Jack Wilson takes his first win for the An Post-Chainreaction team at the second stage of the Suir Valley Three Day this morning (Photo: www.blackumbrellaphotography.com)
Sam Bennett holds a 16-second advantage over Dillon Byrne (Maxgear Champions System) going into the final stage of the Suir Valley Three-Day tomorrow, Monday.
The An Post Chain Reaction rider has been in brilliant form over the last two days of the race and though he hasn’t actually won any of the three stages to date, he’s made all the right breaks and is the man to beat.
It’s going to be anything but straightforward for him, however, because the top 11 riders on general classification are separated by just one minute. And with seven teams represented amongst the top 10, Bennett will need to be alert over tomorrow’s 130km test from Clonmel to summit finish atop The Nire.
That final leg is going to be a real test as it features two nasty category two climbs in the shape of The Vee and Colligan, as well as the race’s only category one finish, that being the finish of the race after 130 kilometres.
But Bennett is in awesome form and showed that today when he soloed across a 40-second gap to a chase group on testing roads close to his home. And when he closed that gap, he drilled a furious pace at the front to maximise the time gained on his rivals.
Today’s second stage, a morning 92kilometre trek starting and finishing in Clonmel, was won by Bennett’s An Post Chain Reaction team-mate Jack Wilson from Ed Laverty (Rapha Condor JLT) and Art McManusa (South Dublin) after they had been part of a 16-man group that jumped away with around 25km to go.
After them 20 seconds later came that Bennett-led group, with the main peloton another 50 seconds or so further back.
Tonight, Sunday, saw the riders tackle a criterium race around the streets of Clonmel, won by Shane Archbold (An Post-Chainreaction). But all the main contenders finished on the same time, meaning no shake up in GC.
Felix English (Rapha Condor JLT) took second in the crit from Bennett, with Paidi O’Brien (Planet Tri), Sean Downey (An Post-Chainreaction) and Barry Meade (Planet Tri) filling the minor placings.
One rider who Bennett and his team really need to keep an eye on tomorrow is former An Post-Sean Kelly professional O’Brien, now riding with amateur team Planet Tri Racing.
O’Brien won yesterday’s opening stage and currently lies fifth overall at 53 seconds. And with a strong team around him – Eddie Barry is in 10th at one minute – he could yet swoop in to win a race that has eluded him so far in his career.
Hugh Carthy (Rapha Condor JLT) is in third is another who has every chance, as he is just 16 seconds down. So while An Post-Chainreaction are holding all the cards, it is still all to play for.
Get up the yard: Paidi O’Brien was a clear winner of the opening stage of the Suir Valley Three Day in Clonmel today; beating Sam Bennett into second with the very promising Marcus Christie in third place (Photo courtesy of Suir Valley Three Day)
By Brian Canty –
Paidi O’Brien has taken a brilliant win on the opening stage of the Suir Valley Three Day in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, this afternoon, outsprinting Sam Bennett and Marcus Christie at the end of a gruelling 115-kilometre day.
O’Brien (Planet Tri) timed his effort perfectly on the fast run-in to the finish to give himself the perfect confident booster ahead of the remaining two days, and a nice little fillip just a month before his wedding next month.
The Banteer man, who has been struggling with a knee injury of late, played it so intelligently coming into the line, allowing Christie lead it out, before leaving it late on Bennett, who to his credit, had an enormous ride and spent most of the day in the break – so that possibly came against him in the dash for the line.
Bennett does have the yellow jersey (and Mountains) however, as he swept up most of the time bonuses available throughout the day while the An Post Chain Reaction team also have the pink jersey (Hot Spot Leader) through Ronan McLaughlin.
Felix English (Rapha Condor JLT) had been in a long breakaway with Bennett all day and wears the Most Aggressive Rider jersey in memory of the late Paul Healion. Daire O’Sullivan (Usher IRC) holds the Blue A2 jersey while Jake Kelly ( Isle of Man ) has the Red jersey as best placed A3 rider.
Today’s opener in conditions that ranged from glorious to horrendous, was an aggressive one and from the gun there were attacks out of Clonmel as the race headed back for Kilsheelan and Carrick on Suir with the aid of a tailwind.
That helped keep the pace high and the first hour saw an average speed of over 47 kilometres per hour and unsurprisingly, very little managed to get away, despite several attempts.
Each dig off the front was conspicuous by the presence of the Planet Tri team, as well as the Rapha Condor and An Post Chain Reaction teams, with several combinations forming before a five-man escape edged clear, with Paidi O’Brien in there with Ronan McLaughlin, Jack Wilson, Bennett and English.
Not long after, Eddie Barry (Planet Tri) bridged with several others, among them were Sean Lacey, and two more Rapha Condor JLT riders and at one point, there were nine up front, with Barry Meade and Mick Storan (Planet Tri) also in the thick of it.
The next, and most sustained break came when Bennett and English took off alone and were out front for over 50 kilometres, with the gap fluctuating but only getting above a minute briefly, before the cars were subsequently pulled out.
English dropped back, while Bennett was joined by Christie and O’Brien and they worked well together. Behind, a chase group of seven formed with around 20 kilometres to go and in it were many of the of the big favourites, Mark Dowling, Ryan Sherlock (both Polygon Sweet Nice) and Ronan McLaughlin (An Post Chain Reaction), to name but a few.
Behind them, another little group broke off the front with Jack Wilson and Sean Downey in there, as well as Eddie Barry, and the Eurocycles pair of Bryan McCrystal and Conor Murphy.
The first chase group worked well and limited their losses to 36 seconds while the second chase came in 1.20 down with the bunch just 50 seconds further back.
