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Shay Elliot Memorial - 1.5
Ireland, April 25, 2004
O'Loughlin best in Shay Elliott Memorial
By Shane Stokes, irishcycling.com
At the end of nearly four hours of tough, hard racing in Wicklow today, David O'Loughlin emerged as the dominant winner of the world-ranked Shay Elliott Memorial race. Showing great form and determination, the Totalcycling.com rider surged clear inside the final ten miles and opened up a steadily-increasing lead over four others to reach the line 51 seconds clear.
Malcolm Elliott (Murphy & Gunne/Pinarello) outsprinted Mark Lovatt (Planet X), David McCann (Phoenix CC) and Rory Wyley (Cidona Carrick Wheelers) in their four up gallop for second, with Eugene Moriarty (Lee Strand Cycleways) getting the better of five others to net sixth.
Today's was an important result for O'Loughlin; he admitted afterwards that his morale had been dented by his hypothermia-induced DNF last week in Belgium, after being in the break for most of the day. Winning today's 1.5 ranked Shay Elliott Memorial gives him 15 UCI points and puts him back in the running for one of the Olympic road race slots up for grabs; equally importantly, it gives a boost of confidence to a gifted rider who, at times, appears to be slightly lacking in this attribute.
How it unfolded
Warm sunshine and a cloudless sky greeted the 111 starters today, who rolled away from the Bray Town Hall shortly after 10.30. A sprint prime awaited the riders at Kilpeddar, eleven kilometres into the race and so the pace was hot from the start. A number of attacks fired as the bunch raced through Kilmacagnogue and into the picturesque, oak-lined Glen of the Downs, but it was gruppo compacto by the time the gallop started. The former Tour of Spain points winner Malcolm Elliott showing he still has a sprightly collection of fast twitch fibres at 42 years of age, taking the prime.
At 23 kilometres McCann and Moriarty tried their luck as the race headed away from Ashford, opening up a ten second lead on the small, twisting road to Glenealy. After their recapture Elliott stretched his legs at the 30 kilometre mile mark, going clear alone for two miles and causing a split in the bunch behind. At Rathdrum he was joined by a group of 34 others, from which O'Loughlin and Greg Swinand (Usher IRC) attacked. Racing through the stunningly verdant Vale of Avoca, the duo pulled out an advantage of ten seconds but by the Meeting of the Waters (45 kilometres) the whole race was back together.
Through Avoca, Woodenbridge and Arklow, the race headed towards the start of the first real climb of the race, the steep ascent of Old Wicklow Gap. McCann showed his strength, despite a lingering chest infection, when he went clear of the thinning main bunch and took the prime at the summit. Once over the top he was joined by Olympic-destined MTB rider Robin Seymour (Team WORC), who had his road racing legs on and was showing great form. Sprinting out of every corner and riding hard up each of the drags, the duo did what they could to stay clear of a fifty man chasing group.
The front two eventually received reinforcements in the form of O'Loughlin and British BBAR champion Kevin Dawson. These joined up at the 80 kilometre point and shortly afterwards, another eight chasers also made the junction. Elliott, Wyley, Lovatt, Gareth Jones (Energy Cycles RT), Philip Finegan (Lee Strand-Cycleways), Brian Ahern (Naas Rubex), Denis Easton (Maryland Wheelers) and Newbridge's Kenny Conlon brought the number up front to twelve; at 93 kilometres six more got across, swelling the number to eighteen and so forming the decisive break of the day. These late additions were Moriarty, Swinand, Tommy Evans (Cycling Ulster), Timmy Barry (Cidona Carrick Wheelers), Mark Cassidy (Hibernian Team Ireland) and Paul Rennie (Scotland).
Seymour and McCann were once again prominent on the undulating run-in towards the foot of the daunting Glenmalure/Drumgoff climb, with the latter jumping off the front as the race neared the right hand turn which would take the riders from big to little chainring. He was reeled in at the bottom but, after a strangely passive first kilometre of climbing by the break, forged clear again as the race headed toward the Shay Elliott monument at the top.
Wyley scampered across to join the former Irish road race champion, the two riders drawing further ahead of a fragmenting group. At the summit McCann was about a second clear of Wyley and twenty ahead of the next chasers, but with nine riders chasing hard behind it was going to be difficult for him to stay clear for any length of time. The chasers duly reeled him in before Laragh (120 kilometres), forming an eleven man front group. The selection of McCann, Wyley, Evans, Moriarty, Elliott, Lovatt, Dawson, Barry, O'Loughlin, Finegan and Cassidy was certainly strong enough, if not a little big; this latter concern was settled shortly afterwards when McCann, Elliott, O'Loughlin, Lovatt and Wyley clipped away and quickly opened up a 22 second gap before Annamoe (128 kilometres).
This advantage grew and grew; at Annamoe it was 31 seconds to the six chasers and 1 minute 50 seconds back to the remnants of the eighteen-man break. Heading onto the small lake-bordering circuit which bypassed Roundwood village they were 48 seconds clear of the six, and this gap continued to grow all the way to the finish.
