IVCA Ashbourne: Win for Liam Maguire!!!
We were no sooner started when the race practically came to a stop as the bunch tried to get by a few loose horses without spooking them. We eventually got by in ones & twos and and waited till everyone got back before hostilities resumed. A few riders tried to break clear on the stretch down to the Ashbourne Road, but as this is the fastest part of the course and with a tailwind, no one was going to get clear here despite speeds of 36mph. A few miles later Paul Deans and another rider went on the attack and got about 200 yards of a gap. As they turned into the wind on the back stretch maintaining this gap would become hard work and no one in the bunch particularly wanted to pull them back. Let them ‘stew’ a bit is probably the terminology. Cruelly enough the bunch held them at this range for about 10 miles despite the speed dropping considerably on the rolly section before Soldiers Hill. It seemed that every time they slowed so also did the bunch controlled mainly by the Orwell riders at this stage. There were a few cries & name calling from one or two riders within the bunch trying to stimulate the chase, but they weren’t chasing either so their bluffs were largely ignored. All came back together on Soldier’s but no major counter move was made as perhaps riders were mindful of how long the hill was and how far it was to the finish. On the second lap Damien Carroll (Newbridge) had a dig but quickly found out how difficult it was into the wind and this wind made most riders reluctant to make a move at least until we were back onto the Navan Road. Orla Hendron had a few goes which were covered, although she was quite strong, ‘fresh’ from a good showing in the Gorey 3-Day. I made a few jumps myself trying to stimulate an attack before we turned for the final assent of Soldiers. I hoped that it might be of benefit to Brendan Kennedy, my training partner. We rode the course many times during the winter and I knew what he was capable of if he had a good go on the hill. As it turned out two riders got away up the hill and Brendan rode tempo on the hill (as many of us were swinging on the back!!!!). He eventually got everyone back and got into the counter move of a few riders but no one was being let go very far and it was a weary bunch together as we turned for home. Paul Deans & Brian Reynolds made token moves on the run in but at this stage it was definitely coming down to a sprint. I was seriously just hanging on most of the day, but if the better riders haven’t got rid of you they would have to suffer the consequences. I got into a good position on Liam Maguire wheel but after a slight flurry I somehow ended up a little too near the front and catching more wind than I wanted. A rider on my left ‘welcomed’ me to the business end of the race to which I replied ‘expletive deletive’ and that I was up there to win it. Some chance of that, my legs were shot and my field of vision had narrowed so much that the finish was in front of me before I knew what was happening. The final move went on my right, I tried to respond but there was nothing there. I saw Liam go over the top of the attacking riders and such was his power that I knew he had timed it exquisitely right and the win was his. On his wheel or not there would never be enough time to come off it and besides his attack was so decisive that the win was never in doubt. The best riders finished in the top 6 and I cant help thinking that had they been more persistent in attacking during the race that such was the terrain that they could have blown the race (incl me most definitely!!!) apart long before the finish. Plenty of good gallopers finished well down the bunch which tells its own story. A deserved 2nd place for new vet, Ian O’Keefe, an impressive 3rd from Orla Hendron narrowly beating my mate Brendan (the climber!!!) who squeezed through the narrowest of gaps, followed closely by Romano and another new face, David Kelly who both were strong finishers.