Stickybottle

Mark Smith: Aiming his big ambition at Junior Tour yellow jersey

Posted on: July 14th, 2018

Mark Smith in action during the stage 1 TT of the Junior Tour of Ireland. He was up the road yesterday chasing the race lead (Photo: Stephen McMahon – Sportsfile).

 

By Graham Gillespie

Mark Smith, the leading Irish rider at the Junior Tour of Ireland, had another lively race yesterday in Co Clare.

The Cycling Leinster man was part of a breakaway on stage four that gained enough to make him the virtual race leader throughout much of the day.

It was a close-run thing, but in the end, the peloton finally engulfed them. And there was to be no yellow jersey for Smith.

That leader’s jersey was something that Smith said he was “pulling towards like there was no tomorrow”.

Smith got in the breakaway after 15 kilometres and was initially wary of overexerting himself.

“When I got in the break, I was just trying to get a feel for it first. I didn’t really drive until we got over the Corkscrew,” Smith said of the cat 1 climb.

“Once we got over the Corkscrew then we had about 30 seconds. We drove on then on the other side and the gap went out to about 55 seconds.”

As soon as the Leinster rider realised the break’s lead had grown out, he knew he had a real opportunity to snatch the leader’s jersey.

“Once we got word of that the gap went out that far, I really just started to dig for it then. I thought I might have a good chance to go for yellow,” he said.

“The last 50k especially; all that was in the back of my mind was that this was the ride for yellow.”

 

Lance Davidson, Dornier Racing Team, leads Mark Smith, Cycling Leinster, and Henry Lutz, Holowesko Citadel, as the race passes through the Burren (Photo: Stephen McMahon-Sportsfile)

 

Unfortunately for Smith, the peloton was well aware that he was a threat in the general classification.

“Hot Tubes got word that I was a danger to them. They just strung it out then for the last 20k or so. The gap came back in no time at all,” he said.

The peloton finally caught them just before the final kilometre; close but no cigar – or yellow jersey – for Smith.

“I was pushing to the very end and I was suffering the whole time,” Smith reflected.

Despite the near miss, the Sports Room Racing man has been happy with his Junior Tour so far.

Smith admits he did not enter the tour with the highest of expectations.

However, he has been able to build upon his impressive eighth place finish in the TT on stage one. And now he is feeling confident.

“I got a good result in the TT which was something I definitely wasn’t expecting,” he explained.

“I also thought I showed a good performance today. And now that I’m up this far; yellow is my target now.

“And if not, I’d be happy with a top ten. Top Irish rider is definitely a target as well.

“I’m happy with where I am but since I’ve made it this far, I may as well keep striving for bigger things.”

Team support crucial

Having Frank O’Leary as team manager for Leinster has also proven beneficial for Smith.

The teenager, and first-year junior, has a close relationship with O’Leary as he is also involved with Sports Room Racing.

“He knows me and I know him so we work well together,” explained Smith of transfer his club team relationship into the Leinster squad.

Smith was also quick to praise the rest of the Cycling Leinster team. And he believes their organisation has helped the riders massively.

“The set up here is fantastic. We have three houses here for us all. Everyone has their own room, so you can shut down if you want”.

Looking ahead Smith stated that he aims to compete in the World Road Championships in Innsbruck, Austria, in September.

And he knows well that now is the time he needs to impress: “I’m just trying to get my name out there as much as possible now,” he concluded.

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