry of activity was to see the deficit to the W3 group reduce to under 50 seconds after just 7 miles. The W3 group though had other ideas and just after Beragh Ulster riders Laura Wylie and Ciara Kelly were to launch of the front. A furious chase within the W3 group was to see the lead to the W1/2 group quickly extend to over 2 minutes. This though was just the warm up, as the race approached Carrickmore and Malahbui for the first time, Ulster Riders Wylie and Kelly were joined by Ciara Haveran (Newry) to launch of the front again. This time they were to establish a considerable lead which at one stage was in advance of 90 seconds. In behind as the W1/2 group were cresting Malahbui the race was to split up into 5 groups. The three W3 riders held their own in front with a chase of W3 rider in pursuit with the main GC protagonists just behind. These two groups were to merge as the race approached Creggan and the chase began in earnest. As the group approached the turn to take them back to Carrickmore for a second time the W1/2 riders almost had the race back together with Ballymena riders Smyth and Burns to the fore. The groups were to merge shortly after.
The race was to split again and as they approached the Gap Ballroom there were numerous groups on the road. The GC contenders and jersey holders were in or near the front but the W3 leader had dropped back and it looked like Cycling Ulster and Wylie had eyes on this Jersey.
As the race approached Carrickmore for a second time, the dynamic changed again as Sharon Bird from Ballymena was to forge clear and very quickly establish a 1 minute lead. Her team mates in the chase group were able to disrupt the chase significantly to allow their team mate establish a 1 minute 30 second lead and then solo to a well-deserved stage victory. Her team mate Smyth was second on the stage with Hughes (Westport) sprinting for third.
With Bird soloing to victory the focus turned to the battle for the GC and the W3 jersey. Maura Claffey showed some real guts in holding on to the pink jersey and the Women’s Commission team did a fine job in regrouping and bringing their leader Taggart back into the main chase as the group approached the last 5kms.
So as a result, the GC remains close with seven riders still with 35 seconds and as a result of a brilliant team effort Taggart will start the final stage in the W3 Jersey.
Its all to play for in the final stage and with the fearsome lenamore road and Gortin Glens in the final 15 Kms it promises to be an exciting final stage.
Stage 2 - Burns and Gormley Claim TT stage Victories
A beautiful summer morning greeted the cyclist for a 2-mile TT on the second morning of the Three Day. This TT is completed on road bikes only with no aero aids creating a level playing field. This didn’t deter Eileen Burns who stormed to the third fastest time on the day and the win in the women’s TT. She was closely followed by Hillary Hughes (Westport) and over night leader Maura Claffey (UCD) in third. Burns Ballymena team mate Sharon Bird was to ride a super TT and place fourth.
In the other battle Laura Wylie (Ulster) was to claw back some of the time she lost to Nikki Taggart (Women’s Commission) on the first stage.
In the GC after the TT it couldn’t have been closer with Claffey holding a slender 4 second lead to Burns and Hughes a further 2 seconds back. There was a further four riders within 36 seconds all with chances as the afternoon approached
In the A4 race the TT first and second were separate by 0.67 of a second with Nicky Gormley of Carn Wheelers just pipping the yellow jersey holder Davoren Fallon (DCU) and Duncan Halliday (Errigal) some 13 seconds behind in third. After stage 2 the GC still remains a close run affair with Gormley and Halliday in second and third both within 10 seconds of Fallon who would wear yellow again in the afternoon stage. The GC was still wide open with 25/26 riders within 38 second so still all to play for.
Tour of Omagh – Stage 1 Report
A warm, humid evening greeted the riders on the opening stage of the 2019 Edition of the Tour of Omagh.
The A4 race was first away and was to prove a cagey affair with all early moves covered. The first real action was on the first KOH in Killen with James Mc Kenny from Emyvale heading Jay Mc Cauley from Strabane Lifford. James was to complete a clean sweep of the KOH with Jay also gathering valuable points on each climb.
The race was to remain together until the end with Duncan Halliday from Errigal CC winning the sprint with Davoren Fallon (DCU) and Shane Mc Govern (Smugglers) rounding out the stage 1 podium.
The Women’s race was to prove a much more exciting affair. The W3 group set of with a two-minute start on the W1/W2 group. As the groups approached Drumquin the chase group had only taken twenty seconds from the W3 group. This was all to change on the climb before Castlederg with the chase group closing the gap down to a matter of seconds as they approached the first of the Queen of the Hill . The action on these climbs, and in particular Scraghey, proving crucial. At the bottom of Scraghey four riders Katherine Smyth (Ballymena), Maura Claffey (UCD), Lucy O’Donnell (Kanturk) and Louise Hart (TC Racing) were to surge clear. They were quickly joined by Eileen Burns (Ballymena), Yvonne Doran (Leinster) Hillary Hughes (Westport) and Nikki Taggart (Irish Women’s Commission). These riders very quickly established a 1min 30 Second lead. Cycling Ulster the only team with no one rider in the break were leading the chase but to no avail.
This strong group were to push on and by the finish establish a lead of 3mins 20 Seconds. Maura Claffey of UCD was to win the sprint just pipping the impressive TC rider Hart on the line. Junior Lucy o Donnell was to finish a fine third. Nikki Taggart was to loose time on the lead group in the closing stage but in finishing just over two minute of the chase group will wear the new W3 jersey on tomorrow morning stage.
Tomorrow morning the riders face a 2.1 mile TT and then tomorrow afternoon the rider will venture towards Carrickmore and the mighty Malabhui (twice) before heading back towards Omagh.
Stage 1 – A4
Stage 1 – Women’s