With local road races now coming thick and fast and VC Iveagh competing in most, we take an in-depth look at each race with the VC Iveagh riders giving their own unique perspective on events. This time it was the turn of the Spires GP on satruday 5th March followed the next day by the McCann Cup. VC Iveagh had three riders take part with Dan Gordon racing the A3 category in the Spires GP and both Neil Seffen and Mervyn McKeown taking part in the McCann Cup. All three riders are pushing the limits at this early stage of the season and we have seen great strides in these opening race weeks. In fact, VC Iveagh very nearly clinched its first podium finish of the year in the guise of our VET Mervyn McKeown, Mervyn just missed out on a top three placing in the McCann cup due to a crash in the final sprint for the line. Read more about all the guys’ races below:
With the Spires GP only being my second race of the season, I was in a bit of an unknown as to where my training was at. So after the long drive up to Ballyronan, the usual sign on process and the non-stop running to the nearest hedge I started my warm up. With a strong northerly wind, full winter gear was the order of the day.
Once the whistle blew it was ‘race on’ from the word go, the usual pre race chat was if we worked together we could hold scratch off, but too many of us knew that was too big an ask. After the first lap, the race settled down and tried numerous times to get away in a break but nothing worked for more than half a lap. I then decided to sit in the bunch, tried to regain some energy and waited until scratch caught. Unfortunately they caught us even quicker than anticipated so any wishful thinking of catching my breath was gone. Once the big guns bridged the pace went through the roof, I managed to hold my ground and got onto the wheel of the eventual runner up from NDCC. We pulled out a gap of 30 -40 seconds were we where then joined by eventual winner Adam Armstrong. Sadly for me I was spent and couldn’t hang on, so it was back to the bunch for the finish.
All in all, I was perhaps slightly frustrated not to hold on in the break as they stayed away to the end, but I can take some positives that my legs are coming round again. So it’s now on wards to the next race.
On Sunday 6 March the roads around Fintona saw almost 400 cyclists compete in five category races in the McCann Cup organised by Omagh Wheelers. In excess of 30 Masters were first of, heading out from Carnalea Bridge towards Seskinore at a steady pace which rose to exceed 27 mph. With three laps of the 10 mile circuit to be negotiated, it was clear from the start the race would be hotly contested by all involved. My thoughts went back to last year when the McCann Cup was my first ever road race and what a baptism of fire that was. Last year I hung on to the main group for the best part of the first lap and then went of the back, all I could do was watch the peloton disappear into the distance. I was adamant this would not happen again, although the fast start had me hoping I could just manage to hang on to the finish.
The 3 laps saw a number of riders attempt a break but it was not to be and the group wheeled them in before any real advantage was gained. The peloton rolled on with regular and sudden increases in pace, followed by a steadier pace giving an average speed in excess of 22 mph for the 30 mile race. Having raced with Brian Hannon, Banbridge CC last year, my own personal race plan was to keep a close eye on Brian and move when he moved. The second lap saw Brian leading off the front with a single file of about 8 or 9 riders, watching from the middle of the group I thought this could be the start of a breakaway but thankfully it didn’t develop into anything. Through the start finish for the last time saw the peloton hit speeds above 38 mph on the way to Seskinore. The last few miles saw most riders jockeying for position on the run in towards the finish line, sticking to the race plan I needed to make up a few places to be anywhere near Brian in the sprint for the finish, race plans are like dreams at times and would be lovely if they came true.
Past the 3 Km marker and things are heating up, 1 Km to go and my thoughts turn to last year’s race brief by Sean at Velo Cafe Magasin, ‘if there’s no head wind the break for the finish could start six or seven hundred yards out’. Starting to make my way up through the field and the pace seriously increased on the final climb before the dash for the finish line, just over the top the race was on. Downhill into the finish passing the 500m marker I’m thinking I’m not doing too badly but it’s still a long way to go, 200 odd meters and the guy beside me goes down. The sprint is on at full speed and at 50m I can only see one rider in front of me, meters from the line a few streaks of black and white, were did they come from? Race was won by Alan Roper, Phoenix CC with Vincent Drain and Desmond Dillon, Dunloy CC, taking second and third. I came home in fifth place a vast improvement on last year.
My thoughts are with those hurt during yesterday’s race wishing them a speedy recovery and return to the road racing circuit.
With this being an A3 only race, I looked forward to racing against competitors of similar ability and having the chance to actually mix it up for change instead of everyone waiting for the catch by the A1/2 group and the inevitable attacks off the front as the ‘big hitters’ tried to whittle the group down. However, someone forgot to inform me that almost every top junior rider from the North decided to participate in the McCann Cup A3 race.
Well from the whistle the attacks started off the front and that was just me…I should have known better! As the race developed, it took on the format of a nice steady 22-25mph with riders rolling through taking their turn on the front and then the attack from behind as 2 or 3 riders chanced their luck with a breakaway up the road. This in turn meant the group accelerated to chase them down and once the catch was made the whole process was repeated…this only lasted for 60 miles!!! Throughout the race, a couple of breaks almost stuck; 2 riders from rival Omagh teams (Caldwell & Omagh Wheelers) made a good effort, staying away for over a lap. On the penultimate lap I happened to find myself up the road again, not on purpose but only because I was on the front of the group and managed to bridge across to the other 5 riders, only on glancing behind did I realise that we had a good couple of hundred meters gap. But my legs were playing up and as I wrestled with cramps the group was reeled back in.
On the bell for the last lap, a significant group established itself up the road and at one stage I reckon there was about 20 riders in it, most notably the number one ranked junior rider from 2015 Jake Grey. They had about 30-40 seconds lead on the main peloton with 13kms to go, but with lots of riders prepared to go to front & chase it down, the breakaway was caught within 5kms of the finish.
The finish was hectic and a new finish for me as I haven’t done this race since 2014. With closed roads for the final 3kms, the peloton took the full of the road and with everyone vying for position it was elbows out and keep that position. However it didn’t matter as Grey finished where he left off last season and crossing in first place. I crossed the line just outside the top 20, but enjoyed every painful minute!