Defending champion Matt Brammeier took his second national road race title in Scotstown yesterday when he edged out fellow pro Dan Martin in a photo finish for his second gold medal of the weekend.
After instigating the winning breakaway on the opening lap, when he went clear with An Post's Philip Lavery, Brammeier rode cagily throughout the 175km title race, and was the only one of eight leaders with enough in reserve to follow a late attack by Martin on the final ascent of Slieve Beagh with 12km to go.
"We rode a good tempo on the first lap and kept the gap at about 20 seconds, which gave people a good incentive to come across," said the young An Post pro.
"Brammeier rode a smart race. He didn't do a tap. He just glass-cranked it today, which was our own fault really. It was up to monitor that as well.
"We let it happen to an extent. We knew that Sam would be quick in the finish, but in the end, Dan attacked on the hill and Brammeier went with him. We were struggling to get his wheel. I don't think we could have won on the day, but the team rode really well today."
The new champion seemed to concur with Lavery afterwards, citing a hard-fought time-trial victory on Friday evening and a lack of team-mates in the road race for his caginess.
"I just followed all race, followed everyone," he said. "Dan Martin was super strong all day. He can climb. He can time trial. He can sprint. He did so much riding, so much attacking. He was one of the strongest guys there but in a race like this you really have to save your energy."
As it turned out, Brammeier would need every last joule of energy to keep Martin at bay in the closing metres, having confidently led out the sprint only to watch anxiously as the in-form Martin drew level and then passed him after the line.
Neither rider celebrated victory on the line and both had a few anxious minutes while waiting for the judges to deliver a verdict after watching the photo finish camera. After much deliberation, Brammeier was adjudged to have taken the title by the slimmest of margins, his second national title of the weekend.
"I really didn't know who'd got it," said Brammeier seconds later. "I didn't have a clue. I was a bit worried for a few minutes. It took them a long time to announce the result, but when they did, they called the right one. It's unreal. I couldn't have asked for any more. It's been a perfect weekend."
Martin was clearly disappointed with second, especially as his gears had slipped going into the sprint. "My gears went down two instead of one going into it and it stopped me. Another metre and I would have won it. I just mistimed the sprint. Obviously I'm disappointed because I felt that I was probably the strongest out there today, but Matt was the cleverest, so fair play to him.
"It's just great that one of the World Tour guys won the jersey again and we can keep the jersey present in all the big races again."
Giant Kenda pro David McCann, who was second to Brammeier in Friday's time-trial championships took third just ahead of Nicolas Roche (Ag2r) with An Post trio Sam Bennett, Ronan McLaughlin and Philip Lavery and McCann's team-mate Martyn Irvine next over the line in that order.
"The break was basically all the guys that are riding professionally," said a disappointed McCann. "It made it a bit negative because everybody was there and there wasn't much happening for along time in the race. That's why I had a few digs. The boys just kept bringing me back, though, and were happy to just roll around. It was very frustrating.
"I led the last time up the hill and about 50m from the top Dan and Matt came around my attack and I just couldn't get back on them and ended up with Nicolas and Sam. Once I got rid of them, I was actually catching the two boys in front, but it was too late. I'd have swapped either of the medals for one gold."
Bennett (21) also retained his U-23 title for another year, while his An Post team-mate Lavery took silver ahead of French based Aaron Buggle of UV Aube.
Meath based Team Dectek took the team award with Neil Delahaye, Stephen O'Sullivan and Fiachra O'Mhuire their best placed riders on the day.
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