Loughgiel – the good the bad and the savage

What a weekend Phoenix had up at Loughgiel over 17th-18th May.  The good – success for both A3 and A4 riders, the bad – nasty crash during finish of Friday night stage, and the savage – horrendous weather conditions for Saturday races.  First up, a report on A4 2 day race (thanks to Geoff Garrett) followed by report on Aaron McGrady’s win in the A3.

A4 2 day race report

Of eight Phoenix entries only one would finish the full three stage race. We had good weather we had appalling weather. There were mechanicals, crashes, blood sweat and no doubt a few tears along the way.

Geoff G leading the line on stage 1

Geoff G leading the line on stage 1

Seven riders turned up in beautiful evening sunshine for the road race, first stage on Friday, Myself, GeoffH, Niall, GerryM, SteveG, DavidM and Olan. Mechanical problems on the start line, Niall with a puncture I think it was but managed to get sorted with a wheel. GeoffH with the more serious issue of dead battery on his electronic gears meant that he was stuck in 53 x 13. Despite the offer of using my winter bike for the race complete with rack and full mudguards he opted to ride the flat course on the fixed gear. I think it would be fair to say his was the ride of the night as he sprinted into 5th place with Niall just getting in ahead of him for 4th. Great rides from both of them. The race itself was a fairly typical A4 with all efforts concentrated on staying upright. A few attacks but nothing was likely to stick and we headed inevitably toward the usual manic gallop for the line. Unfortunately about 200m out a number of riders hit the deck including Steve, Gerry and Olan. I was behind and just about managed to get stopped but the carnage was spread across the full width of the road. A group of 20 or so made the dash for the line as the rest of us picked our way through the bodies. An ambulance appeared and our guys were treated for cuts and bruises. Thankfully no serious damage done to bodies but clothing and bikes not so lucky. Myself, Steve, Olan, and David were staying locally so we headed off for post race nutrition at the local chipper in Armoy for a nice greasy fish supper to restore the glycogen levels for Saturday’s time trial and road race.

Niall and Geoff Hewitt coming home 4th and 5th

Niall and Geoff Hewitt coming home 4th and 5th

Weather on Saturday morning was grey, wet and miserable. The Phoenix contingent was down to five. Steve and Olan feeling a bit stiff after the crash and Steve’s cuts needing redressed after bleeding all over the bed linen. The resident four headed off gamely in the rain and met up with Niall for the short 3 mile trial. Niall put in an excellent effort to get fifth place putting him in the same position in GC and only 12sec behind the race leader.

5 – Niall O Gorman Phoenix CC 00:07:56
25 – Steven Geary Phoenix CC 00:08:43
26 – David Maitland Phoenix CC 00:08:47
29 – Geoff Garrett Phoenix CC 00:08:52
30 – Olan Byrne Phoenix CC 00:08:53

Back to the house for a bit of food and respite before the road race. Weather conditions were getting worse and on the start line, it was absolutely pelting it down. The format was two and a half relatively flat laps around Loughguile before a steep one mile climb up Reservoir Road and then on to a lap of Orra. Tour of the Glens riders will be familiar with the Altnahinch and Glasmullan Road climbs which had to be negotiated before a long winding descent and lumpy road back to Loughguile. Olan must have taken tactical advice from PNP as he attacked from the gun – probably to get warmed up in fairness but he got a few hundred metres up the road. The bunch was thankfully taking it fairly handy on the circuit but there was much suffering due to the cold wet conditions. Guys were bailing at various points and Niall looked as if he had hypothermia.

Horrendous conditions for stage 3

Stevie Geary battling horrendous conditions during stage 3

As we turned on to the climb, the group was down to about 25 and only myself and David in the Phoenix colours. Group took off up the climb like scalded cats, bodies everywhere and I was hanging on for dear life in my determination to finish the race. I got dropped annoyingly close to the top, David was ahead of me and looked like he was hanging in ok but I can only tell my own story from this point onward. As I got on to the next climb there were two or three other riders close by but I was feeling isolated and pretty dreadful. Then what did I see alongside me? Could this be a hypothermia induced mirage? No, it was Eamonn Jr in the Phoenix team car. It is a support vehicle and with the commissaire in front by now, I feel no shame in saying that the Phoenix car was of great “support” at various points in the climb and also offered some welcome shelter from the wind and rain as I drafted in its slipstream. The road around Orra was horrendous and rain was flowing onto the road like rivers at various points, I was riding through deep water half expecting to hit potholes and giving all my concentration just to stay on the bike. I was actually glad not to be descending with the bunch. I now knew that the hardest parts were behind me and I was going to finish the race. That was until I felt that familiar grinding under the back wheel. Puncture – **ck. Tubular Tyre – double **ck. No spare wheels – treble **ck. I climbed dejected and shivering into the team car and Saint Eamonn drove me to the finish. God knows what I would have done without him and the team car as there was no broom wagon! Back at the finish, I saw some sorry sights, including a shivering David – Well done sir! – the only A4 Phoenix finisher. I also saw a shivering Smoff after finishing the A3 race and reportedly Jay had to be deposited somewhere to defrost.

Got quickly changed stuffed a few sarnies and coffee down and drove home to the best bath ever. A bit disappointing not to have finished the race, but has given me a new goal of completing a stage race. Looking towards the Omagh three day and would give the Loughguile a lash again next year if it’s on.

Well done to all who rode this weekend. Worst conditions I have ever raced in. Thanks to Duffin for putting on the event and particular credit due to the Marshalls who probably suffered as much as the riders!

(Race Report – Geoff Garret, Photos courtesy of Marian Lamb and Bronagh Kirk)

Aaron wins the A3

Aaron Mcgrady continued his fine run of form by winning the A3 race.  Aaron was joined by Jay Gault, Ed Boyle and Stephen Moffat tackling the same circuit as A4’s with additional loop of flatter circuit.  Jay made some attacks on the circuit, but got reeled in. As expected the race came alive on reservoir road.  Aaron got a way in group of three and this lead group battled attrocious conditions to keep their advantage. Tactics came to the fore, but Aaron came good in the end.   For the remaining riders coming off the mountain there where more dangers – axle-deep flood waters with submerged rocks for good measure.

Congratulations to Aaron on his win,  and to Jay, Ed, Stephen for getting round safely.