CYCLING: O'Brien surge sees off Suir Valley rivals
Sprinter Paidi O'Brien (SportActive) showed a clean pair of wheels to Mullingar's Damien Shaw (Lakeside Wheelers) and An Post professional Ronan McLaughlin in Clonmel yesterday to take stage two of the Suir Valley three-day.
After an aggressive start, an attack by Shaw on a short climb dragged the trio clear of a large lead group approximately 15km from the line and they quickly opened up a 20-second lead, with Shaw doing a lot of the work in the break.
"Damien was unbelievable," said third-placed McLaughlin afterwards.
"He was doing twice as much as me and Paidi in the break. If he hadn't been there, we would have been caught today. He was incredible."
Both Shaw and McLaughin could only look on though as O'Brien unleashed the trademark kick that has earned him the nickname 'the pocket rocket' since returning to the domestic scene this year and the Sportactive team after a four-year stint with Sean Kelly's Belgian-based An Post team.
"I was targeting the shorter stage because I haven't a lot of big rides done, so I knew this was my best chance," said O'Brien afterwards.
"With 2km to go, I knew we had enough time so I stopped riding.
"Damien started the sprint early but the corners in the finish suited me. I came down before the start this morning and looked at the finish.
"I got into the second last corner first and came out of the last corner with a big gap, and I'm very happy with this win."
O'Brien too had praise for the gutsy Shaw, who earned the most combative rider award yesterday.
"Damien was very strong," said the Banteer sprinter. "He just accelerated on a hill and I went after him. Ronan came up to me and we went over the top abut 10 metres behind Damien.
"He didn't ease up. We had to ride hard for about 2km to catch him.
"I was running on fumes coming in -- but I knew my card was the sprint."
Shaw -- from an athletics background -- only took up cycling competitively last year but was disappointed to be second again this season in yesterday's stage.
"I just kept attacking, hoping something would stick," Shaw said.
Stage one winner and race leader Herman Forche of South Africa finished less than half a minute behind to hold onto his yellow jersey.
"It will be hard to keep it," said the 24-year-old Johannesburg native. "I don't have a team here and the Irish guys and some of the other Europeans are very strong."