Damien Shaw breaks away to make up for Rás woe
First-year senior Eddie Dunbar illustrates his potential with second-place finish
Beating experienced international riders, including 2014 winner Ryan Mullen and the rest of the An Post Chainreaction Sean Kelly team, Irish amateur Damien Shaw (Team Asea) and first-year senior Eddie Dunbar (NFTO) put in a superb performance in Sunday’s Irish road race championship in Omagh.
Shaw (30) triumphed at the end of the 105-mile race, attacking out of the remnants of a 14-man breakaway move which went clear on lap one of seven.
He and Dunbar (18) clipped away on the penultimate lap and swiftly gained time over those behind.
Shaw then surged again inside the final five kilometres and finally shook clear of one of the youngest riders in the race.
He hit the line one minute and two seconds ahead of Dunbar and was two minutes 40 up on Conor Dunne (An Post ChainReaction Sean Kelly). His victory made up for the near misses of second, second and third on the final three stages of this year’s An Post Rás.
“This means an awful lot to me,” he told The Irish Times just before the podium ceremony, where he was presented with the distinctive white and green Irish national champion’s jersey. “I have been trying for this the last few years. Every year I was kind of close and obviously I have made the jump this year.”
Shaw’s previous best performance came in Carlingford in 2013 when he placed third. That showed the professional riders he has an ability beyond his amateur status, and he underlined it once again in the Rás and the nationals road race.
He illustrated his potential numerous times as a junior rider but has made a step up again this season despite the fractured collarbone suffered on May 1st on stage one of the Tour of Yorkshire.
Aggressive against far older riders in the events he has ridden for the British-based NFTO team, he returned to Ireland last week and picked up the silver medal behind Mullen in the national time trial championships on Thursday.
He expressed some satisfaction with yesterday’s second silver medal, but wanted more. “I am not really happy unless I win,” he said. “I know I won the under-23 title but I always like to aim bigger. My main focus today was trying to get gold in the elite. But I am only 18 years of age and there is plenty more to come. The strongest man won today.”
Missing out early on were defending champion Mullen, hit by stomach issues, multiple past winner Matt Brammeier (MTN Qhubeka) and Sky’s Philip Deignan. They and many others were absent from the first-lap breakaway and never got back on terms. Instead, the group of 14 worked well to put time into the bunch and set up the winning move.
On Saturday Lydia Boylan (Team WNT) triumphed in the Elite women’s road race, beating Lydia Gurley (Bonito), Olivia Dillon (Visit Dallas/4Goo) and three others in six-up sprint to the line. She raced aggressively for much of the event and still had plenty for the gallop, beating a number of past champions to take gold.
Meanwhile, Aidan Crowley (Strata3/Velo) was quickest in the Masters 40 race, while Declan Hanrahan (Carrick Wheelers) and Kevin O’Leary (St. Finbarr’s) were best in the Masters 50 and 60 events.