The sunshine beat down last weekend for some 100 riders who turned up at the Share Centre for the Lakeland 2 Day stage race for A3 riders.
Saturday’s stage covered 60 miles of scenic roads around Fermanagh. The race had hardly begun when three riders leapt off the front and began to open a gap on the main field. These included Barry Hamilton (North Down CC), Nicky Gormley (Carn Wheelers) and Conor Sprice of the local Lakeland Cycle Club.
By the time they started on the first of the three laps of the Florencecourt circuit all but Nicky Gormley had been swallowed up by the peloton. Gormley continued to drive it on his own for almost two laps opening up a gap of 1’20 at one point before he too was swallowed up.
Lakeland’s Raymond Kerr was one of the riders who tried to chase down Gormley and he opened a gap of 25 seconds back to the bunch before being reeled back in. Major movers in the bunch who helped to bring everything back together were Jake Gray and Aaron Swan of the Nicholas Roche Performance Team.
Coming into the final uphill finish Gray and Swan went to the front and drove hard to the line with Gray taking the win from Swan. Shane Quinn of Longford took third ahead of East Tyrone’s Richard Archer while Banbridge Junior, Cameron McIntyre, was fifth. Damian Lagan of Inishfree Wheelers came sixth while Cookstown’s Alastair Steele and John McLaughlin were seventh and eighth. Glen Howe (Bann Wheelers) and Emmet Vallely (Square Wheels) completed the top ten.
Heading into Sunday’s 2.4 mile TT stage from Share Centre to Lisnaskea Gray wore Yellow, Swan the white young rider jersey, Ronan Fitzpatrick (CKR Racing) the Polka dot climber’s Jersey and Gormley was be in the Red Combative Jersey.
Jake Gray of the Nicholas Roche Magnet.ie team retained his Yellow jersey following the time trial stage Gray, who was last man off, held onto Yellow by the smallest of margins when he won the TT in a time of 5’40.17″ a mere 0.25 of a second faster than Gerard McNally of Bann Valley.
Andrew Reid of CCT put in an excellent performance to take third in a time of 5’41.97″ with Glen Howe of Bann Wheelers in fourth position a second later. Banbridge Junior Cameron McIntyre took fifth ahead of CCT’s John McLaughlin while Emmet Vallely (Square Wheels), Mervyn Linton (Ballymoney CC), Peter Morrison (Northern Dave Kane) and James Ambrose (North Down) completed the top ten.
The final stage of the Lakeland 2 day stage race got underway on Sunday afternoon in beautiful sunshine. Following the morning’s time trial Jake Gray of NRPT was in yellow with team-mate Aaron Swan wearing the Points Jersey. Racing went from the drop of the flag with Saturday’s most Combative rider, Nicky Gormley (Carn Wheelers) going on an early charge. The bunch were wise to him by now and simply sat on behind him and no matter how hard he tried this time he could not shake them off. The effect was to line the bunch out.
Next up to give it a lash was another Carn Wheelers rider, Eunan McAleese. He eventually managed to open a gap of almost 40 seconds before being reeled back in.
The route incorporated some tough climbs such as Bellavalley. This was a long hard drag and it helped to string out the riders. A crash on the descent saw a few broken bikes and DNF’s, but thankfully no-one was seriously hurt.
Jake Gray and Aaron Swan did their best to control the race and there was some aggressive riding by both of them. However with only 16 seconds separating the top 20 riders on GC there was everything to play for.
The final climb of the day provided a test of climbing skill and aggression and Cameron McIntyre of Banbridge CC finally took the bit between the teeth and went for it. He opened up a gap on the main field which rose to 28 seconds making him Yellow on the road as he was only three seconds down at the start of the day. This young mountain biker put all his climbing skills to the test and crested the hill a clear winner.
Marc Heaney of Carn Wheelers was a second or two too slow and just missed jumping on McIntyre’s wheel. However he too cleared the bunch to take a well-deserved second place. John Fitzpatrick of CKR Racing was third while Peter Morrison of Northern Dave Kane was fourth. Young Junior Jack O’Neill of Caldwell Cycles was fifth putting in an excellent ride against tough opposition.
In the end McIntyre took the Mountains Jersey and the Best Junior as well as the Yellow jersey – not a bad haul for a young man in his first year of road racing.
Carn Wheelers were named best team ahead of Lakeland CC and Caldwell Cycles Omagh.
Kieran McGrory was first Lakeland Rider finishing 9th in Stage 3 and 15th over-all.
There prize money for the stages and categories there were also beautiful Belleek China trophies.
The team at Lakeland headed up by Race Director Tom White served up a great race. Riders, spectators and officials were treated to a sit down roast chicken dinner while they waited for the presentations.
Commissaires on the day, Paul Devenney, Mark Lamb and Tosh Lavery carried out their duties fairly and promptly. There was a quick and accurate results service provided by Ian Barfioot, Alice Sherratt, Tom Gordon Parker and Alicja Pernák.