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Shay Elliott Memorial - NE
Ireland, April 23, 2006
Roche wins Murphy and Gunn Shay Elliott Memorial
By Shane Stokes
Less than a week after the team won the Credit Union Rás Mumhan in Kerry, the Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group squad scooped the most important Irish one day race outside the national championships when Andrew Roche won the Shay Elliott Memorial in Bray on Sunday. The Continental level team completed a rare double when the 34 year old jumped away with approximately 15 kilometres remaining and soloed to an impressive victory, his biggest Irish result since winning the 1997 FBD Milk Rás.
Roche, who has raced for both the Isle of Man and Ireland in the past, reached the line some nine seconds clear of former Tour of Spain points jersey winner Malcolm Elliot (Plowman Craven). His own teammate Conor Murphy was two seconds further back in third, while David McCann (Giant Asia) was fourth, 15 seconds off the winning time. Ryan Connor (Ballymena-Scott) and Tommy Evans (Terry Dolan) were next, making it four Ulster riders in the top six.
Neill Delahaye (Usher IRC) rode strongly during the race but missed a vital split near Roundwood. He led in Paídi O’Brien (Sean Kelly - ACLVB M. Donnelly Racing Team) and Daniel Lynch (Kanturk Credit Union) for seventh, 1 minutes and 3 seconds back, while Ras Mumhan winner Paul Healion (Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group) was tenth, nearly five minutes in arrears. Healion had attacked just before the climb of Glenmalure but was recaptured once the road pitched uphill, losing contact soon afterwards.
Each of these riders had been part of a ten man group which went clear of a larger break before the Glenmalure climb, a gruelling ascent which features a monument to Ireland’s first Tour de France yellow jersey Shay Elliott at the summit. Namesake Malcolm Elliot was first to the top, and following a regrouping after the descent, the Sheffield man pressed on ahead after Roundwood with Roche, Murphy, McCann, Ryan Connor (Ballymena – Scott) and Tommy Evans (Terry Dolan).
With two Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group riders present, Murphy and Roche had a clear numerical advantage. The latter exploited this to the full when he attacked strongly with approximately 15 kilometres to go, opening a ten second lead which he preserved all the way to the line.
“I was feeling a little bit heavy-legged at the start today, so I wasn't quite sure how it would go,” he said after the finish. “I was in the chase group heading out the main road at the start of the race, and then basically we were in the front group from when you turn off. When a few moves started going, I began to come around and feel okay. I felt pretty good on the climb of Glenmalure but there was a headwind all the way in, so it was a little bit cagey. Nobody wanted to attack too early.
“When I got clear, it wasn't a jump as such. I think there were a lot of tired legs in the group so everybody was bluffing a bit. You could tell by the lack of big, hard attacks coming in the road that nobody really had legs. I just rode through, I found I had a gap, and kept going.
“I only had 10 seconds the whole way in, and my legs were absolutely hanging up those drags into the headwind. It is pretty hard along the top. Once I got to the descent I could breathe a little bit easier there, because I knew the wind wasn't going to be as bad there. It was a case of getting to the top and then keeping it going to the finish.”
Former top British professional Malcolm Elliot was certainly one of the strongest riders there, and he ended up taking a fine second. “I used a lot of energy up too soon in the race, I think,” he said. “I seemed to spend a lot of the day chasing, getting up, getting back in front, and then missing the split again. I always find in Ireland that if I miss a move, there is another move. It was a very active race. There was constantly little groups going, coming back, chasing. It was a very, very interesting race.
“I think there was a bit of team tactics going on. You often get that here, the team rivalries can influence the way a race unfolds.”
Third placed Conor Murphy initially wasn’t sure how he was going. “For the first 60 miles today I had very heavy legs, and it is only in the last 10 or 15 miles that I started to really come around,” he stated “It was just one of those days were you start off slow and then come around. So I got stronger towards the end, thankfully!
“Andy was up there so it took a lot of pressure off me. Things worked out super, as you can see. This is very important for the team, this is the main race, this is the big one. We have got first and third, so it is a super result.
Giant Asia rider David McCann gave his view of the race. “Today was very fast on the way out, a big group got clear in the first kilometre. A few of us missed it, so we had a bit of hard riding to do to get across. Once we had the hills it was sort of natural selection. The Murphy and Gunn were very strongly represented, with maybe six guys, and then nearer the end it came down to a group with maybe 10 of us away. There was Roche, Conor Murphy and Malcolm [Elliot] was riding with them. The boys are just letting the wheels go at the end, so Andy never had to attack. Malcolm let the wheel go and he rode off.
“I think that me and Malcolm seemed to be the strongest at the end, but Roche is a good guy and it was always one of the three of them was going to win, because they have the numbers. I think we could have caught him but Malcolm didn't want to chase, so it just ended up more or less that we were racing for a second. If I was really strong I could have pulled it off, but you need to be really strong to get the better of three guys!”
