David McCann

In the end it came right for race leader David McCann from Belfast to retain his overall lead, but he had some anxious moments during the majority of the fifth stage of the FBD Insurance Rás from Tralee to Skibbereen yesterday.

The Irish team captain who competes on the Asian circuit for Giant Asia had to dig deep with his team and Chris Newton’s Stena Line Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk team to cut the deficit on the stage winner into the stage end town, Simon Richardson of Team Plowman Craven. Newton is on the same time overall as McCann but placing on the stages give the advantage to McCann. Richardson overnight was in arrears of McCann by over two minutes. But, at the finishing line that tumbled to just over a minute plus which left the duo in the vanguard.

From the off yesterday the attacks were in the minority, but on the approach to Faranfore fourteen kilometers into the stage and a level crossing to negotiate which remained open despite the arrival of a train courtesy of Irish Rail!
Out of the traps for the first time this week, the Irish National Champion David O’Loughlin a member of the Pezula Racing Team slipped gently off the main pack. To keep him company along came Patrick Kos (Netherlands), Kit Gilham (Britain Kinesis) and Richardson.

Whilst O’Loughlin and Kos were of no significant danger to the overall lead in 31st place at 9.51 minutes and 109th at 24.14 minutes respectively. Both Richardson and Gilham had the most to gain as they were just two minutes off the race lead and they along with their companions in the break took the initiative.

First to break the ice in pursuit of the leaders was Michael Fitzgerald (Tipperary Dan Morrissey) but he is over a minute in arrears of the leaders with the bunch further back. Unfortunately his effort proves inadequate as O’Loughlin is setting the pace up front and falls back to be sucked up by the bunch who evidently are satisfied to let the leaders set the tone of the stage.

Skirting the town of Killarney, the quartet were in ascendancy as far as the bunch were concerned who looked as though they were out for Sunday spin and are ahead by just short of three minutes.

A chasing group was formed to go after the leaders with Roger Aiken (Ireland), Cameron Jennings (Pezula, Neil Coleman Plowman) and Matt Cronshaw (Kinesis) more or less as observers in the interest of the quartet ahead but Rene Birkenfeld (Germany Stevens von Hacht), Andrew Roche (Isle of Man Microgaming Dolan),  Fitzgerald (Tipperary Dan Morrissey) were contributing to the chase.

Also getting in on the chase were  Rob Partridge ( Stena Line Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk) and race leader on day two, Stephen Gallagher (An Post/ Sean Kelly).

But their advantage was short lived, leaving the leaders to gain further time and at the prime at Lady’s View after 50kms of racing it was just four and a half minutes and still there was no sounding of alarm bells as far those with the most to lose in the overall standings!

Because now both Richardson and Gilham were in the driving seat as far the leader board is concerned.This did not detract from O’Loughlin setting the pace and gaining the advantage.

A bystander on the road was heard to say, “Sure the bunch are appreciating the view up here and the break are bursting their guts.”

Evidently those words must have sifted down the mountain as their was a resurgence of activity in the bunch and going through Kenmare after 60kms of racing the gap was coming down, but not significantly.

It was also noticeable over the prime points that  both O’Loughlin and Ricardson were not contesting, evidently looking at the bigger picture.

Between Kenmare and Bantry the time gap went back up in favour of the quartet, but in the rearguard, the bunch started to fragment because of the toll on the competitors as a result of the hills and the terrain on the Cork/Kerry border.

An interested observer in Glengarriff was Maureen O’Hara star of the silver screen and in particular the ‘Quiet Man’ which was filmed in Cong. Little did she realise that leading the break through was Cong native David O’Loughlin.

Finally the bunch had sprung into action and the chase was being led by the Iranians and the Poles who still have ambitions to do well.

The first clink in the armoury of the quartet was the Dutchman Kos getting dropped as a result of a forward move by Richardson. Also Gilham lost contact but a supreme effort by O’Louglin  who despite his heroics had some reserves in the tank.

In the final kilometers O’Loughlin has the misfortune to puncture virtually giving the stage win on a plate to Richardson. Again for the second day in a row the Union Cycliste Internationale rule comes into play. David got a bike change, but Richardson had taken flight and solos across the finishing line for victory.

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