Gary O’Reilly went close to taking his second Paralympic medal in two days on Wednesday, finishing a strong fourth in the H5 road race in Tokyo.
The Portlaoise hand cyclist crossed the line 27 seconds behind the race winner Mitch Valize (Netherlands) who overhauled the French competitor Luc Vergnaud right at the line. Vergnaud had made an attack inside the final kilometre and opened a decent gap, but world champion Valize unleashed a huge finishing burst to get past him.
O’Reilly had been part of the lead group until the closing minutes, but a surge by Vergnaud drew Valize and teammate Tim de Vries clear on the final long climb. That created two groups of three riders, with O’Reilly strongest of the chasers and sprinting in just ahead of American Alfredo del Los Santos, netting fourth.
“I’m chuffed about the Games as a whole,” he said. “I think fourth today was the best result I could have hoped for, to be honest. With the medal yesterday, I’m still struggling to believe that happened, so I think all in all it’s job done. I couldn’t be happier. It is unbelievable to have that medal. I can’t wait to hang it up on the wall at home.”
The Fuji Speedway course imposed demands on both the riders and their machines. O’Reilly revealed afterwards that he had to make adjustments on the fly.
“It was tough out there, the climbs. I am probably a bit heavier than one or two of them. It was a real challenge every time up the hill. It was just so hot that it was frying the brake pads,” he said. “I had to get allen keys at one point to try and sort that out. The pads were overheating on the steep descents.”
“There were a couple of drives on the flats, but nothing major. All the racing was done out the back (of the course), on the bends. Coming through here it was mostly cruising. I was just waiting, you just knew it (the final surge) was going to come.”
O’Reilly’s campaign has now drawn to a close. The next Irish competitors will be in action on Friday, when they too finish off their Paralympics.
Tuesday's gold medallists Katie George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal will be aiming for a second gold in the B road race, which will be shown at 5am Irish time. They have taken two medals thus far, having also scooped silver in the track pursuit last Saturday.
Of the other Irish in action on Friday, Ronan Grimes will contest the C4-C5 road race, Richael Timothy will compete in the C3 road race and tandem pairing Martin Gordon and Eamonn Byrne will ride the men's B road race.