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Ben McKenna Memorial
Balbriggan, March 28, 2004
Healion too strong in Balbriggan
By Shane Stokes, irishcycling.com
Paul Healion showed the benefit of the intensive track work he has undertaken over the past year when he rode to a fine victory in Sunday's Ben McKenna Memorial in Balbriggan. The Usher IRC rider squared up against the Cidona Carrick double whammy of Rory Wyley and John O'Shea, first and third last week in the Des Hanlon Memorial in Carlow, but despite their strategy of attack and counter attack they were unable to get the better of Healion, who had the strength and acceleration to respond every time.
Reaching the finish together, the trio plus the impressive first year senior Mark Cassidy (Cycleways Lee Strand) sprinted it out for the win. Healion bided his time as Cassidy led out the gallop, calmly coming around O'Shea in the final few metres and snatching victory. O'Shea was second with Cassidy taking a promising third, one place ahead of Wyley. Denis Easton (Maryland Wheelers) and Aidan Crowley (Cycleways Lee Strand) led in the chasing group one minute and 33 seconds later, with eight other riders all finishing in the same time.
The 78 mile first- and second-category event began with the senior 2 group being handed a thirty second start over the senior 1 riders, a measure which the race organisers felt would get them over the tough Naul climb before the bunches merged. While several 'A' riders did succeed in bridging across by the top of the hill, the main senior one bunch did not make the junction until the end of the first lap. This detail proved crucial to the day's outcome as by the time the groups merged a very dangerous move had gone clear. By the time the riders crested the Naul on lap two, eight riders were one minute and 45 seconds up on a chasing group of twelve, with the main bunch at two minutes. This gap, plus the promising 'look' of the break made it clear that this move could well be gone for the day.
There were certain enough strong riders to make it work. Up front were Wyley, O'Shea, Healion and his Usher IRC team-mate Shane Baker, Dermot Healy (Les Jeunes), Ciarán Farrell (Dublin Wheelers), Mark Cassidy (Cycleways Lee Strand) and Brian Ahern (Naas Rubex). This was a good, solid break which pulled well together. Whilst the chasing group included riders such as Greg Swinand (Usher IRC), Tim Barry (Cidona Carrick Wheelers), Brian Lennon (St. Tiernan's) and Andrew McQuaid (Emerald), they were unable to make any real inroads into the lead and were eventually reabsorbed by the bunch.
Heading onto the third lap the front group was still well clear. Wyley, though, felt the break was a little big and so once onto the tough slopes of the Naul, he began to turn the screw. Showing the same kind of strength he displayed seven days ago in Carlow, he smoothly upped the tempo on the climb and put the rest of the break under pressure. Healion responded well, taking a hard turn himself over the top, but Healy, Farrell and Ahern fell back almost immediately, leaving just five up front.
The quintet worked well together for the remainder of the lap but with one more ascent of the Naul to come, it looked almost certain that the climb would be the springboard for an all-out attack. Wyley and Healion seemed the safest bets, the former an example of smooth, effortless pedalling, the latter displaying a rawer sort of strength. The other three, by contrast were showing signs of fatigue, all rolling shoulders and dipping heads.
Had Wyley left it to the Naul it is certain he could have done real damage, at least to Baker, Cassidy and O'Shea. But in what seemed like a sign of overconfidence, the Cidona rider elected to start upping the pace on the short hills before the real climb. Healion latched straight onto his wheel while the other three struggled briefly, but kept up. Having showed his hand a little soon, Wyley was then left on the front to bring the group to the foot of the climb and most of the way up the Naul.
Any element of surprise now gone, he tried to stretch the group but Healion was not to be budged. The other three riders gritted their teeth and hung on, Baker briefly losing contact over the top but getting back to the group on the descent. Twelve miles to go, and still five in contention.
From there to the finish it was a game of attack and counter attack. Healion had his Usher IRC team-mate in the break, making it two against two with Cidona Carrick Wheelers. But once the jumping around started, fatigue and cramp saw Baker again lose his place. Cassidy was still there, looking stronger once over the climb, but Wyley and O'Shea knew that Healion was the real dangerman and acted accordingly, attacking him in turn.
