Newry Three Day

Ladies' Race

The club was delighted to field a women's team for this tough stage race. It was all smiles before the start for (from left to right) Aoife Reilly, Josephine Lynch, Jac Joel (mechanic), Bernard Collins (manager), Gráinne O'Callaghan and Áine Kelly.

The first stage was largely flat with one big hill about 15km from the end. Three of our riders made the first group, with Gráinne sprinting for first in the second group on the road.

The wind was blowing hard for the second stage, and the two strongest teams in the race both sent a rider up the road in what was an extremely tough stage, with a block headwind up the longest climb making it particularly tough for anyone who didn't have the shelter of a group. Gráinne got gapped and had to pull out. Josephine had a mechanical and had to dig deep to fight her way back to the bunch, which Áine and Aoife had held.

On Sunday there was a crash involving both Jo and Aoife, whose front rotar buckled so badly that the wheel didn't even do a full rotation when spun hand: they both finished in the bunch. Áine had a fantastic 6th place in the final stage, which ended on a savage 1km, 8% climb to Rathfriland village, and was 11th on GC.

Overall, it was a great achievement, and a superb bunch of ladies looking out for each other on and off the bike. Bring on Ràs na mBan, where manager Bernard Collins will again join the group.

Men's Race

Joe-Nathan Matar and Killian O'Brien, both Juniors with a string of strong recent results, represented the club in a field of 107 riders in this A2/A3 field.

After an uneventful first stage on Friday evening, the lit up the second stage with Killian and Ronan Killeen (Lucan) initiating the break of the day with over 50km still to go. Joe bridged over in the company of one other rider and the four rode very strongly to break the resolve of the chasing pack. When the gap got over one minute, the pack behind split and a group of seven broke off in pursuit. Killian calculated that his best chance of a win was to get a gap on the final hill. A strong attack gave him a 10 second gap which grew to 15 seconds on the short descent after that: he then had to cling on for the final 7km to the line, with a strong wind, with two heavier chasers working hard and Joe doing a great team-mate job to disrupt. It was risky, but it worked, and Killian crossing the line eight seconds ahead of the other three riders, and into yellow for the third and final stage. Joe held on for a strong fourth place, and his upgrade to A2.

Killian celebrates his win on stage 2 (Photo: Sharon McFarland)

Wearing the yellow jersey is a thrill, and lots of riders never get the opportunity. But it can be a real burden too. Come stage three there was nobody willing to work on the front, leaving Killian and Jo to do all the chasing for most of the day. A break got up the road with no dangerous riders in it, but the strong pacing meant the gap didn't grow beyond about 30 seconds for the first 50km. At that point Oisín Ferrity (only 38 seconds down) managed to bridge over on the Rathfriland climb, and the complexion of the race changed.

Stickbottle article on the stage here.

Joe-Nathan pacing the peloton, with a dangerous break up the road (Photo: Damian Faulkner)

Killian driving the pace in the yellow jersey. (Photo Damian Faulkner)

As the seven riders up front pressed on the advantage grew, and as the peloton regularly stalled and our riders got tired there was a real risk that they could plummet down the GC. They fought right to the end, with Killian the fastest of the peloton up the final hill to hold onto third place in GC by a mere 15 seconds from the break. Joe was only 30 seconds behind but finished outside the top 10. A real lesson in the importance of having a strong team when you have a jersey to defend, but an amazing weekend of racing for both of them.

Donore Races

Our other juniors were in action in Meath, at the Donore Races. On Saturday evening at the Peter Bidwell Memorial Race Patrick O'Sullivan was seventh in the with David Harrington second unplaced Junior. 

On Sunday at the Brendan Campbell Memorial Patrick was second unplaced junior. 

With the Junior Tour of Ireland only a week away, it looks like our Juniors are all coming into form ... roll on Tuesday in Clare!