|1||Mark Kane||Dave Kane||Men||00:21:55||27.38|
|2||Robin Millar||Ards CC||Men||00:23:17||25.77|
|5||Enda Marron||Dave Kane||Men||00:24:12||24.79|
|5||Davy Fowler||Dave Kane||Men||00:24:12||24.79|
|12||Martin Drennan||Ards CC||Men||00:25:16||23.75|
|13||Richard Graham||Dave Kane||Men||00:25:26||23.59|
|14||John Topping||Dave Kane||Men||00:25:32||23.50|
|21||James Lemon||Pen Tri||Men||00:26:30||22.64|
|24||Adam Preece||NDCC||U16 Boys||00:26:55||22.29|
|30||Nathan Keown||NDCC||U14 Boys||00:29:09||20.58|
|32||Adam Bones||NDCC||U14 Boys||00:33:57||17.67|
|33||Finn Hackett||Dave Kane||U12 Boys||00:38:20||15.65|
|35||Colin Wilson||Ards CC||Men||DNF|
Rather than beginning at the start line I would have to say that my Tour of Omagh journey began at Harrisons, our coffee stop during the Cloughey run in early June. When I heard Johnny Webb asking if anyone would like to take part in the three day race, I knew it wasn’t an opportunity that I could pass up.
Preparing for the race I increased my training by putting in more miles and increasing the intensity and pace of my training to ensure that I was at a high fitness level. I also bought some new equipment including an aero helmet and a new set of wheels.
My main concern for the race was that I wouldn’t be at a good enough level to keep up with the other riders. I wasn’t overly worried about crashing as I didn’t want to have the thought of it going through my head and distracting me during the races.
As a team we experienced our fair share of setbacks. Johnny was promoted after coming 2nd at the Groucho’s GP. Then unfortunate accidents meant that we lost our women’s team. Finally under doctor’s orders we lost our team member Paul Kirk, which meant that our final team consisted of Peter Doggart, Stephen Cousins, Kieran Beattie and I, with Noel Boyce as our manager keeping us in check.
Johnny still played a crucial role in the team and we thank him for all his hard work in helping us overcome our early setbacks, entering us into the race and booking our accommodation.
On the journey down to Omagh, Noel gave us our team talk and team plan for the weekend. As I was the team leader the plan was that the guys would work to help and protect me to give me the best chance of winning the GC. As this could mean them sacrificing their own weekend of racing I felt enormous pressure to do well and make the team proud. Thankfully Kieran’s banter on the bus had us all laughing and relaxed those nerves a bit!
When we arrived at Omagh we had a short coffee and pit stop, followed by a reconnaissance of the first stage to get a fair idea of what to expect and what the climbs where like. We all felt good about the stages and it didn’t look too challenging. I made notes of landmarks where the sprints and King of the Hills where located.
Stage One (Friday 30th June 44 miles)
After getting changed into the club kit and coming down the stairs to the meeting points I was soon standing in the sea of cyclists, scanning and seeking out the competition. At this point I really started to feel nervous.
The women set off first, five minutes before we did. Then the lead out car counted us down from 10 – 0 and with a click-click-click of the gears we set off.
The first Stage One sprint was roughly 6 miles in from the start and after the ’1k to go’ countdown sign there was a complete scramble for the first points and seconds. Following that was the first King of the Hill which I pushed hard for. Unfortunately as I was in front the other competitors put into place some ‘cat and mouse’ tactics and I was overtaken around the last 50 metres. I put in a good strong sprint though which I was happy with.
My race quickly went into meltdown when I encountered a mechanical problem halfway up the second King of the Hill. I followed procedure and pulled over to the left to avoid the 10 second penalty. All of my team stopped and kept me calm while I fixed the skewer that had came loose while I was attacking out of the saddle. Once sorted Noel gave the order to get me back in the peloton, which was about two minutes away. Shortly after starting again I felt the urge to launch a massive attack to get back on the pack. I went into TT mode and just gave it my all to catch up with the peloton. I hit speeds of 40 mph and averaged 28mph over the seven miles it took me to catch up. The encouragement from all the team cars and the awareness that my team mates had pretty much ended their race helping me spurred me on.
