Paralympics: slipped chain robs Eoghan Clifford of third medal

Second such mishap in Rio saw Irish cyclist, favourite to win, drop to fifth place

The symbiotic relationship between man and bike was graphically illustrated 200 metres from the finish of the men's C1-3 road race in Pontal, a seaside resort in the suburbs of Rio.

Ireland's Eoghan Clifford felt strong and relaxed, benefiting from the slipstream tow at the back of a bunch of five riders, poised to strike as the finishing line hove into view.

The pre-race favourite, perfectly positioned only to be derailed by mechanical failure, eventually finishing fifth.

Speaking in the aftermath he explained: “I felt pretty good coming into the sprint, particularly because I lined myself up behind everyone.I [always] need a run at it.

“I’m not very explosive but once I get up to speed I can maintain it and I felt I was in with a good chance of a medal but just the chain came off. I wasn’t even changing gears, but it happens in bike racing.”

Second mishap

In a freak coincidence, he suffered a similar mishap when taking the gold medal in the road race time trial two days earlier but thankfully it didn’t define the outcome.

“I think in the time trial it was more my fault. Today there was nothing anyone could do. I wasn’t changing gears; I was in the right gear for the sprint. The minute I put down the power it just slipped over onto the crank and there is no recovery from that.

“I think I might have roared a few expletives and banged the handlebars. I really felt good for the sprint. I mightn’t have won, I might have come fourth or fifth but I really felt I would have been in there for a medal. If I hadn’t had a medal before that, I would have been going mad.”

In fact he had two: a bronze in the Velodrome to complement Wednesday’s gold medal. The 36-year-old lecturer from NUI Galway, who suffers from a hereditary muscular degenerative disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth, suffered with a knee injury from the get-go in Rio, to the point where he wanted to chuck his bike into the sea.

No pressure

That was before Wednesday. The gold medal allowed him to release that pent-up pressure and frustration to the point where he could actually enjoy, Friday’s ride. His team-mate

Colin Lynch

did his part early on, before the breakaway group of six initially, and then five riders, attacked and counter-attacked.

Clifford explained: “The difference about today was I didn’t feel under pressure and I have enjoyed it. I must admit before the time trial, being here was all about getting medals but I came here today with more freedom. I gave it everything.

“It’s been fantastic but I am very disappointed now because I love road racing and I really felt I had a medal there but it’s been a great Paralympics, I really enjoyed it.

“I would like to say thanks to all the team, my team-mates who are shouting at the side of the road, even though they are racing (on Saturday) and Neil our coach, Eoin, Gerry, Johnny, Tommy they have been fantastic all year.”

Lynch, a silver medal winner earlier in the week, finished 24th. He said: “I did my best to stay at the front and just at the right time I was able to jump away with one of the riders and create a little bit of a gap. I think it created a bit of panic behind and I thought it was perfect, if I can get a little bit up the road with one of the riders then Eoghan could jump across.”

Clifford and Lynch will be back in Pontal, cheering on the three Irish tandems who go in the men’s B and women’s B road race. The gold medal winners from the pursuit, Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal are among the favourites.

Irish in action:

Athletics: Noelle Lenihan, T37 discus final (21.36) Cycling: Damien Vereker/Sean Hahessy, Peter Ryan/Marcin Mizgajski, men's tandem B road race (17.00); Katie-George Dunlevy/Eve McCrystal, women's tandem B road race (17.05) Sailing: Austin O'Carroll/Ian Costelloe/John Twomey, Sonar class, medal race (16.05) Swimming: Nicole Turner, women's S6 100 metres freestyle (13.45). Final: (21.36). James Scully, men's S5 100 metres freestyle heats, (14.56). Final: (23.28)

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