By Brian Canty
He sure did it the hard way but Ryan Sherlock is the overnight leader going into tomorrow’s second stage of the Suir Valley 3-Day in Clonmel after one of the most audacious wins you are likely to see. The Cycleways rider, runner-up in Rás Mumhan this year, missed the crucial breakaway today and it looked for all the world that his chance at winning the race were over when a 19-man group pulled out a lead of over one minute and 30 seconds by the halfway mark.
But that was before the days’ most vicious climb – the Vee, and at over six miles in length, the Monaghan men sensed his chance and went for broke.He broke clear of the bunch, caught and dropped any rider who dropped out of the front group – there were six, caught the break that was now whittled down to 11, and won the stage on a punishing slope just outside Clonmel. Impressive? Certainly. Planned? Definitely not.
“Yeah I was halfway through the race and I thought I had lost it because there was a very strong group up the road,” explained Sherlock.
“ I had my two team mates and I knew they would ride for me, they drove it for me in fact. Charlie (Prendergast) was so strong, he drove the pace at the front to bring down the gap. Unfortunately I thought the climb (the Vee) was a lot steeper so I just basically towed the peloton for seven or eight kilometres and then when it got steeper they (peloton) just fell off my wheel.
”But how did he find himself in such a crux?
“I just missed the move, sometimes I think the move that sticks is the one I’m not in! As soon as I got onto the guys, it took me 30 minutes to get across. They looked a bit fed up (when I did get across) because I don’t think they wanted to see me there. I just rode steady for the rest of the stage.Indeed, the time gaps between Sherlock to the break kept diminishing and at the rate he rode, no one can deny him of the tag of worthy winner.“I was just thinking to myself, don’t blow, don’t blow. For 25 minutes, I did about 420 watts. I wasn’t getting time gaps but I knew the guys couldn’t ride at that pace. Fortunately I had a side tail wind so that helped.
As regards winning the stage he said, “I knew the stage from last year and I knew I had to go full gas at the base of the climb and maybe take some guys out towards the end. From 3k to go, guys sprinted for the KOM bur then they just sat up! So I ended up towing the Isle of Man guy and Sean Lacey. But I was sort of more going for the stage, I knew I wouldn’t put that much time into them.”
As for the rest of the race, he is adamant he will lose the yellow jersey with Lacey poised at 4 seconds and the isle of man’s Darren Bell at 10 seconds.
“I can’t control this race and I’m almost certainly going to have to give up the yellow jersey tomorrow. Of course, I didn’t expect to be in yellow today.”
The race truly was an epic with the pace hot from the start and several groups tried in vain to forge clear. Paddy Clarke (Terra Footwear) was in a few early skirmishes, as was Lacey and any one of the Isle of Man sextet but by Mitchelstown the best a strong-mans group of nine could get was a couple of hundred metres as the peloton allowed nothing away.
Gloccamaura was the first climb of the day and though a large group looked to be pulling clear, it was negated by the summit with Polish rider Martin Mizgayski cresting the summit first.
Following that the pace ramped up through Mitchelstown and into fermoy where local rider Michael Hennessy along with Michael Fitzgerald (Dan Morrissey Speedy Spokes), Colm Cassidy (UCD) and Jonathan Creegan (Isle of man) moved off the front.
They were soon joined by 15 more and following the left-turn in Fermoy, before they encountered the trickiest roads of the day, the gap began to widen.
Soon, they had a gap of 30 seconds and with three isle of Man riders, three Dan Morrissey/Speedy Spokes, two brothers (Ciaran and Paddy Clarke) and no less than four UCD, they hammer went down and their gap widened to 1.35 by Lismore.
Cruelly, two riders suffered rotten luck at exactly the wrong time when Paidi O’Brien and Fiachra O’Mhuire hit the same pothole and punctured out of the break.
But those up front were unrelenting and on the Vee, they began to feel the pace as several dropped back – chiefly due to the pace set by Paddy Clarke, the UCD quartet and the isle of man contingent.
By the summit, the group was only 11 riders with the peloton just under a minute back and a third group a further 55 seconds back.
With 20 kilometres to go and the gap now under 55 seconds, Sherlock bolstered the break and they settled into a very strong rhythm and with 10k to go the gap was still holding.
Then came the hill known locally as ‘Dump Hill’ and that saw Jonathan Creegan and Chris Whorrell (both isle of man) drop off the back. It was then that Sherlock launched his bid for glory with Lacey watching him closely and Bell on his wheel.
Though Sherlock was on the front for the finale, it was a ‘tactic’ that worked and on such steep climbs, he is hard to beat.
And so it proved.
- Paddy Clarke, who finished third overall last year won the most combatitive riders’ jersey for his relentless attacking all day and it was he who played the key role in stretching out the break. Though he suffered on the finishing straight, he is just 36 seconds off the lead and to reward his efforts, he was presented with a jersey by Declan Keogh of Dectek
1 74 Sherlock,Ryan CYS Cycleways 2h58’30”
2 1 Lacey,Sean DMA Dan Morrissey Speedy 2h58’32” @02″
3 63 Bell,Darren IOA Isle of Man A 2h58’34” @04″
4 93 Twohig,Barry BNY Blarney CC 2h58’54” @24″
5 20 Clarke,Patrick TRA Terra Footwear 2h58’56” @26″
6 23 Hennessy,Michael FER Fermoy CC 2h58’57” @27″
7 88 Mizgajski,Martin IVK Iverk Carrick Wheeler 2h58’59” @29″
8 34 Collis,Con UCD UCD 2h59’01” @31″
9 31 Cassidy,Colm UCD UCD 2h59’12” @42″
10 32 Morton,Eoin UCD UCD 2h59’14” @44″
General Classification after Stage 1
1 74 Sherlock,Ryan 1 Cycleways 2h58’20”
2 1 Lacey,Sean 1 Dan Morrissey Sp 2h58’24” @04″
3 63 Bell,Darren 1 Isle of Man A 2h58’30” @10″
4 93 Twohig,Barry 2 Blarney CC 2h58’54” @34″
5 20 Clarke,Patrick 1 Terra Footwear 2h58’56” @36″
6 88 Mizgajski,Martin 1 Iverk Carrick Wh 2h58’56” = s/t
7 34 Collis,Con 2 UCD 2h58’56” = s/t
8 23 Hennessy,Michael 1 Fermoy CC 2h58’57” @37″
9 31 Cassidy,Colm 1 UCD 2h59’11” @51″
10 32 Morton,Eoin 2 UCD 2h59’14” @54″
1 Sherlock 15
2 Lacey 14
3 D Bell 13
1 M Mizgajski 24
2 D Bell 18
3 C Collis 15
1 B Twohig
2 C Collis @2secs
3 EMorton @20secs
1 DBruton,D 3h00’17”
2 D Kelly @s/t
3 C Arrigan @8secs.