Barry Twohig on his way to 7th place in yesterday’s hill climb TT (Photo: www.tipperaryphotos.com)
By Brian Canty
It’s easily one of the shocks of the season to date and Barry Twohig could hardly believe it either when he won the Suir Valley 3-Day stage race in Clonmel today after one of the most exciting finishes the race has ever seen.
In 2008 Ciarán Power won by a mere second from Sean Lacey and there have been close finishes ever since but today’s finale will surely rank up there with anything that has gone before.
Twohig from Blarney CC, not yet a veteran rider but fast approaching it, went into today’s 115kilometre final stage in fourth place, trailing overnight leader Ryan Sherlock (Cycleways) by 48 seconds.
In between were Darren Bell (Isle of Man) and Sean Lacey (Dan Morrissey/Speedy Spokes) but Twohig was not perceived as any major threat – and that’s by his own admission.
But what happened was truly incredible when he broke away early on in a group of 12 riders and before long they had over a minute on the peloton which contained the top three on GC.
But still they wouldn’t chase those out front. In that front group of riders were (besides Twohig,) Paddy Clarke (Terra Footwear) UCD duo Colm Cassidy and Con Collis, Simon Ryan (Visit Nenagh/Team DMG) -who was well placed for an assault on the points jersey, two Isle of Man riders Jonathan Creegan and Jake Kelly, Brian Hart (Limerick), Mark Power (Dungarvan CC), Paidi O’Brien (Dan Morrissey/Speedy Spokes), Chris Reilly (Cycling Leinster) and Fiachra O’Mhuire (DID Dunboyne).
They worked very well together and by the 20k mark they had 1.39 over an 8 man chase group that held contenders Martin Mizjayski (Iverk Produce Carrick wheelers) and Michael Hennessy (Fermoy CC).
But the gap held for over 60 kilometres before it started to dwindle when the UCD duo punctured within a kilometre of each other and it soon became 10 out front and 10 behind with Sherlock, Lacey and Bell still in the peloton at a staggering three minutes.
On 65 kilometres the two front groups merged with Twohig still as leader on the road by two seconds from Clarke and Mizjayski a further seven seconds back.
Then on the climb of Aherlow that group of 20 exploded under the furious pace set by O’Mhuire and Creegan at the front. On the descent and with less than 30 k to go it was an 11 man group that formed with nine chasers.
Again, Twohig, Clarke and Polish national Mizjayski were unshakeable as they maintained a steady tempo – the bunch were still at over three minutes.
Approaching the 10 kilometre to go mark, Anthony Walsh of UCD, who was part of the original chase group attacked off the front and went in search of the stage win – and possibly more as he only lay 2 minutes off the overall win. But with 11 chasing him it was always going to be difficult – but it didn’t stop him putting in a decent effort and with 1kilometre to go he was still away, with O’Mhuire close behind and the break at 10 seconds.
Such narrow margins provoked an attack from the peloton behind and in a three man group was Darren Bell who started the day second overall and closing fast on the break.
He has 48 seconds over Twohig at the start of the stage and closed to just over a minute with a couple of kilometres to go, meaning he was 12 seconds away from re-taking the yellow jersey.
But his team-mates in the break weren’t to know and they began drilling it at the front – which undoubtedly ruined Bell’s chances.
At the left-turn at the roundabout it all happened. Twohig, Clarke and Mizjayski were all together. Clare needed two seconds on Twohig to win, Mizjayski needed seven on both while Twohig just had to finish in the same time as both.
Walsh and O’Mhuire imploded within sight of the line as Paidi O’Brien rocketed around everyone for the win but Twohig did what he needed to and clung to Clarke with the Pole in his slipstream.
He did it, by the skin of teeth and could barely articulate what a relief the finish line was.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” said Twohig.” I am shocked as well because I only came up doing it for training for the Charleville 2-day in September. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to finish it because I’m kind of busy with work next week and I was going to take today off.
“I’m absolutely f***** shocked that I’m in this position because I haven’t done much training all year,” he continued. “ I do two days training a week because that’s all I can manage with work. I’m just absolutely delighted.
“I started the year as an A4 and I’m probably an A1 now after this! I don’t know too much about the point scoring system but I probably have enough to become an A1 now.
“The legs are tired, man I was hanging for the last 20k. I think if Paddy Clarke or the Polish guy knew what state I was in and if they worked me over I would have been gone a long time ago.
“My legs were absolutely killing me on the Aherlow, I did everything I could to hang onto Paddy Clarke. I was absolutely flat out and over my limit and I didn’t know how long the climb was but some guy at the side of the road shouted ‘next corner’. I was on my breaking point at that stage but there was only a few metres to go and I was definitely at my cracking point.
“I was familiar with the road but I didn’t know how far up the finish and I really had to dig deep there. I didn’t really think about the Polish guy, he was seven seconds behind me and I knew he wouldn’t take that on the hill (up to the finish). But he was very strong, he took five or six seconds out of me last night on the hill climb and he’s very aggressive as well.”
A popular winner for sure and a surprise one for certain.
“To be honest, this is a complete surprise to me. If you had told me last Friday that I was going to win the Suir Valley I would have laughed at you. But I was lucky with the first break on Saturday. It means an awful lot to me. Back in the day, I was in the era of Ciarán Power and I kind of grew up racing with Mark Scanlon who was world junior champion.
“I suffered this weekend and I’ll pay for this when I go back to work but I’m massively proud and this gives me huge satisfaction. I’m absolutely delighted.”