I just rested up and got dragged across to the last part of the stage. Unfortunately during the catch up I missed the final sprint and final king of the hill. In spite of this, adrenaline was pumping through me and I was feeling strong and determined to do well. During the last 5km of the race the roads opened and became wide with about 8-10 riders abreast. Ahead I could see the chequered flags, flashing lights and crowds of people out cheering us on. I was boxed in at first but then all of a sudden it was like Moses just parted the sea of riders and I saw my chance. I gave it all I had and sprinted to the line to achieve fifth position.
Stage Two (Time Trial Saturday 31st June 2.5 miles)
Stage Two was the chance to make up time and my best chance at getting the GC. When we made our way to the course I wondered how my new aero helmet and clip on bars would fare against the TT bikes that I was up against. Noel gave us our team orders with some members told to save their legs for Stage Three and I was told to give it everything I had!
I was number 20 out of 110. Out of the few times posted before I set off 5 minutes 45 seconds was the lead and I made this my target to beat.
Standing on the line I took deep breaths and focused my energy on blocking out the pain and not maxing out too quickly. Once I was told to go I burst out of the blocks going straight up to 27/28 mph. I then made an error in judgement when I tried to overtake a guy who was slowing down to take the upcoming U-turn. Thankfully I managed to slam the anchors on before I crashed into a Mini Cooper.
The return leg was at a slight incline but the speed stayed at 27mph. When coming up to the finish I ramped up well into my red and crossed the line with my heart bouncing out of my chest. My time was 5 minutes 30 seconds which I was delighted with and was the 2nd fastest time of the day. I was quizzed on how I could have achieved this on a road bike and became increasingly aware of the attention that I was starting to generate. I just hoped I could recover in time for Stage Three later in the day.
Stage Three (Saturday 31st June 43 miles)
Not long after lunch and our reconnaissance of the third stage, I discovered that I was in second position and eight seconds behind the GC. I knew then that the sprints would be key for me finishing in the top three.
After the jersey presentations I took note of the guy in the Green Sprinter’s Jersey so I could position myself near him to attack the sprints. Today I felt confident and fired up for going on the attack.
The women’s race began with an eight minute head start and then we took off. I had the sprint location memorised and when we started I was lead out by my team and tucked in at the front waiting for the seven mile mark for the first sprint. Ahead was a train of McNally Swords CC guys and the Green Jersey. I hooked onto the back and when the first three peeled off for the sprinter I pounced and took second place, knocking my time down to six seconds behind the GC.
I had noticed yesterday that after sprinting the other riders tended to sit up and slow the pace down. I used this opportunity to go for an attack, break away from the pack and achieve a 15 second gap.
I was unfortunately caught up with at the first King of the Hill. I didn’t really mind as 30 miles on my own would have been tough to keep up. On the descent of the second King of the Hill Pete made an almighty attack and riders started dropping out of the peloton. This left us in a break of about 10 riders. As I was feeling really strong and the final sprint was coming up in just under two miles, I just went for it, broke away and gained 20 seconds on the pack behind me and 40 seconds to the main group.
I won the second sprint going a mighty 20mph over the line. My gap opened up again to 50 seconds and I had to keep myself motivated and going strong for the hour that I was about to spend on my own.
The final climb was a really hard and long one into a headwind. It was a Cat 1 hill so it gained me 8 points on the King of the Hill leader board, putting me in third position of that Jersey. On the descent I was caught by around six riders and just tucked in to them and rested up. Some asked me to work at the front to which I replied “I’ve been on the front for the past hour or so!”
Going into the final part of Stage Three some more caught up with a strong attack. I crossed the finish line in fifth place.
