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M. Donnelly Junior Tour of Ireland - NE
Ireland, August 3-8, 2004
By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent
The 27th edition of the Junior Tour, sponsored by M Donnelly takes to the roads in various counties that straddle its base in Waterford City, which like so many other Irish seaports, traces its origin back to the Vikings. The event gets under way on Tuesday evening with a time trial in Portlaw at seven o'clock, and for the next six days will take in various locations and testing courses which should add spice to an already tried and trusted event.
Hopefully the Irish can reverse the export of this particular title that has been dominating the race. Kai Reus from the Netherlands, last year's overall winner, crowned a great year when he won the Junior World Championships in Hamilton, Canada. Similar to the identical feat that Mark Scanlon achieved in 1998.
The Tour is specifically for juniors and is now sponsored by M Donnelly. Since their involvement, the event has taken on a new meaning. Firstly, the numbers of overseas competitors have increased dramatically and the fact that the Irish lads are not having it all their own way speaks volumes for the promotion. At the helm now is Alice Sherratt, who along with a very dedicated committee has overseen many changes.
"I am very happy the way the promotion is gaining momentum, particularly on the world stage," said Sherratt. "It also gives the opportunity for the domestic lads to taste the continental opposition. Of course the race historically has been an excellent platform for all competitors since its inaugural winner Martin Earley back in 1978. When you look back and see the names that have won the event and gone on to greater heights, you can feel justifiably proud of the personnel that have been associated with the event.
How does the event stand in the world rankings as a junior race? "Nicolas Roche, who won the event a couple of years ago and is still only 20 years of age, has been given the opportunity of making it into the professional ranks, and who knows in years to come what the popular son of Stephen will attain in the professional ranks?" said Alice.
Of course this year, the hopes of the Irish will rest squarely on the shoulders of Maurice O'Brien from the Kanturk Credit Union Cycling Club. He leads the Irish team and if he reproduces anything like the form he showed in winning the Junior Championships in Westport a couple of weeks ago, then the sky could be the limit.
Whilst the spotlight may be on the Irish team and O'Brien, it could favour Owen Whyte from Dungarvan who looks to be peaking for this particular event. Rumour has it that he will not suffer the symptoms of cramp, which cost him dearly recently. Likewise, Richard Maes from the Killarney CC is looking forward to the challenge. He finished 10th in the overall standings last year, but there are question marks about his overall fitness. Unfortunately, Richard had his preparations put into some disarray when he took a serous tumble last month in Ras Connachta which curtailed his training and also nearly put paid to his season. It was enough for him to miss the Championships, but reports suggest that he will give a good account of himself and his team. A fit Richard would certainly be knocking on the door, so, if all goes well, he'll be in with a shout - if not overall, then a podium finish.
Killorglin Credit Union Cycling club can be relied with its team to give a good account of themselves and possibly Daniel Clifford could nip a stage.
What of the opposition? On paper it looks formidable and when teams travel from America, Holland, France, Malta plus the home countries, you can expect fireworks.
One name in particular stands out, and that was Daniel Martin, a nephew of Stephen Roche and cousin of former winner Nicholas Roche. He has just won the British Junior title in convincing style, so he has to be rated as a real candidate, but I have a feeling that there is a joker in the pack amongst the visiting competitors, particularly the South Africans.
Interestingly, the organisation has decided to start the final stage at 11:00am, to give everybody the opportunity of watching the Kilkenny versus Waterford clash. "I would not like to spoil the hospitality of the Waterford people by putting on event in opposition to the hurling match," said Alice Sherratt.
1978 Martin Earley (Ire) 1979 Eddie Keehan (Ire) 1980 Paul McCormack (Ire) 1981 Gary Thompson (Ire) 1982 Aiden Harrison (Ire) 1983 Stephen Spratt (Ire) 1984 Nigel Simpson (GBr) 1985 Ian Chivers (Ire) 1986 Andrew Moss (Ire) 1987 Richard O'Gorman (Ire) 1988 Richard Groenendal (Ned) 1989 Mark Dawes (GBr) 1990 Peter Daly (Ire) 1991 Thomas Evans (Ire) 1992 Michael Fitzgerald (Ire) 1993 Simon Coughlin (Ire) 1994 Aiden Duff (Ire) 1995 Anthony Aspel (GBr) 1996 Barry Twohig (Ire) 1997 Alain Van Katwijk (Ned) 1998 Mark Scanlon (Ire) 1999 Brian Ahern (Ire) 2000 Kieran Page (GBr) 2001 Philippe Tesson (Fra) 2002 Nicolas Roche (Ire) 2003 Kai Reus (Ned) Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com