That put Elliott in the driving seat as the fastest finisher in the group, but the other riders had little intention of leaving it to the final 200 metres. On the undulating plateau between Roundwood and Calary a number of attacks were launched; Wyley and then McCann launched unsuccessful bids before O'Loughlin's subsequent surge carried him clear. The Mayo rider quickly got sixteen seconds and plunged down the high-speed descent of the Long Hill to further increase his lead.
His face a mask of pain and determination, he had thirty seconds at the ten kilometre to go board and a further ten racing into Bray. By the line, his margin of victory was 51 seconds, giving plenty of time for a joyful two-arm salute crossing the finish. Elliot, Lovatt, McCann and Wyley were next home, while several minutes later Moriarty led in Dawson, Finegan, an increasing impressive Cassidy - who is only a first year senior - and Evans.
'I'm very happy to take this victory,' said a beaming O'Loughlin after the finish. 'My legs were a little bit stiff at the start but got better and better as the race went on. I was gaining in confidence getting close to the finish, and decided to give it a go to break up the group. I knew that with the fast descent and quick run-in to the finish I'd have to go from further out; that worked out well. I got a gap quickly and just gave it everything from there to the line.'
'I haven't had a win yet this year, apart from the time trial in the Ras Mumhan. I haven't been racing that much, I've just been concentrating on doing whatever international races I can get in and building my form. I was riding well in Belgium last week (the 1.5 ranked Zellik - Galmaarden) but was totally frozen after a couple of hours in the break. It got so bad that I couldn't take food out of my pockets or anything. I had to stop and as a result my morale was a bit low this morning. But it has all worked out well now.'
O'Loughlin will be starting the FBD Milk Rás on May 23rd as part of the Irish team, but despite his excellent win today he is keeping his ambition in check. 'The last couple of years I've been under a lot of stress going into the race. This time I am just going to take it as it comes rather than putting pressure on myself; whether it is the overall or stage wins, I'll do what I can but don't want to build it up too much beforehand.'
One of the most aggressive riders today was David McCann, who went clear several times and eventually finished fourth. 'I did too much as ever during the race,' he said, smiling. 'I was very surprised at times as to how negative the racing was. People didn't really seem to want to break things up. A couple of times I just rode away from the groups, I didn't even have to put in a big attack. I had a bit of a lead going over the top of the main climb (Glenmalure) but with the big chase group behind it was going to be impossible to stay clear.'
'After David (O'Loughlin) got away it was a bit disorganised. With Elliott in the group people were reluctant to bring him to the finish and so we weren't realy working well. Elliott seemed strong but was riding very cagy; when David got away he seemed to think I was going to bring him back up. I wasn't going to gift David the win, but I certainly wasn't going to hand it to Elliott either.'
McCann was coughing noticeably at the finish, the after effects of a fading chest infection. 'I picked it up at the Ras Mumhan. It is going but I hope I haven't aggravated it again today. The weather is starting to get warmer and that will hopefully stop me getting these chest infections; I always have better health in the summer.'
'The plan now is to just keep building form for the Rás. Next week we will be doing a 1.5 in Belgium and then maybe I will ride the Lincoln GP after that. If all goes well I think I can really challenge in the Rás; it depends on how my form is then and how well the Irish team works together. I'm also hoping the course works out good and tough; a couple of years ago they were saying it was the hilliest Rás ever but I didn't take it out of the big chainring all week. I'd like some real hills in it this time round!'
McCann had Robin Seymour for company several times today, and at the finish the Team WORC rider was happy to hear the Belfast man had finished up in the points. 'Good ride for a sick dude!' he said to McCann, smiling. Seymour finished a very respectable sixteenth but would certainly have been further up had he ridden a more conservative race. 'I was pretty active early on but I was happy to be able to give David a hand during the race,' he said. 'He was clear after the Old Wicklow Gap climb so I jumped across to him and did some turns. We also rode hard before Glenmalure. It's a good workout for me anyway, it helps me build form.'
1 David O'Loughlin (Totalcycling.com) 3.46.39 2 Malcolm Elliott (Team Murphy and Gunn/Pinarello) 0.51 3 Mark Lovatt (Planet X) 4 David McCann (Phoenix CC) 5 Rory Wyley (Cidona Carrick Wheelers) 0.55 6 Eugene Moriarty (Lee Strand Cycleways) 4.48 7 Kevin Dawson (Planet X) 8 Philip Finegan (Lee Strand-Cycleways) 9 Mark Cassidy (Team Ireland) 10 Tommy Evans (Cycling Ulster) 11 Timmy Barry (Cidona Carrick Wheelers) all same time 12 Gareth Jones (Energy Cycles RT) 6.43 13 Stephen O'Sullivan (Lee Strand Cycleways) 6.46 14 Greg Swinand (Usher IRC) 6.49 15 Denis Easton (Maryland Wheelers) 16 Robin Seymour (Team WORC) 6.51 17 Andrew Roche (Isle of Man) 8.45 18 Sean Lacey (Team Earl of Desmond) 19 Simon Kelly (Galway Bay CC) 20 John Tanner (Planet X)
2003 Alessandro Guerra (Ita) Endura Sport.com-Principia 2002 Mark Lovatt (GBr)