SEAN LACEY on Sunday heaped praise on Viner-Caremark-Pactimo teammate Keith Fox, after his selfless act led to the defending champion taking a joint lead in the Men’s Cycling Ireland National Road Series.
The Cork-based Tralee man finished third at the Des Hanlon Memorial in Carlow, the National Road Series first round, but back on local roads at the Donal Crowley Memorial Road Race in Blarney, he lined up as a clear favourite.
Four of his teammates got into the winning breakaway with Lacey, a move of 14 riders that went 15km into the rolling 154km test, setting up a gruelling day under rain, and dipping temperatures.
It quickly became clear this group was the selection and that Lacey’s team Viner-Caremark-Pactimo held the aces, with numbers on their side, but with about 65km to race Lacey’s gear cable broke.
“I ended up having to do a change of bike,” Lacey explained. “[Team manager] Morgan Fox had to go back to another teammate, Keith Fox, further back in the race, to ask him to pull in and give me his bike.
“Morgan then came back up to me, I did a change at the side of the road, and then had to chase back on. That was with two laps to go, so the adrenalin was pumping, and at the same time, the attacking started.”
Unshaken, Lacey was among the first to get away, and with 20km to race, he went again, this time for good. Panduit Carrick Wheelers rider Jamie Blanchfield joined him, and teammate Conor Hennebry bridged, but they were no match in the final.
Lacey said: “I felt with Keith being so selfless to give me his bike, there was an onus on me to do something special today and I was adamant that I would take the opportunity.
“I was able to attack with a kilometre to go, and it was great to come home solo on local roads.”
Lacey’s victory puts him in joint lead with Blanchfield, who finished second for the second National Road Series round. Conor Hennebry, the overall winner at International stage race Ras Mumhan over Easter, finished third.
The Women’s National Road Series Race came down to a two-up sprint between Des Hanlon solo winner Katharine Smyth and last year’s overall series winner Eve McCrystal, the latter just prevailing.
The pair had ridden much of the race alone at the front of the race, but feel things could have been different had emerging rider Aine Donegan (Scott-Orwell Wheelers) not missed Smyth’s final attack – which ended her time in their breakaway.
McCrystal said: “It’s brilliant to see another super strong girl coming on to the Irish scene. I think Katharine caught her unawares on that climb. I’ve been riding with her a long time, and half expected it, so I was ready, but Aine wasn’t. I don’t think she’ll ever let that happen again.”
Donegan, who was racing for just the second time, added: “As soon as we turned that left corner and went up the hill I didn’t have it. I’m not as strong a hill climber as them, but I dug in then on my own and I could see them for ages, but I just couldn’t get back on.”
Donegan, fourth in her first race at the Des Hanlon, finished third, moving her up to second position in the 2018 Women’s National Road Series – Smyth now leading by 20 points.