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Irish Championships - CN

Westport, Ireland, June 24-25, 2006

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Day 2 - June 25: Elite men road race, 175 km

Historic third Irish championship for McCann

History in the making. Giant Asia professional David McCann took what is believed to be an unprecedented third Irish road race championship title in Westport today, the Belfast man turning in a dominant performance to finish 2 minutes and 45 seconds ahead of Ciarán Power (Navigators Insurance) and a further three seconds clear of bronze medallist Paídi O'Brien (Sean Kelly Racing Team/ACLVB M. Donnelly) at the end of the 175 kilometre race.

These three riders plus local favourite David O'Loughlin (Navigators Insurance), Nicolas Roche (Cofidis) and John Dempsey (Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group) were involved in an early move which was joined by Daniel Martin (VC La Pomme), but then hauled back by a large group of chasers on lap six of fourteen. However Power and O'Brien went clear soon afterwards and were joined by McCann and O'Loughlin, this quartet opening up what proved to be an unbeatable lead on those behind.

O'Loughlin was determined to try to take his third consecutive title but surprisingly cracked the penultimate time up the steep hill out of Westport. McCann, Power and O'Brien continued on together but the Giant Asia rider turned on the afterburners soon afterwards, accelerating away from the other two and quickly building an insurmountable advantage. He continued to gain time all the way to the line, where Power jumped away from O'Brien to take a career-best silver medal.

Nicolas Roche, son of Stephen Roche, came in alone just under three minutes behind O'Brien for fourth, while Tim Cassidy (Sean Kelly Racing Team/ACLVB M. Donnelly) led home O'Loughlin, Paul Griffin (Giant Asia) and 19 year old Daniel Martin (VC La Pomme) for fifth place. Mark Cassidy finished 8 minutes and 50 seconds down in ninth place and his result plus that of O'Brien and Tim Cassidy earned the Sean Kelly/ACLVB M. Donnelly riders the best team award.

O'Brien's bronze medal was two places better than his fifth of last year but equally importantly, it saw him finish well clear of Martin and Mark Cassidy in the incorporated Under 23 championship.

"I'm very pleased to win this," said David McCann after the race. "It was a hard course and a tough day, and I think that is reflected in the time gaps between the riders at the finish.

"I didn't really attack when David [O'Loughlin] cracked, I just rode up the hill hard. It was more a case of everyone getting tired and fatigued, it was a very windy day, an up and down circuit, with not a lot of flat. All those small hills take it out of you. The three of us [McCann, O'Brien and Power] then went up the hill together and then I jumped on the downhill. I opened up a gap and then just went into time trial mode until the finish."

McCann had a flat early on and while he got a wheel change and returned to the front of the race, it affected him for the rest of the race. "I punctured and got a wheel with a nine sprocket on it. My gears were jumping most of the day and then on the last lap my chain went off the edge of the block on the climb. I was very lucky it didn't jam."

McCann was in the early break with six others but despite the fact that the big teams were represented there, they were brought back by the chasing group. He explained what happened. "I looked back and saw Giant Asia jerseys behind so I thought that Paul and Stephen were coming across," he stated. "I was outnumbered by the Navigators without them, so it would have been better if they were there. The guys started attacking me then so I figured Ciarán was the one to let go because David is always very strong if you let him get a gap. I let Ciarán go and then I dropped back to the group with the other two boys. I hoped that they [the other Giant Asia riders] would have the legs to go with the next break, but it ended up being me again, just the way it panned out.

"I wasn't keen on staying with the two Navigators boys all day but it ended up like that. There was just four of us then near the end, so that made things even worse. I thought I had no chance. Ciarán started missing turns about five miles from the hill. David did all the riding, Ciarán wouldn't ride through. I think David paid for it because the next time we hit the hill, he went out the back. I thought that as Ciarán had been sitting on that he was going to attack… I was very worried about him, but it worked out well for me."

