Kanturk 3 Day 2023: Race report

With 4 stages over three days in the wilds of North Cork, the Kanturk 3 Day is one of the leading stage races for A2 and A3 riders in Ireland. The Orwell team of three juniors (Joe-Nathan Matar, David Harrington and Killian O'Brien) and one seasoned ... non-junior (Cahir O'Higgins) had a roller-coaster ride.

Stage 1

With 94km on a course with one big hill per lap, the race was active from the start. A big break of 10 eventually formed, with 7 juniors including Killian and two of the big favourites for the race: Conor Prendergast (Galway Bay) and Liam O'Brien (Fermoy). The gap held at a minute for a long time but then ballooned out to over four minutes by the end. The break worked well together until the final big hill when Killian and three others broke clear, with their gap growing to a minute at one point. It was raced very fast, with the average speed well over 41kmh despite 1,000m of climbing. The long descent favoured the heavier riders behind, though, and they were reeled in with under 10km to go. Killian was third around the final corner, but the rider whose wheel he was on lost momentum, dragging him back to the group as Conor Prendergast soloed to the win, with Killian getting up for a strong fifth place finish.

Stage 2

The following morning came in individual TT: 7.78km on a very slight incline with a small headwind that got up just before the start. Unlike in Gorey, TT bikes were allowed, and there was a LOT of fancy gear on show! The stage was taken by Liam O'Brien, just over a second ahead of Conor Prendergast with junior Cal Tutty (another Junior, from Dungarvan) in third, all within two seconds of each other. The next rider was nearly 30 seconds back, highlighting the strength of the favourites!

Joe-Nathan put his triathlon experience to use with a huge ride for 10th place at 59 seconds, while Killian (in his first ever ride on a TT bike: thanks for the loan, Bernard!) was 18th at 1:10, and David (with a strong showing on a normal bike) in 24th at 1:36.

Killian lost a couple of GC places to 9th, with Joe-Nathan in 13th, just over 5 minutes back.

Stage 3

A rolling stage looked set for some breakaway action, and so it proved. With all the jersey holders marking each other out, a strong break of six got up the road early and pulled out over a minute advantage. Killian put in a strong solo attack: Cahir saw the potential and bridged over to him, with the two closing the gap to the leaders to 35 seconds, but couldn't get any closer. Another four riders pinged off the front, including Joe-Nathan and when the two groups merged, they started making a real impact, pulling away from the main field and dragging back the remnants of the early break, which was now down to three riders.

With three Orwell riders in this group of 12 and the full group riding strongly to the end (with Killian needing a minute and a half to be a real GC contender, Cahir didn't tell the whole group that their lead was growing out ... good teamwork there!), the gains were huge. The finish was a 500m hill, and the group blew to pieces: Killian fell two seconds short of a stage win in fourth place, with Cahir and Joe-Nathan six seconds back in 8th and 11th.

In terms of GC, Killian was now fifth, and second junior (the leading junior in the break of the day, Willem O'Connor, lost 12 of the seconds he had gained in the TT in the final, to leave him a tantalising 3 seconds ahead of Killian), with Joe-Nathan in 7th and Cahir in 10th.

Joe-Nathan, Cahir and Killian after stage 3

Stage 4

We were all worried about the 1km of deep gravel on each lap of a flat circuit, which was to be raced 7 times. As it happened, this was safely negotiated but 1km later there was a huge crash in the bunch Joe-Nathan was down and a bit bloodied and took a couple of minutes to extricate himself and get a bike change before being paced back towards the race. The first group he got to included Killian, who we discovered had also been down. This group made it back to the peloton after a 3k+km chase, at which point Killian realised that his (new) bike frame was completely broken. A bike change and another pacing effort got him back in the bunch. Joe-Nathan, in particular, worked very hard on the last lap to minimise the gaps to the break of the day: the four riders in it were all over 3 minutes back, but the gap had got out to more than 2 minutes at one stage, and they were desparate to preserve GC. Battered and on ill-fitting bikes there was no chance for Killian to gain the three seconds he needed, so most of the bunch rolled in together. David had a fine sprint to finish 4th in the bunch and 11th on the stage.

In the final GC, both Joe-Nathan and Cahir lost one place to finish 8th and 11th, while Killian held his fifth overall. The team were pipped to the Team prize by a mere 18 seconds by the larger Dungarvan team, who had some slightly better stage placings, despite our final GC placings.

An amazing race: spoiled but not completely ruined by the expensive (in terms of time, and gear) crash on the final stage.

Killian accepting his prize for fifth place overall

Huge thanks for Leinster Cycling for the use of their car in the cavalcade -- we would have had two non-finishers (nearly 30 riders DNF in Stage 4 because of the crash) without it.