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Stephen Roche Classic
Meadowmount, Dundrum, June 25, 2003
Ahern wins Stephen Roche Classic
By Shane Stokes
Former Junior Tour of Ireland winner Brian Ahern highlighted his good form in advance of this Sunday's national road race championships, winning the Stephen Roche Classic in Meadowmount, Dundrum, tonight.
Ahern is just back from three weeks competing on the Belgian circuit with Team Ireland and showed this honed speed in the race, breaking clear on several occasions and securing the prize as the most aggressive rider. More importantly, he responded to a last lap attack by Scott McDonald, going with the Orwell rider and out-sprinting him at the finish.
The Dundrum Festival event began with the Senior 3's, juniors and veterans getting a considerable handicap, with the senior 2 riders also benefiting from a head start. The latter were soon reeled in, however, although the other group stayed up front for many laps. First across the gap was the motivated Cycleways Lee Strand rider Aidan Crowley, who had expressed his determination to win prior to the start. However his surge was not enough to reel in the US veteran Paul Curley, who had jumped clear before his group was reeled in. Curley held to take his second prime of the race but was later involved in a crash, fortunately without any serious injury.
Local rider Brian Lennon (St. Tiernan's) was also very prominent, attempting to go clear on several occasions. But Ahern was the only one with enough speed to really get away from the bunch, jumping clear with 17 laps to go and opening a lead of ten seconds. He held this for three laps, picking up a prime, but was eventually hauled back by the Cycleways-led main field.
The Naas Fig Roll rider tried again with 8 laps remaining, only to be hauled back. He still had something left in the tank, though, being the only one to respond to a ferocious last-lap attack by Scott McDonald of the promoting Orwell Wheelers. McDonald, the winner of last Sunday's Paddy Flanagan Criterium in Kildare had made it clear beforehand that he was gunning to repeat his 1991 win in the race, but had no answer to Ahern, who coolly latched onto his wheel and then jumped around him in the final 200 metres.
Third place went to Cycleways' sprinter Aidan Crowley, who narrowly outgalloped Usher IRC's Colm Bracken, Simon Whelan (North Kildare CC) and the rest of the bunch.
'I was in Belgium for the past three weeks,' said Ahern, before the prize presentation. 'I was fifth in a big under 23 race last Sunday and also rode a big under 25 event plus a few other races. I am back for the national championships but will probably head out again after that. The Irish team will be doing a few big races and the European championships are another big goal.
Aidan Crowley was disappointed with third, but recognised that he would have little chance had he made a move on the final lap. 'I knew they (McDonald and Ahern) were going to try something, and saw them going. But Colm Bracken and the others were right on my wheel, and I knew if I jumped I would be caught out. I wasn't far off it tonight, but didn't get the win I was hoping for.'
Instead it was Ahern who went home with the bulk of the prize money, taking the overall win, two primes and the most aggressive rider award. Next up is Sunday's national road race championships; he'll be hoping to be one of the home riders able to mix it with the foreign-based professionals such as Mark Scanlon and Ciaran Power.
1 Brian Ahern (Naas Fig Rolls) 2 S. McDonald (Orwell Wheelers) 3 A. Crowley (Cycleways Lee Strand) 0.01 4 Bracken (Usher IRC) 5 S. Whelan (North Kildare CC) 6 W. Byrne (North Kildare CC) Most aggressive rider: Ahern Best Junior: Sean Reynolds (Staggs Lucan) Best Senior 2: Shane Connaughton (Cycleways Lee Strand) Best Senior 3: Paddy Kelly (Bray) Best Veteran: Oliver McQuaid (Emerald) Primes: Kelly; Anto Moran (Ravens); Paul Curley (USA); Curley; Ahern; Simon Coughlan (Dunamond Dynamos); Bracken; Ahern; Mark Colbert (Tilechoice); Robert Whelan (Navan Avonmore)