I was really happy with this result which put me well up the leader board for all jerseys and the combativity prize. It was only on the way to dinner I realised I may have gone into the Green Jersey which was confirmed by Noel and Johnny.
Stage Four (Sunday 1st July 44 miles)
At the final stage I had only three seconds to make up for the GC. A single first place in a sprint would be enough to win me the Yellow Jersey or a second and third place overall. On the roll out I could feel all eyes on me and I knew that today I was the marked man. To prepare I took mental notes of the guys closest to me who were the best threats to my position. I made my goal the Yellow Jersey.
After we started my Team pulled me up through the group towards the front. When I approached the first sprint, I suddenly realised that the finish line had been moved and I was too far back to launch it. I went over it in 10th place which was very disappointing. After this I attacked hard and broke away from the group to collect my thoughts, achieving some combativity points in the process.
I wanted to boost my confidence on the first King of the Hill so I attacked hard and won. This worked and soon after I was in a group that was attacking very, very hard. Looking up I saw Pete and made my way up to him to praise his hard work. It was now closing on the final sprint and my best chance or getting the GC. I sprinted as hard as I could and was aware of the GC’s team mates trying to take it from me. I was piped to the line by no more than half a wheel length of a guy going for the green. I was gutted. It was all down to the stage finish, the top three or nothing now.
Two more King of the Hills and I kept my cool not seeing the Yellow Jersey in sight. I kept myself out of the fight as I saw no point in pushing myself so hard when the main goal was the Yellow Jersey. Scouting the route the night before had also shown me that the last climb wasn’t going to be pretty.
On the last climb the Yellow Jersey had caught up with us and was pushing the group hard. We chatted for a good bit about all his misfortunes on the bikes (he had gone through four in total). I kept my cards close to my chest and didn’t tell him where I was in the GC.
The last climb was coming up and I was nervous that my 11-23 cassette might have been a poor choice. I avoided going for the King of the Hill but I worked hard though keeping the 15 riders in front in close range.
Once at the top I blasted down the descent hitting speeds of 42mph on really poor road surfaces covered in gravel. It was all or nothing now. At the bottom the riders behind me caught up and we started closing the gap. I could feel the GC and second position starting to slip away. At the ’1k to go’ I just launched an almighty attack which got me to the lead group but unfortunately finished right behind the Yellow Jersey in 14th position.
Although I had lost the GC and Yellow Jersey by one second I was happy with the strength of my performance and attacks in all of the stages. I knew when I crossed the finish line at Stage Four that I had done the best that I could have done.
I could not have achieved my result without the help of my Team at the starts and during the races. Noel and Johnny’s knowledge and advice was invaluable in helping me manage some tough situations and keeping me relaxed but fired up.
The weekend wasn’t always hard work and I really enjoyed the banter in between races and I can’t thank everyone involved enough for the experience of the weekend. I would also like to thank North Down CC, Premia health and Mackey Opticians for sponsoring us and making this tour possible. I hope this will tour will take place for years to come and we can have a strong presence of both male and female NDCC riders who want to taste what a tour is like. This weekend had been an awesome experience and I’ve learnt so much from it.
The safety and organisation of the event was first class. Roads where brushed up in areas and there were plenty of marshals keeping everything in order and motor vehicles out of the way.
In total I achieved two fifth positions in Stages One and Three, a second position on the Stage Two Time Trail and 14th position in the Stage Four. I came in first for the Sprinters Jersey, fourth in the King of the Hills, first in the combativity competition and second overall in the GC. I achieved a total of 19 cycle Ireland A4 points, which gives me a total of 24 and promotes me to A3 level.
The highlight of the racing calendar for A4 racers is the Tour of Omagh 3 day. The 3-day stage race takes place from 27-29th June and features a similar format to previous years with three road stages and one time trial stage. Of those stages, two of the road stages have challenging new routes to ensure the race keeps fresh and offers riders something different. Interestingly, the race will not feature a hill-top finish this year, but will however provide hard hilly routes to help provide dynamic and exciting racing.
