Banbridge cyclist, Mark Downey of Cycling Ulster Slane Cycles Team captured the 2013 Rás Dhun na nGall title on Sunday when he held off the challenge of Gavin Noble (Lakeland B) in a dramatic conclusion to the three-day event.
There was no end of drama and excitement as the riders faced over sixty miles of hard racing on Stage 4 on Sunday as they took in three King of the Mountains before the final test on the top of the legendary Glengesh Pass.
As the riders gathered for the off, Mark Downey was presented with the Yellow Jersey which he had won by a narrow margin of three seconds on Stage 3 the previous evening.
Keeping this jersey on Sunday would be difficult as Gavin Noble of the Lakeland squad would be out to recover it having lost it on Saturday. Also in contention, a further second behind Noble, was Andrew Stanley of the Dublin University outfit.
As the flag was dropped, the riders headed out to Bruckless and Dunkineely for the first climb of the day at The Nick.
Four riders decided to take the bull by the horns and broke early and as they increased their gap to over a minute in the first 30 miles of racing. They were chased by a group of three which included Cormac Keeney (Errigal CC), Sean McKenna (UCD) and Brian McArdle of Orwell Wheelers.
Eventually the chasers were joined by six others which included Mark Downey and Gavin Noble. They closed the gap to the break in the closing stages of the race as it approached Glengesh.
Brian McArdle of Orwell Wheelers put in a superb effort to take the stage while Downey and Noble played cat and mouse up the final few metres of the climb, each afraid to go too early. With fifty metres to go Downey kicked to take second on the stage and retain the Yellow Jersey leaving Noble having to be content with second overall.
Donegal’s Cormac Keeney took sixth on the stage to ensure an impressive 9th place finish overall.
The Cycling Ulster Slane Cycles team retained their position as top team.
The race brought an exciting end to an event which got underway on Friday evening in Ardara. The Nesbitt Arms Hotel became the hub for the cyclists as they signed on for the event most had been looking forward to all year. The three day stage race is promoted by the Four Masters Cycling Club and generously supported by the Nesbitt Arms Hotel and the Ardara Traders.
Stage 1 took in the Frosses, Dunkineely and Bruckless before finally arriving back to finish in Ardara main street just before 9pm.
A strong headwind and light drizzle greeted the first of Saturday morning’s riders as they started Stage 2. The stage, while just under two miles long, is often underrated by riders until they actually see what they are facing. This is no flat stage but rather a tough hill climb up the side of Glengesh.
First to break the nine minute mark was one of the early riders was Mark Downey. He recorded a fantastic 08’01.56” which provided him with a nice cushion as he was second on general classification going into the stage.
One of the known danger men was Gavin Noble riding for the Lakeland B team and he recorded the first sub eight minute time of the day with a 07’53.13”. As he was only two seconds down on general classification he was now the new Yellow Jersey holder.
The only two women in the competition this year were Tonya Moran and Ciara Horne. Moran riding for Black Rose recorded a 11’05.77” while Horne of the Lakeland squad recorded 09’15.60”.
Stage three of the Rás Dhun na nGall kicked off on Saturday afternoon with a bang as riders went from the gun. The fast initial pace saw 15 riders dropped in the first five miles of racing. This was to be the story for the day as riders kept the pressure on.
After a gruelling stage, Mark Downey crossed the line in fourth position gaining a valuable few seconds on the bunch. Noble had been obvious at the front of the chasing pack for some time but as the front riders crossed the line there was no sign of him. As the last rider of the bunch crossed the line three riders could be seen a couple of bike lengths behind. This was the Yellow Jersey Group. However, according to the rules if there is a full second of a break in a bunch then this is considered as the next bunch and a different time is recorded.
For the sake of 1.3 seconds in crossing the line Noble lost valuable time and the yellow Jersey. Downey was officially declared the new holder by a mere three seconds over Noble going into the final day’s racing. It was to prove a significant lead - one which Downing would just about hold onto on Sunday to claim the overall win.
Top Ten Overall General Classification:
1) Mark Downey, Cycling Ulster 6h 11’10”
2) Gavin Noble, Lakeland B +16”
3) Andrew Stanley, DUCC +48”
4) Mike Millar, Phoenix A +1.02”
5) Brian McArdle, DTC Orwell Wheelers +1.04”
6) Barrick Parker, UCD +1.11”
7) Stephen Harkins, Team Madigan +1.18”
8) Danny Bruton, NRPT Standard Life +1.22”
9) Cormac Keeney, Errigal CC +1.27”
10) Philip Hinch, Brotheren Cycles +1.35”