T.Bourke Spring Classic Race Report by Patjoe O’Connell

Preparations started off different than usual as there was no travelling involved. With a 1pm start I thought I would need to eat twice so an early start was needed to get the bucket of porridge in first.

Weather had been great during the week but there had been talk of snow towards the weekend so I had all types of gear ready just in case. I was glad to see the sun shining when I woke up but this was not long lived as I sipped on my first coffee the heavens opened up. 11:30 came quickly and it was time to make the decision on gear, the weather had cleared again so I opted for my normal race gear, summer base layer, jersey and bib shorts but with uncertainty in the weather I added my Covey arm warmers and a sleeveless gilet that we had been given for the Mayo.ie RAS team which meant it was very tight 😉

Race distance was to be 127km but with rider numbers been low the A3 race was included in the main A1 / A2 race so the race was neutralised for the first 7km to adhere to Cycling Irelands rules of A3 riders racing a max of 120km. I was glad to hear of neutralised section as it meant we would get up over the drag out around Knappagh on the Leenane road.

The flag came out the commissaires car just as we started to hit the drag and about half way up the flag disappeared once again which meant race was on!
Keith was quick to react throwing in an attack straight away. For the next 10km the attacks came one after another. Paddy Clarke Fitscience, Neil Delahaye Team Asea and Anthony Murrays team mate Paul Edelstene of Subaru-Albion got away very early on with Paddy and Neil staying away all day to battle it out for the win.
Back in the bunch things didn’t settle down because 3 riders were gone, the attacks kept coming from everyone eager to make it into a chase group. I made it into more moves in the day than I can remember but everything kept been brought back by the bunch.

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The climbs came just outside Leenane and went up and down on the loop around Tullycross to Letterfrack. When we hit the Leenane road on the way back it was clear to see the lumpy road was after thinning down the bunch. James was after puncturing just before Letterfrack so we put in a few dummy attacks attempting to slow the bunch down allowing him to regain contact but he had another mechanical and had to stop again. By Leenane the crosswinds section had enabled a group to get away which Keith had managed to bridge across to. This was neutralised again as we turned at Ashleigh Falls.

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On the draggy roads from Ashleigh Falls another group managed to get clear which both Westport Covey Wheelers and Castlebar CC had missed. As a consequence we had to ride the front of the bunch into a strong head wind in order to bring things back for ourselves. All back together by Louisburgh bar Anthony Murray who had clipped away into 3rd place on the road. Coming out of Louisburgh Keith came back through the bunch to say himself and Richie were going to keep it altogether and for me to sit in and keep my energy for the sprint. For the next 20km I sat in the bunch but not too far from the front so I could keep an eye on what was happening and sure enough every time an attack came Keith or Richie would ride to the front and pull it all back together nice and calmly!

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Coming out of Murrisk a group of about 8 riders got a way and Keith and Richie hit the front once more. The gap was slowly coming down to them when another rider went on the attack to bridge across to them and I was in a perfect position sitting right on his wheel so I went with him knowing as soon as I went Keith and Richie would slow the group up allowing us to get across to the group up the road alone.

We made contact with the 8 riders just after Gannons garage and I sat at the back of them for a few minutes before starting to move up a few spots after the grave yard. As soon as the other riders caught sight of the Finish line the speed picked up with one rider clipping off the front very early but experience on finishing on O’Grady’s hill as thought me not to go early. We hit the bottom of the hill and I was in about 5th position and 2 riders put in a good kick and I stuck with them hoping I could go around them. The rider in front of me moved to the right so I went to the left but had to swing around on the inside of the rider who had went early. I got up to take 2nd in the bunch 5th overall. I was delighted to get the result for Westport Covey Wheelers after the hard work Keith and Richie had put in.

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