Power was involved in the action all day and along with O'Brien, was one of the most active riders. "I felt good, I just wanted to be aggressive," he said. "I hate riding more conservatively, you just end up watching everyone. I just kept on attacking and getting away. David was that much stronger than us in the end, there was nothing I could do about it when he went."

He is still building form after an operation earlier this year and consequently said that he was happy with his showing. "I'm pleased enough. I think the championships were just a couple of weeks too soon [to go for the win]. Last week I was getting stronger every day. I rode quite well today, so I am looking forward to the second half of the season."

O'Brien was also satisfied at the finish. "I felt good all day, it was a nice race. I had actually thought David O'Loughlin was the strongest. But he just didn't have it on the hill with two laps to go. Then David [McCann] went and opened a fifteen second gap straight away. He just time trialled it from there to the finish, that was that."

Having finished third two years ago, Cofidis professional Nicolas Roche was, for many, the dark horse of the race and one who seemed set to be in the final shakeup. Although he was prominent, he missed the final move and had to be content with fourth.

"I missed the break [with Power and O'Brien] in the first place and then I was chasing with McCann and O'Loughlin. I let the wheel go by one metre on McCann and then the head went…I was just in-between for so long and then I heard that Daniel [Martin, his cousin] was behind me so I just waited for the group. There was no point in chasing on my own for the next sixty kilometres. I thought that the group might be able to get back on to them; we didn't, they were too strong. Then the head came back again on the last lap and so I attacked and did it on my own."

Next across the line was Tim Cassidy, the Sean Kelly Racing Team/ACLVB M. Donnelly rider winning a four man sprint for fifth. He has been suffering from tendonitis of the ankle for much of the season and while this has limited his training, he says that he is coming into decent form nonetheless. "The race was very hard. I ended up missing everything and chasing all day. I was never in the moves. I think the problem is that I ate too much before the race, I felt blocked for the first 100 kilometres. But I am happy to get something out of it. And my form is coming around, so that is good."

Daniel Martin was riding his first Irish championships since declaring for the country this season. He finished in Cassidy's group, taking eighth and was second under 23. "Today was a bit different, riding in a small field… After a couple of kilometres I looked around, thinking I wasn't too far back, but realised I was last rider!" he stated "After riding with 200 riders for the past few weeks, it was tough. It was a really hard race, it totally exploded. There were groups of four or five riders after 50 kilometres and it is so hard to race like that.

"I was up the road early on but the group got caught. We didn't stop riding up front but weren't going very hard either. I don't know what team was riding behind but they were chasing pretty hard. A group went away after that and I went slow up the climb because I though they were going to be caught. But when the group behind came up to me, they just stopped. I ended up being in the second group then."

Mark Cassidy finished one place further back and took bronze in the under 23 classification. "It was a hard course," he said, "there was nowhere to take it easy. I only ended up eating one bar for the whole race. I usually eat quite a bit and I think that affected me. But I seemed to get a bit stronger in the last three or four laps, anyway. I heard there was a group coming behind me; I was with David Peelo then so I went on ahead on the hill and did the last lap on my own.

"It was a very hard race…tougher than the last two I have done. The course is lot harder than last year. The descent should have been an easier part but they seemed to be racing down it each time…I was always chasing somebody there."

Peelo was to the fore but eventually finished 22nd. He was quite pleased with his performance. "We got back up as far as Nicolas Roche and then it split up again after that," he said. "Nicolas and a couple of the lads went on and then a few of the Sean Kelly team split things a bit. I was with four guys and even then a couple of the others didn't seem to have too much left. So eventually myself and Mark Cassidy went on. That was it until the last lap, when I didn't have a thing left. So I sent Mark on at the hill to see if he could hang on. It was disappointing not to hold on until the end but it was a better ride than I thought I would be able for. It was a good course, anyway. I could sort of say I enjoyed it."

