Jack Wilson takes his first win for the An Post-Chainreaction team at the second stage of the Suir Valley Three Day this morning (Photo: www.blackumbrellaphotography.com)
Sam Bennett holds a 16-second advantage over Dillon Byrne (Maxgear Champions System) going into the final stage of the Suir Valley Three-Day tomorrow, Monday.
The An Post Chain Reaction rider has been in brilliant form over the last two days of the race and though he hasn’t actually won any of the three stages to date, he’s made all the right breaks and is the man to beat.
It’s going to be anything but straightforward for him, however, because the top 11 riders on general classification are separated by just one minute. And with seven teams represented amongst the top 10, Bennett will need to be alert over tomorrow’s 130km test from Clonmel to summit finish atop The Nire.
That final leg is going to be a real test as it features two nasty category two climbs in the shape of The Vee and Colligan, as well as the race’s only category one finish, that being the finish of the race after 130 kilometres.
But Bennett is in awesome form and showed that today when he soloed across a 40-second gap to a chase group on testing roads close to his home. And when he closed that gap, he drilled a furious pace at the front to maximise the time gained on his rivals.
Today’s second stage, a morning 92kilometre trek starting and finishing in Clonmel, was won by Bennett’s An Post Chain Reaction team-mate Jack Wilson from Ed Laverty (Rapha Condor JLT) and Art McManusa (South Dublin) after they had been part of a 16-man group that jumped away with around 25km to go.
After them 20 seconds later came that Bennett-led group, with the main peloton another 50 seconds or so further back.
Tonight, Sunday, saw the riders tackle a criterium race around the streets of Clonmel, won by Shane Archbold (An Post-Chainreaction). But all the main contenders finished on the same time, meaning no shake up in GC.
Felix English (Rapha Condor JLT) took second in the crit from Bennett, with Paidi O’Brien (Planet Tri), Sean Downey (An Post-Chainreaction) and Barry Meade (Planet Tri) filling the minor placings.
One rider who Bennett and his team really need to keep an eye on tomorrow is former An Post-Sean Kelly professional O’Brien, now riding with amateur team Planet Tri Racing.
O’Brien won yesterday’s opening stage and currently lies fifth overall at 53 seconds. And with a strong team around him – Eddie Barry is in 10th at one minute – he could yet swoop in to win a race that has eluded him so far in his career.
Hugh Carthy (Rapha Condor JLT) is in third is another who has every chance, as he is just 16 seconds down. So while An Post-Chainreaction are holding all the cards, it is still all to play for.