Fifth placed Ryan Connor recently won the P&O Irish Sea Tour of the North and is getting ready to go back to racing with the EC Mayenne team in France. Getting things in order before then may have caused him a higher placing in the race, although he says he was relatively pleased with the result.
“I had a few goes, but the legs just weren’t fully there and the headwind at the finish didn't help,” he stated. “I started feeling that I hadn't got much left in the last 15 miles. I had a few late nights last week that probably didn't help. It wasn't that I was out drinking, I just have a lot of stuff to do. I was up at five this morning [to drive down to the race], that probably didn't help either!
“Andy Roche was riding strongly all day. McCann and Elliot marked each other out, more or less. The racing was a bit negative as a result. Tommy had a few digs but he just was unluckily, I think. Anyway, I am happy enough with that, there are some good riders here and my season is going well.”
How it unfolded
99 riders lined out at Bray Town hall shortly after 10.30 for the 49th edition of the race. Previously known as the Route de Chill Mhantain, it became the Shay Elliott Trophy in the late sixties, then the Shay Elliott Memorial after his untimely death in 1971.
Almost immediately after the drop of the flag, John O’Shea (Dan Morrissey/Carrick Wheelers) and Seamus Kelly (Ena Loakman Remax) attacked and went clear. Several riders set off in pursuit, namely Miceal Concannon (Sean Kelly - ACLVB M. Donnelly Racing Team), Barry Nolan, Urban Monks (Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group), Neill Delahaye (Usher IRC), Ray Clarke (Worldwide Cycles), Ryan Connor (Ballymena –Scott) and John Mason (MyHome.ie/Cycleways). Delahaye beat Barry Nolan and Urban Monks to take the first prime at Kilpeddar, after which others riders came up in two big groups, swelling the number up front to over 30 competitors.
Those arriving included Eoin Concannon, Tim Cassidy (Sean Kelly - ACLVB M. Donnelly Racing Team), Daire McCauley (All Systems Dublin Wheelers), Stephen McKenna (East Antrim/Audi), Gareth Montgomerie (Scotland), John Lynch (Bray Wheelers), Frank O’Connor (unattached), Derek Burke (Murphy and Gunn), Seamus Kelly (Ena Loakman Remax), Tom Heaney (Hamburg), Noel Maloney (Finglas Ravens) and Tommy Evans (Terry Dolan). Another group containing Dave Peelo (Murphy Surveyors), Paídi O’Brien, Miceal Concannon (Sean Kelly - ACLVB M. Donnelly Racing Team), Andrew Roche, Morgan Fox, Mark Nestor (Murphy and Gunn), Malcolm Elliot (Ploughman Craven), Stephen O’Sullivan (MyHome.ie/Cycleways), Rory Wyley (Dan Morrissey Carrick Wheelers), Michael Murray (Cycling Ulster), Brian Keane (All Systems Dublin Wheelers), William Hamien (Terry Dolan), Gary Hand (Scotland), Gareth Montgomery (Scotland), Eamon Murphy, Sean McGreevy (Apollo CT), Stephen McKenna (Audi East Antrim) also got across, while David McCann (Giant Asia), Paul Healion (Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group), Brian Kenneally (MyHome.ie/Cycleways) and Greg Swinand (Usher IRC) bridged across from the bunch shortly after Glenealy.
McCann then called for mechanical assistance, looking for a spanner to adjust his saddle tilt. However, after several kilometres waiting to get it sorted, he was forced to continue with it as it was, the adjustment being too difficult to do on the move.
Heading up the climb at Rathdrum, Ray Clarke attacked and went clear. The rest of the break got back up to him before the top, where Andy Roche and Malcolm Elliot led them across. Several riders started to lose contact at this point, causing a much-needed reduction in numbers in the break. Elliot was looking strong but after 54 kilometres, he was forced to stop and change his wheel. He chased back on, then stopped once again shortly afterwards to get his own wheel back.
The timing of this was less than ideal, with the race moving onto the tough climb of Old Wicklow Gap at this point, 65 kilometres after the start. Here the break split, with many riders blowing and going south. However Elliot showed his power by being able to thread his way up through them. Ray Clarke was clearly feeling good, repeating his move of the Rathdrum hill and jumping clear. He was brought back, but the acceleration put paid to the hopes of many of those in the break, including Morgan Fox (Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group) and Eoin Concannon (Sean Kelly - ACLVB M. Donnelly Racing Team).
As the climb continued, several riders moved clear. David McCann led them over the top of the prime, with Ryan Connor, Andrew Roche, Sean Lacey, Tommy Evans, Gary Hand, Malcolm Elliot, Brian Keane, Paídi O’Brien, Conor Murphy, Rory Wyley and Daniel Lynch to the fore. Several kilometres later, Brian Kenneally, Andrew Roche, Tommy Evans and Ray Clarke went ahead, only for a regrouping to take place and for the front group to swell to 25 riders.
Clarke was keen to try again, though, and after 82 kilometres he and Derek Burke scarpered. Miceal Concannon set off in pursuit, drawing away from the 22 others. However after 95 kilometres of racing, they were hauled back. Burke tried again with Ryan Connor and Simon Kelly, getting nine seconds, but despite the reinforcement of Tommy Evans, they too were caught.