How it happened

A small but good-quality field of 75 riders lined out for the start of the 112 mile men's road race championships, which was promoted by Mayo Wheelers. Missing were AG2R Prévoyance riders Mark Scanlon and Philip Deignan due to lack of form and illness, respectively, but other big names present included defending champion David O'Loughlin and Ciarán Power (Navigators Insurance), Nicolas Roche (Cofidis), former double champion David McCann and his Giant Asia team-mates Paul Griffin and Stephen Gallagher, 2005 under 23 champion Paídi O'Brien and last year's fourth place-getter Tommy Evans (Terry

Promising young rider Daniel Martin (VC La Pomme) was over from France while O'Brien's Sean Kelly Racing Team companions Tim Cassidy, Andrew McQuaid, Ciarán Kelly plus Miceal and Eoin Concannon had made the trip back from their base in Belgium. Ireland's second continental team Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group also had a large group of riders taking part. This number included Simon Kelly and Conor Murphy, both of whom have ridden strongly this year, as well as former Irish champion Morgan Fox.

In addition to the Sean Kelly Racing Team and Murphy and Gunn squads, the, Dan Morrissey Carrick Wheelers, Terry, Murphy Surveyors and Stamullen M. Donnelly were amongst those chasing the team prize.

There was an aggressive start to the race with numerous attacks but by the end of lap one, it was all together. McCann led them across the top of the climb at the start of lap two, with the steep slopes causing a split in the bunch. However another regrouping had taken place by the time they reached the turn at the railway bridge. Between there and the main road, Power, McCann and John Dempsey (Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group) attacked and went clear. They were joined soon afterwards by O'Brien and pulled 20 seconds ahead.

Local rider O'Loughlin recognised the danger and set off in pursuit, racing at very high speeds on the downhill section heading back in towards Westport. Further back, Tim Cassidy was also chasing but he was unable to bridge to O'Loughlin, who successfully made the junction at the top of the climb. Nicolas Roche was also closing fast and got on about 2 kilometres after the summit. He, O'Loughlin, Power, McCann, O'Brien and Dempsey were 43 seconds ahead of a 21 rider chase group after 30 kilometres of racing, while the main field was 1 minute and 5 seconds back.

The six leaders continued to work well together until McCann had a rear wheel puncture and got a slow change, going back to the chase group. This set of riders was 37 seconds back after 39 kilometres of racing, with the main bunch 1 minute and 28 seconds down. Paídi O'Brien then punctured from the front group. By this point McCann was chasing with two others, Daniel Martin (VC La Pomme) and Ciaran Kelly (Sean Kelly Racing Team) and these joined up with O'Brien after his wheel change.

McCann and O'Brien left the other two on the hill and caught John Dempsey, who had been dropped before the top. O'Loughlin then suffered a rear wheel puncture around the same place that McCann had his flat one lap earlier. The three chasers got across to Power and Roche, making it five up front, while Martin joined up shortly afterwards. O'Loughlin was still trying to get back on at this point but succeeded in returning to the front about one kilometre later. That meant seven riders were in the lead group, with Ciarán Kelly 44 seconds back, a big chase group 1 minute and 10 seconds down and the main bunch over two minutes in arrears.

By the time they hit the start/finish line again for the start of lap five, Kelly was part of an 18 man chase group 1 minute and 16 seconds behind. One lap later, this gap had dropped to 58 seconds.

Up front, the co-operation between the seven leaders was not as good as it was before and with several riders chasing hard behind, the gap continued to fall. Just before they bridged, McCann attacked the break and went clear alone. However he was picked up again by the chase group, making it 17 riders at the head of affairs.