The race which will once again feature jersey competitions for the Overall race leader; King of the Hills; and Sprints. The club is retaining the Combativity competition in 2014 following the excellent success of the initiative in 2013.
Thanks to the enthusiasm of Johnny Webb, NDCC have got behind this event and entered a team of A4 riders to take on the challenge.
Role: Team Manager
Noel is a seasoned racer with a wealth of racing knowledge. He can be seen most weekends pulling club runs apart or taking home prizes from the over 50′s races.
He has set aside his own cycling this weekend to help and coach the A4 team. His experience will be vital to a team of enthusiastic A4 riders.
Role: Eye Candy / Motivator / Team Sponsor
Mr Webb has put a lot of planning and effort into this event. From organising the hotel, finance and team to getting onboard sponsors. The one thing he couldn’t do was avoid sprinting up a short hill in Richill to take 2nd place and get himself upgraded to A3!
So Johnny has had to pull out of racing in Omagh but will still be a big part of the weekend both in the cavalcade and back at the hotel.
Role: GC Contender
Keith is in his first year of racing and is one to watch. Keith has already picked up points this year but unlike Johnny, made a decision to stop racing after the NDGP incase he got upgraded!
Keith will be strong on the climbs and should do well in the TT if his form in the club time trials is anything to go by.
We wish him the best and really hope to see him in the yellow jersey at the end of Stage 4
Role: Diesel Engine
Peter has been racing for a few years and has plenty of experience and power.
He specialises in winter races on out of season club rides but has managed to continue racing this year into the sunnier months.
Peter is a very strong rider and will be working hard for the team and Keith.
Role: Punture Repairer
Kieran turned Semi Pro this year and can be seen every morning heading along the Rathgael Road as others are heading to work.
Kieran now has his “2 year legs” and has moved coaches this year from Harry Adams to Noel Boyce. The new relationship was going strong until an incident in Mallorca. Noel didn’t raise his voice to his protege, he simply shook his head, turned around and walked away.
Kieran scared us all with a visit to the tarmac on Wednesday night but all is well and if he can avoid the punctures will do well on the tour.
Role: Big Donaghadee Unit
Stephen is an ex-rugby player but is now 100% hooked on cycling. He can be seen most Wednesday nights at the club time trials and races.
Stephen had a late start to the season but raced a few weeks ago in the NDGP and then did back to back races last weekend in Richill and Banbridge (both hilly circuits) to prepare for the Omagh 3 day.
Stephen is a Big Unit and will be sheltering half the peloton behind his wide shoulders and rear end.
Details of the event and stages can be found on the Omagh wheelers website - http://www.omaghwheelers.co.uk/road-racing-1/tour-of-omagh-3-day/
The race this year has been extended to 110 riders so it will be the biggest race that any of these riders have ever attended.
Sadly the team will be without fellow A4 racer Paul Kirk due to a throat infection and our two entries for the ladies race (Rachel and Catherine) have both been involved in cycling accidents and had to withdraw. We wish them all a speedy recovery and they will be missed on the tour.
Finally we’d like to thank our sponsors: Mackey Eyecare, Protein Active, Webb and Co. and of course NDCC.
We’ll try and keep you up to date after each stage.
|2||Mark Kane||Dave Kane||Men||00:56:17||26.65|
|8||David Fowler||Dave Kane||Men||01:02:42||23.92|
|10||Enda Marron||Dave Kane||Men||01:03:13||23.73|
|17||Michael Price||Ards CC||Men||01:05:37||22.86|
|19||James Lemon||Pen Tri||Men||01:07:45||22.14|
|23||Richard Graham||Dave Kane||Men||01:08:49||21.80|
|27||Stephen Turner||Pen Tri||Men||01:10:47||21.19|