Tomorrow sees the riders tackle a relatively flat 92-kilometre morning stage which is likely to end in a bunch sprint while tomorrow night’s criterium should have a similar outcome.
“If you had told me last Friday that I was going to win the Suir Valley I would have laughed at you.”
Barry Twohig on his way to 7th place in yesterday’s hill climb TT (Photo: www.tipperaryphotos.com)
By Brian Canty
It’s easily one of the shocks of the season to date and Barry Twohig could hardly believe it either when he won the Suir Valley 3-Day stage race in Clonmel today after one of the most exciting finishes the race has ever seen.
In 2008 Ciarán Power won by a mere second from Sean Lacey and there have been close finishes ever since but today’s finale will surely rank up there with anything that has gone before.
Twohig from Blarney CC, not yet a veteran rider but fast approaching it, went into today’s 115kilometre final stage in fourth place, trailing overnight leader Ryan Sherlock (Cycleways) by 48 seconds.
In between were Darren Bell (Isle of Man) and Sean Lacey (Dan Morrissey/Speedy Spokes) but Twohig was not perceived as any major threat – and that’s by his own admission.
But what happened was truly incredible when he broke away early on in a group of 12 riders and before long they had over a minute on the peloton which contained the top three on GC.
But still they wouldn’t chase those out front. In that front group of riders were (besides Twohig,) Paddy Clarke (Terra Footwear) UCD duo Colm Cassidy and Con Collis, Simon Ryan (Visit Nenagh/Team DMG) -who was well placed for an assault on the points jersey, two Isle of Man riders Jonathan Creegan and Jake Kelly, Brian Hart (Limerick), Mark Power (Dungarvan CC), Paidi O’Brien (Dan Morrissey/Speedy Spokes), Chris Reilly (Cycling Leinster) and Fiachra O’Mhuire (DID Dunboyne).
They worked very well together and by the 20k mark they had 1.39 over an 8 man chase group that held contenders Martin Mizjayski (Iverk Produce Carrick wheelers) and Michael Hennessy (Fermoy CC).
But the gap held for over 60 kilometres before it started to dwindle when the UCD duo punctured within a kilometre of each other and it soon became 10 out front and 10 behind with Sherlock, Lacey and Bell still in the peloton at a staggering three minutes.
On 65 kilometres the two front groups merged with Twohig still as leader on the road by two seconds from Clarke and Mizjayski a further seven seconds back.
Then on the climb of Aherlow that group of 20 exploded under the furious pace set by O’Mhuire and Creegan at the front. On the descent and with less than 30 k to go it was an 11 man group that formed with nine chasers.
Again, Twohig, Clarke and Polish national Mizjayski were unshakeable as they maintained a steady tempo – the bunch were still at over three minutes.
Approaching the 10 kilometre to go mark, Anthony Walsh of UCD, who was part of the original chase group attacked off the front and went in search of the stage win – and possibly more as he only lay 2 minutes off the overall win. But with 11 chasing him it was always going to be difficult – but it didn’t stop him putting in a decent effort and with 1kilometre to go he was still away, with O’Mhuire close behind and the break at 10 seconds.
Such narrow margins provoked an attack from the peloton behind and in a three man group was Darren Bell who started the day second overall and closing fast on the break.
He has 48 seconds over Twohig at the start of the stage and closed to just over a minute with a couple of kilometres to go, meaning he was 12 seconds away from re-taking the yellow jersey.
But his team-mates in the break weren’t to know and they began drilling it at the front – which undoubtedly ruined Bell’s chances.
At the left-turn at the roundabout it all happened. Twohig, Clarke and Mizjayski were all together. Clare needed two seconds on Twohig to win, Mizjayski needed seven on both while Twohig just had to finish in the same time as both.
Walsh and O’Mhuire imploded within sight of the line as Paidi O’Brien rocketed around everyone for the win but Twohig did what he needed to and clung to Clarke with the Pole in his slipstream.
He did it, by the skin of teeth and could barely articulate what a relief the finish line was.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” said Twohig.” I am shocked as well because I only came up doing it for training for the Charleville 2-day in September. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to finish it because I’m kind of busy with work next week and I was going to take today off.
“I’m absolutely f***** shocked that I’m in this position because I haven’t done much training all year,” he continued. “ I do two days training a week because that’s all I can manage with work. I’m just absolutely delighted.
“I started the year as an A4 and I’m probably an A1 now after this! I don’t know too much about the point scoring system but I probably have enough to become an A1 now.
“The legs are tired, man I was hanging for the last 20k. I think if Paddy Clarke or the Polish guy knew what state I was in and if they worked me over I would have been gone a long time ago.
“My legs were absolutely killing me on the Aherlow, I did everything I could to hang onto Paddy Clarke. I was absolutely flat out and over my limit and I didn’t know how long the climb was but some guy at the side of the road shouted ‘next corner’. I was on my breaking point at that stage but there was only a few metres to go and I was definitely at my cracking point.
“I was familiar with the road but I didn’t know how far up the finish and I really had to dig deep there. I didn’t really think about the Polish guy, he was seven seconds behind me and I knew he wouldn’t take that on the hill (up to the finish). But he was very strong, he took five or six seconds out of me last night on the hill climb and he’s very aggressive as well.”
A popular winner for sure and a surprise one for certain.
“To be honest, this is a complete surprise to me. If you had told me last Friday that I was going to win the Suir Valley I would have laughed at you. But I was lucky with the first break on Saturday. It means an awful lot to me. Back in the day, I was in the era of Ciarán Power and I kind of grew up racing with Mark Scanlon who was world junior champion.
“I suffered this weekend and I’ll pay for this when I go back to work but I’m massively proud and this gives me huge satisfaction. I’m absolutely delighted.”