There was however a lot of racing still being played out and several riders went clear again. O'Loughlin, McCann, Power, Roche and O'Brien forged ahead, and then Power and O'Brien pressed on alone from this group, opening up a 35 seconds lead over the big chase bunch by the end of lap 8. After the climb O'Loughlin, Tommy Evans and Tim Cassidy got away from this second group on the road and were 40 seconds behind; nine other chasers were ten seconds further adrift at this point, but there was another reshuffling soon afterwards, with O'Loughlin and McCann closing up on the hill and Roche a little further back. He was chasing hard but was losing ground to those up front.

Paul Griffin (Giant Asia), Daniel Martin and Tim Cassidy were next in line, followed several seconds later by David Peelo (Murphy Surveyors Kilcullen), Brian Keane (All Systems Dublin Wheelers), Mark Cassidy (Sean Kelly Racing Team) and Ryan Connor (Ballymena Scott).

Heading onto the main road, Roche was 45 seconds back from the leading four and was about to be caught by the next chasers. Once past the climb, the Griffin-Roche group were 1 minute and 25 seconds in arrears; at the top of the climb next time round, these four were 1 minute and 35 seconds back, while Peelo's group were 2 minutes and 15 down. These gaps continued to open.

The second last time up the hill, O'Loughlin dramatically dropped off the back of the break, appearing to have cracked. McCann then attacked after the top and quickly opened a big lead. Power and O'Brien tried to chase but the Irish time trial champion was too strong, driving hard and pulling further and further ahead. He was 1 minute and 20 seconds clear the final time up the climb and from there to the finish he added an extra 1 minute and 25 seconds to that advantage, taking a very dominant victory. Behind, O'Brien seemed to be doing the bulk of the work but had to be content with third at the end, plus the successful retention of his own national title as best under 23.

Roche had put the hammer down again on the last lap and he came in over a minute clear of the next chase group, netting fourth place. Tim Cassidy outsprinted O'Loughlin, Griffin and Martin for fifth and this, together with O'Brien's bronze and Mark Cassidy's ninth place was enough to earn the Sean Kelly ACLVB M. Donnelly racing squad the team prize. O'Brien was also pleased to win the under 23 competition, beating closest competitors Daniel Martin and Mark Cassidy by over four minutes and showing the strong progression he has made this season.


1 David McCann (Giant Asia)                            4.16.00
2 Ciarán Power (Navigators Insurance)                     2.45
3 Paídi O'Brien (Sean Kelly Racing Team/M. Donnelly)      2.48
4 Nicolas Roche (Cofidis)                                 5.46
5 Tim Cassidy (Sean Kelly Racing Team/M. Donnelly)        6.55
6 David O'Loughlin (Navigators Insurance)
7 Paul Griffin (Giant Asia)
8 Daniel Martin (VC La Pomme)
9 Mark Cassidy (Sean Kelly Racing Team/M. Donnelly)       8.50
10 Andrew McQuaid (Sean Kelly Racing Team/M. Donnelly)   10.10
11 Adam Armstrong (Dave Kane Cycles)
12 Philip Finegan (Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group)
13 Sean Rock (McNally Swords)
14 Mick Steed (Murphy Surveyors)
15 Greg Swinand (Usher IRC)
16 Rory Wyley (Dan Morrissey Carrick Wheelers)           10.12
17 Craig Sweetman (Stamullen M. Donnelly)                10.17
18 Martin O'Loughlin (Dan Morrissey Carrick Wheelers)    10.24
19 Tom Shanahan (Limerick Wheelers) same time
20 Ryan Connor (Ballymena Scott)                         10.37
21 Conor Murphy (Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group) 
22 David Peelo (Murphy Surveyors Kilcullen) 
23 Colm Bracken (Murphy Surveyors Kilcullen)
24 Hugh Mulhearn (Dan Morrissey Carrick Wheelers)
25 Ronan McLaughlin (Terry                    19.54
26 Robert Moore (Stamullen M. Donnelly)
27 Paul Brady (Emyvale)
28 Gary McNulty (Dundrum Orwell Town Centre)
29 Tim O'Regan (
30 Simon Coughlan (Dunamon Dynamos)