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Navan, February 29, 2004

Bracken surprises favourites with determined ride

By Shane Stokes, irishcycling.com

The Senior A break
Photo ©: Shane Stokes

Usher IRC veteran Sean Bracken showed he still has much of the strength and determination which made him a top Senior A rider for many years when he raced to a fine victory in the season-opening Cycleways Cup in Navan Sunday. Bracken, fellow vet Shaun Grey (Harps CC) and third-placed Ravens rider Noel Maloney were the last of the second category riders to resist the pursuit from behind, with a chase spearheaded by several big names closing to within half a minute by the finish but crucially failing to make that final junction. Bracken reached the line 13 seconds ahead of Gray and Moloney, while Orwell-Dundrum SC rider Karen Bothwell dominated the women's race and so took an early lead in the new ladies Classic league.

Racing took place on a rolling 28 mile circuit, with the A and B riders scrapping it out over two laps and other categories completing one. The second category riders started with a handicap of three minutes over the first cats, but expectations that this narrow gap would be quickly overcome proved to be inaccurate. The A bunch failed to get an organised chase going while those up front combined well to preserve much of their lead.

Shortly after the start eight riders went clear of the forty rider-first category group, clearly frustrated by the lack of progress behind. 2003 winner Vincent Gleeson (West Clare CC), Paul Slane (Slane Cycles), Stephen O'Sullivan (Cycleways Lee Strand), Brian Ahern (Naas CC), Andrew Donnellan (Dublin Wheelers) and the Usher IRC trio Dave Peelo, Mick Mulcahy and Eddie O'Donoghue worked hard to reduce the gap, and after seven miles had succeeded in taking back 35 seconds. Yet, while the 76 rider group ahead was too big to work effectively, the pressure applied on the opening lap saw this bunch splinter into several smaller pieces, with the front sixteen moving at a rapid pace.

Five miles after the start of the second lap, the gap from the leaders back to the large chasing group - which included those eight A riders plus several of the recaptured second cats - was still two minutes fifteen seconds. The pursuers were one minute 45 adrift with twenty miles remaining, making an unexpected result suddenly appear possible. The experience and impetus of riders such as Bracken, Gray and 50 years plus veteran Mick Nulty (Stamullen M. Donnelly) galvanised the leaders into producing a particularly determined ride; under the pressure, several of them lost their place - including the unfortunate Ards rider Mal McKechnie, who broke his chain - but with ten miles to go this constantly-reducing group still had a minute in hand.

As the riders turned onto the main road and the final few miles to the finish, a surge carried four riders clear. Bracken, Gray, Moloney and Tom Fanning (unattached) moved away from Barry Donnelly (Hillcrest Hire), Charlie Sheridan (Stagg's Lucan), Nulty, Tony Brady (Amgen) and one other quickly opening a gap. Long, straight stretches of road meant that the chasing bunch could see the leaders, prompting desperate exhortations from Bracken, but despite the concern it became clear that their effort would indeed be enough. With five miles to go the gap was still substantial, Fanning losing contact and slipping backwards but the other three maintaining their determined, driven charge. With three miles remaining they still had about thirty seconds, and when Bracken made his powerful surge the chances of those behind finally evaporated.

The Usher IRC rider dug deep all the way to the line, finishing thirteen seconds ahead of Gray and Moloney, with Mulcahy surging ahead to net fourth, Slane taking fifth and O'Donoghue sixth. Graham Thomas, Kieran Keane (both Ravens), Donnellan and Gleeson completed the top ten.

'The group went clear by the top of the climb on the first lap, ten miles into the circuit', Bracken said. 'There were about sixteen of us clear. The second time up the hill the group dropped to ten or eleven riders, and then towards the end there were just three - myself, Noel Moloney and Shaun Gray. He's another vet, was an A last year and is clearly a strong rider.'

'We were a little worried on the second lap. The gap was down to about two minutes and we had ridden hard to that point. There were only about seven or eight really riding, so things were getting bad. But things worked out well in the end and we were able to stay clear.'

'I haven't done many more miles than last winter,' he continued, 'but one difference is that I have been going out with a smaller group, maybe three or four riders. There's less room to hide there and I think that has made a difference.'

The other categories clashed over one lap of the 28 mile course, with Karen Bothwell taking the first win of the season for the new-look Orwell-Dundrum Shopping Centre team. Although many of the regular faces were missing, there was a healthy turnout of sixteen riders for the ladies race, which was the first round of the new women's Classic League. Bothwell struck for home after just ten miles and time-trialled from there to the finish, opening up a good advantage by the time she reached the line. Julie O'Hagan (unattached), Mary Brennan (Castlebar CC), Trudy Brown (Northern CC), Roisin Kennedy (Usher IRC) and Bothwell's team-mate Joanie Burns made up the chasing group, finishing in that order in the gallop.

'I went after about sixteen kilometres', said a smiling Bothwell afterwards. 'I think it (the gap) was about a minute or so at the end. I'm hoping to go to the Team Ireland house in Belgium for a while this year, and then hopefully do a big ride in the national championships.'

Cuchulainn CC rider Jimmy Crosby opened his account with a good win in the eighty-rider senior 3 race, leading home John Scott (Orchard Wheelers) and Kieran McGlynn (unattached), while the fast-finishing teenager Mark Nestor got his season off to a good start in the combined junior/veterans race. Dublin Wheelers rider Terry Ferris was second, while Ciaran Cassidy (Usher IRC) took third.

Photography

Images by Shane Stokes

Results

Senior Cat 1 & 2 
 
1 Sean Bracken (Usher IRC)          2.23.18
2 Shaun Gray (Harps C.C.)              0.13
3 Noel Maloney (Ravens)
4 Mick Mulcahy (Usher IRC)             0.26
5 Paul Slane (Slane Cycles)            0.28
6 Eddie O'Donoghue (Usher IRC)
7 Graham Thomas (Ravens) 
8 Kieran Keane (Ravens) 
9 Andrew Donnellan (Dublin Wheelers) 
10 Vincent Gleeson (West Clare C.C.)
11 Dermot Healy (Les Jeunes) 
12 Tim Walshe (Phoenix C.C.) 
 
Senior Cat 3
 
1 Jimmy Crosby (Chuchulain C.C.)
2 John Scott (Orchard Wheelers)
3 Kieran McGlynn (Unattached)
4 John Sower (Orwell Wheelers)
5 Wayne O'Neill (Unattached)
6 Colm Casey (Eire Òg)
 
Women
 
1 Karen Bothwell (Orwell Wheelers)
2 Julie O'Hagan (Unattached)
3 Mary Brennan (Castlebar C.C.)
4 Trudy Brown (Northern C.C.)
5 Roisin Kennedy (Usher IRC)
6 Joanie Byrnes (Orwell Wheelers)
 
Juniors and Veterans
 
1 Mark Nestor (Shannonside C.C.)
2 Terry Ferris (Dublin Wheelers)
3 Ciaran Cassidy (Usher IRC)
4 Ciaran Kelly (Usher IRC)
5 Stephen McKenna (Stamullen Martin Donnelly)

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