Cycling: Martin hunts down pack to snatch crown as Gallagher claims stage
Thomas Martin snatched victory in the Suir Valley three-day race in Clonmel yesterday when he crossed the line in fourth place from a five-man front group, 41 seconds clear of his nearest challengers.
Stephen Gallagher (Sigma Sport) showed superb skills and attention to detail as he took the final stage ahead of Ronan McLaughlin (An Post), Stephen Barrett (Planet X), Martin and Conor O'Shea (Killorglin) in a very technical finish.
Gallagher's stage win was all the more impressive considering he had almost abandoned the race on the opening day because of illness.
With a sharp left-hand bend followed by a chicane and a speed bump in the final 100 metres, the experienced Gallagher made sure to check out yesterday's tricky finish beforehand.
"It was always going to be difficult to go for the overall win because there are too many strong teams here and I'm here on my own, but I'm happy with the stage," Gallagher said.
Andy Roche's Isle of Man squad were forced to chase down countless attacks during the 99km stage in an effort to defend his single-second race lead.
Second overall, Conor Murphy (Eurocycles) was race leader on the road midway through the stage when he went clear in a group that also contained team-mate Adam Armstrong but they were reeled in at Ardfinnan with 12km to go.
Here in a Hot Spot sprint, Barrett surged clear to pick up more points towards his pink jersey and was joined by McLaughlin, Martin and O'Shea, with Gallagher the last man to bridge the gap a kilometre later.
Martin and Gallagher were forced to do most of the work as lower-placed McLaughlin and Barrett sat on in an effort to take stage victory for their teams.
Having started the day in fourth place overall, Martin knew he had to ride hard to take enough time on his rivals and win the race outright.
"When Adam and Conor's group went clear, Conor had the yellow jersey on the road but it came back with about 15km to go," said Martin, who began the day just 10 seconds off the yellow jersey of Roche.
Martin's EuroCycles/EuroBaby team of Murphy, Armstrong and Frazer Duncan also took the team prize ahead of the professional An Post/Sean Kelly squad.
An Post's Mark Cassidy held onto his King of the Mountains jersey by a point from Tighernach Murphy, while Martyn Irvine had the consolation of taking the Hot Spot sprints jersey and the green jersey of points winner after losing yellow on Sunday when he missed his start in the time trial through Clonmel.