Darragh O’Mahony on “chewing the stem” for win of his life
Darragh O’Mahony’s last-gasp lunge for the line that won the Des Hanlon Classic. The O’Leary’s Stone Kanturk man has three wins racked up already this season (Photo: Sean Rowe)
By Brian Canty
Darragh O’Mahony notched the best win of his career when he added his name to a stellar list of riders who have won the Des Hanlon Memorial.
The O’Leary’s Stone Kanturk man rode an incredible race. And he capped it with a sprint he’ll remember for a long time.
It was a far from straight-forward afternoon for him. When the five-man break escaped it looked like game over for the eventual winner.
In that move were Eoin O’Connell (Killarney CC), Sean Lacey, Mark O’Callaghan (both Aqua Blue Academy), Craig Rea (Phoenix CC) and Jamie Blanchfield (Carrick Wheelers)
They got three minutes and with a gap like that it was going to take a huge performance to get up to them.
But O’Mahony attacked hard after the day’s prime on the first of four 38-kilometre laps.
And with eventual runner-up Rory Townsend (Bike Channel Canyon) they preceded to work into the deficit.
They got back on level terms after 30 kilometres of savage riding.
Darragh O’Mahony works his way across to the break today with the help of Townsend. It took them around 30 kilometres to close a three-minute gap (Photo: John Coleman)
“The group of five got away after two or three kilometres, they were gone,” said O’Mahony.
“I didn’t know they were gone until we got a time gap of three minutes at the prime. So Rory and myself attacked over the top and we closed the gap.”
They were chased throughout their own pursuit of the five leaders. But those behind never really made inroads.
“Guys were trying to come across but we weren’t getting gaps to them, just the guys ahead,” added O’Mahony.
“Rory was very strong, he’s a very strong guy. He was pulling harder than me. But we got across halfway through the second lap; that was the main thing.”
There was still 100 kilometres to go when they made the junction. And when they gathered their breath they injected fresh impetus to the escape.
UCD CC-FitzCycles.ie put men on the front in pursuit of the breakaway. Top, the escape that won the day (Photos by JohnColeman)
“We all rode honestly until maybe 10k to go. And then the attacks started. But it all came together before the line.”
Each of the escapees could lay claim to deserving the win. But it was O’Mahony who laid his cards on the table early.
He put in a searing acceleration before the left-turn at the roundabout, the exiting of which begins the finishing straight.
“I said if I went before the roundabout I’d give myself the best chance of winning,” he recalled.
“About 30 metres before the roundabout I went. I took all my speed into the turn. And I kicked as hard as I could out of it and stayed away.
“I was just chewing stem trying to get to the line as quickly as I could,” he added of dying to the chequered flag.
However, there’s plenty of road to cover from the roundabout to the finish line and Townsend wasn’t finished yet. He put in a huge effort behind O’Mahony.
“I could see him because I had my head down,” said O’Mahony. I could see him between my legs and he jumped from 100 metres to go.
“And Mark (O’Callaghan) was coming fast as well, it was tough. I thought I was beaten because Rory was coming around me quickly.
“The line couldn’t come soon enough. I actually thought he pipped me but it was all in the bike throw.
“It looked in the photos that his body was ahead of mine but I threw the bike a bit further and that’s what got it.”
He didn’t celebrate because he thought he was beaten. And it was a full 10 minutes before he learned the outcome.
“I had no idea for 10 minutes until Gary McIlroy came up and told me I had it, I’m delighted.
“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting it but it’s massive. It’s the biggest win of my career by far.
“I was talking to Paidi O’Brien after the race and he said for all the races he’s won he’s never won the Hanlon.
“He’s been second twice and a lot of good riders have won it. It’s great to be in that company.”