Passing through Ballinaclash, six riders were twelve seconds clear. David McCann, Andrew Roche, Paídi O’Brien, Paul Healion, Neill Delahaye and Daniel Lynch worked well and the gap continued to rise.
Conor Murphy, Ryan Connor, Tommy Evans and Malcolm Elliot recognised the danger and set off in pursuit. They joined up, making it ten up front in the run-up to the Glenmalure climb. Healion then attacked, having a three second lead when they took the sharp right hand turn onto the steep first section, but was caught almost straight away. The Ras Mumhan winner blew and went out the back of the break, a headwind making it difficult to stay in touch as the road reared up towards the summit.
About a third of the way up the climb, McCann and Elliott went to the front and dragged a small group clear. Roche, Ryan Connor and Daniel Lynch also went with them, with Elliott, Connor and Roche doing most of the work up the climb. Elliot was first past the summit, taking the prime there.
After the descent, there was a regrouping of sorts. Elliott, Delahaye, Lynch, O’Brien, Connor, Murphy, Roche, McCann and Evans came back together, leading to a slight stall. Delahaye rolled clear just before Annamoe, turning right onto the Roundwood circuit with a four second lead over Roche. McCann, Elliott, Murphy and Connor then went after the two of them, leaving O’Brien, Evans and Lynch temporarily adrift. However they all came back together soon afterwards.
It was to be the last such regrouping for the nine. Elliott and Evans started the rupture when they jumped clear, soon being joined by Ryan Connor at the head of affairs. McCann and Roche were also able to bridge, making it five up front, and the quintet knuckled down to open a 20 second lead. Delahaye was doing most of the work behind in trying to haul them back, but while the Usher IRC rider was undoubtedly going well, he was unable to respond when Murphy jumped across the gap to join teammate Roche and the other four.
With two riders out of the six in the front group, the Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group team had undoubtedly the strongest hand. Roche had looked particularly smooth all day and so, once Murphy had settled into the group, he decided it was time for action. Remaining in the saddle, he raised the pace abruptly and rode away from the others in the break, with approximately fifteen kilometres remaining. Ahead lay the exposed, rolling roads leading towards Calary, but despite the heavy surface and the individual efforts of riders such as Ryan Connor, Tommy Evans and then teammate Conor Murphy to solo across the gap, Roche had enough left in the tank to preserve his ten second advantage to the top of the Long Hill, down the descent and then in the final couple of kilometres to the uphill finish at Fassaroe Lane.
Elliot finished just ahead of Murphy for second, while McCann, Connor and Evans took the remaining top six places. Delahaye outsprinted O’Brien and Lynch for seventh and Healion was quickest of the group sprinting for tenth.
Meanwhile Kevin Donagher (McNally Swords) beat Tim O’Regan (MyHome.ie/Cycleways), Mark McLeavy (Diamond T – Les Jeunes), Gary McNulty (Orwell – Dundrum Town Centre) and Barry Meehan (Worldwide Cycles) for the first senior 2 award.
All in all, it was an excellent day’s racing. Race organiser Herbie Monks, the Bray Wheelers club and the rest of those involved in running the event did a fine job; the news that Murphy and Gunn and Bray Wheelers are looking at the possibility of returning the race to the international calendar next year would add even more lustre to the event.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Shane Stokes
1 Andrew Roche (Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group) 3.57.32 2 Malcolm Elliot (Plowman Craven) 0.09 3 Conor Murphy (Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group) 0.11 4 David McCann (Giant Asia) 0.15 5 Ryan Connor (Scott-Ballymena) 0.18 6 Tommy Evans (Terry Dolan) 0.29 7 Neill Delahaye (Usher IRC) 1.03 8 Paídi O’Brien (Sean Kelly - ACLVB M. Donnelly Racing Team) 9 Daniel Lynch (Kanturk Credit Union) 10 Paul Healion (Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group) 4.52 11 David Peelo (Murphy Surveyors Kilcullen) 12 Gary Hand (Scotland) 13 Greg Swinand (Usher IRC) 14 Miceal Concannon (Sean Kelly - ACLVB M. Donnelly Racing Team) 15 Derek Burke (Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group) Senior 2 1 Kevin Donagher (McNally Swords) 2 Tim O’Regan (MyHome.ie/Cycleways) 3 Mark McLeavy (Diamond T – Les Jeunes) 4 Gary McNulty (Orwell – Dundrum Town Centre) 5 Barry Meehan (Worldwide Cycles) Prime at Kilpeddar: Neill Delahaye (Usher IRC) King of Hills 1: David McCann (Giant Asia) King of Hills 2: Malcolm Elliot (Plowman Craven)
2005 Kevin Dawson (Planet X) 2004 David O'Loughlin (Ire) Totalcycling.com 2003 Alessandro Guerra (Ita) Endura Sport.com-Principia 2002 Mark Lovatt (GBr)