With well in excess of 300 riders signing on for the three card race, the tone was set for an exciting days racing. The numbers in recent years have been growing as riders have come to respect what is in actual fact a relentless and battering circuit that demands honesty and effort from every competing rider.
As riders signed on in the Millennium Centre in Caherconlish, resplendent in its newly finished decor and facilities, the weather Gods were just about deciding in our favour after a few showers gave way to magnificent spring day. Without any unfavourable weather conditions it became a contest of each rider and team facing down each other over the 30km hard man circuit. The new status of 1st race on the Cycling Ireland National League as expected attracted a fine turnout in the top billing A1/A2 race with almost 70 riders clipping in for the start of their 4 lap race. A massive 120 A3 field took off after them for their 3 laps, and a record 140 riders then started their assault of their 2 laps.
There was much club interest in each of the A3 and A4 race and the riders duly lived up to the challenge. There were feisty attempts to escape the A4 glue pot by Stephen Bourke, Gareth O’Callaghan, Emmett Ryan and Dave O’Brien but nothing seemed to last. A bunch gallop decided it and Martin Waters showed great form, building on two top tens already this season, placing himself ideally going into the last corner in Caherconlish and emerging in good shape for the approach to the final dash. Despite his efforts with 200 to go he couldn’t quite catch the wheel ahead but held on gamely to place a gritty third. Declan Shevlin as ever was close to the action at the finish as he was all day, but just being squeezed out of honours on this occasion. Credit also to Laura Cooke who raced with the A4s in her own inimitabole gutsy style.
In the A3 race Mark O’Callaghan, Eoin O’Donoghue, Henry Cooke and Dave Bourke were all to the fore after the hills to Ballyneety at the end of lap 1. An early attack looked menacing and a gap was carved. Bourke bridged to the chase group that caught the early leaders and had up to 40 seconds on the bunch to which he eventually retreated. Mark O’Callaghan soon attacked and made the bridge to the leaders which swelled to some 14 riders by the time he joined it. He showed great resilience to last the pace after his bridge effort and scrapped it out for 9th and his third top ten in as many weeks. Michael O’Loughlin of the Nicholas Roche Performance Team claimed the win from Dion McCarthy of Lotto and Paul O’Connell of Tipperary. A special mention for club friend Sean Yelverton who took 5th for team Mego. Back in the bunch Eoin O’Donoghue threw the kitchen sink at the stretch between Herbertstown and Hospital but the split was not to be. The pace was on today and the bunched was shelled to pieces as it crossed the line in dribs and drabs.
Declan Fagan took over as Race Director this year and with a strong Race Committee in situ and a steadfast army of marshals and volunteers, they duly delivered a race that stands at the top of the national calendar in terms of safety, competition and facilities for riders. Long time organiser Pat Spaight was there ever the helping hand and a great day of sport was had by all, culminating in Simon Ryan of Team Mego scooping a long awaited and hard fought win, attacking as he did early on lap 4 and laying his cards on the table. The Aqua Blue dominated chase group weren’t able to close him down and the Tipp Town man fisted the air as he crossed the line in delight to the applause of the large crowd gathered outside the tennis club.
The race committee would like to thank all the marshals and volunteers who so generously gave of their time, the Gardaí, outriders, ambulance crew and all the staff at the Millennium centre who helped make Rás Luimní 2015 a great success. Our thanks also to the many teams that turned up to compete in from near and far.