And yet it wasn't enough. Showing the kind of sharpness and acceleration which he has picked up on the track, he answered every jump. Wyley would go, he'd cover the move. Ditto with O'Shea. With one kilometre remaining it was clear that the winner would be decided in the sprint; Cassidy went early, trying to profit from the Usher - Cidona rivalry, but Healion had little problems in putting this one away.
'I was pretty confident that if it came down to a sprint, I'd do okay', he said just after the race. 'I've been doing a lot of track stuff and so my speed and acceleration are good. Rory was certainly very strong today, the best on the climbs, but when he started trying to put the pressure on before the Naul on the last lap, I said that there was no way he was getting away.'
'I was a little worried when the two of them were working me over but it worked out okay. Rory was strong but he was trying to jump in a 53x11, which makes it very hard to get the gear going. John had more of a kick, it took a little longer to get him back. I had to watch him when he went.'
'I think track racing has really improved me as a rider. You'd be doing 70 kilometres an hour behind the motorbike there, it is really great for speed. I'd strongly recommend it to any rider, even if it means hiring a bike to do it. It's really good, it helped me a lot today.'
A generous fund meant that the Balbriggan cycling club handed out a lot of prizes on Sunday. Besides the first twenty in the senior 1 and 2 bunch, the unplaced senior 2's - Graham Thomas (Ravens CRC), Colm Crawley (Stamullen M. Donnelly) and Adam Kelly (Bray) - all got something for their efforts. Sean Roe (Castlerea) and Aisling Daly (Tullamore) came out best of the Senior 3's and women, while Con Short (Newry Haldane) took the combined junior and veteran race. Paul McMahon (Bray Wheelers) and Ronnie Brannigan (Orwell-Dundrum Shopping Centre) were first in the unplaced prizes in that race.
Senior 1 and 2 race, 78 miles 1 Paul Healion (Usher IRC) 78 miles 3.57.00 2 John O'Shea (Cidona Carrick Wheelers) 3 Mark Cassidy (Cycleways Lee Strand) 4 Rory Wyley (Cidona Carrick Wheelers) all same time 5 Denis Easton (Maryland Wheelers) 1.33 6 Aidan Crowley (Cycleways Lee Strand) 7 Phil Finegan (Cycleways Lee Strand) 8 Colm Bracken (DHL Wall Cycles Eurotrek) 9 Timmy Barry (Cidona Carrick Wheelers) 10 Adrian Heddermann (Murphy and Gunn) 11 Sean Bracken (Usher IRC) 12 Greg Swinand (Usher IRC0 13 Mark Greer (Maryland Wheelers) 14 Brian Lennon (St. Tiernan's) 15 John Peppard (Cycleways Lee Strand) 16 Shane Baker (Usher IRC) 17 Mark Quigley (Totalcycling.com) 18 Kieran McMahon (Earl of Desmond) 19 Craig Sweetman (Stamullen M. Donnelly) 20 Ken Norgrove (Dublin Wheelers) Unplaced Senior 2 1 Graham Thomas (Ravens CRC) 2 Colm Crawley (Stamullen M. Donnelly) 3 Adam Kelly (Bray Wheelers) Veterans and Juniors (2 laps) 1 Con Short (Newry Haldane Fisher) 2 Sean Rock (McNally Swords) 3 Oliver McQuaid (Emerald) 4 Urban Monks (Bray Wheelers) 5 Dominic Devlin (Slane) 6 NA 7 Brian Cunningham (Stagg's Lucan) 8 James McCullagh (Donamond Dynamos) Senior C and Women (2 laps) 1 Sean Roe (Castlereagh Wheelers) 2 John Lynch (Bray Wheelers) 3 Larry Nugent (Classic Walls) 4 Tony Boyle (Slane Cycles) 5 Padraig McCarthy (Bray Wheelers) 6 - ? (not identified by race organisers) 7 Peter McEnaney (Stamullen M. Donnelly) 8 Aidan Dennehy (St. Finbarrs) Unplaced women 1 Aisling Daly (Tullamore) 2 Joanie Burns (Dundrum Shopping Centre)
Local results 2004