Ireland’s Nathan Keown in yellow: I didn’t expect anything like this

Posted on: July 13th, 2019

Nathan Keown Junior Tour of Ireland yellow: The North Down cyclist, riding for the national team, getting clear early. He was never caught and trade his green jersey for the yellow of race leader (Photo: Sean Rowe)

Nathan Keown today carries the yellow jersey into the penultimate stage of the Junior Tour of Ireland after a masterful team performance yesterday.

However, while the national team he is part of on this race got three in the escape yesterday and then really went for it; Keown himself deserves great praise.

The North Down CC man has been the quiet achiever in many ways this year; taking repeated wins and placings.

He has gradually pulled himself in the top tier of riders on the domestic scene in recent months.

His status as one of the very best was confirmed by his breakaway ride, and eventual 4th place, in the junior road race at the National Road Championships in Derry City two weeks ago.

Joe Wilson of the Green Jersey team takes yesterday’s stage win in a sprint finish from the 13-man breakaway that gained so much time (Photo: Sean Rowe)
Finley Newmark best of the Irish in the breakaway; finishing in 4th place (Photo: Sean Rowe)

His selection onto the Irish team for this race was his first for a national junior team. And he has since taken his chance with both hands.

However, though it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for him on this race, he’s shown great mental and physical strength and now finds himself in the driving seat.

When other riders’ morale would have dropped through the floor after being dropped from the seemingly decisive stage 2 breakaway, Keown got back on the horse and went on the attack yesterday.

Indeed, being dropped by that breakaway on stage 2 – losing contact when he lost a few lengths in the crosswinds – meant he was ideally place yesterday.

He was not among the eight men who arrived at the finish together on stage 2 as he lost 1:26 to those leading eight men.

But the bunch never caught him that day and he finished alone in 9th place, some 38 seconds up the peloton.

Yellow jersey Magnus Sheffield from the US Hot Tubes team stranded back the road (Photo: Sean Rowe)
Newmark drives the breakway for Ireland with McCambridge a few places back (Photo: Sean Rowe)

It meant he went into yesterday’s stage 4 sufficiently far down on the top eight riders overall to be given some leeway.

But if he could get away without any of the eight, he was up on everyone else and so in an ideal position.

And that’s precisely what happened; Keown forging clear not long after the race left the start at Ballyvaughan.

More and more riders got across to Keown and the other rider he was initially with. Eventually a 13-man group formed out front.

And though establishing a large gap did not initially come easy, the Irish team also had Kevin McCambridge and Finley Newmark up front.

Mark Smith, black jersey and white helmet, was the best placed Irish rider starting today but he missed the breakaway (Photo: Sean Rowe)
Ciaran Cahoon made the Ulster selection this year and fought hard yesterday (Photo: Sean Rowe)
Niall Hogan is part of a very tidy up and coming Comeragh CC JT team (Photo: Sean Rowe)

The Irish trio, with many of the others in the escape, soon began to gain ground. And they really upped the pace after the final climb, gaining 3:40 by the finish.

At the finish line British rider Joe Wilson of the Green Jersey team took the stage win in a sprint from the 13-rider breakaway.

Newmark was best placed of the Irish team trio in the breakaway, placing 4th.  Keown and McCambridge were 11th and 12th over the line.

The time gain by the breakaway put Keown into yellow and McCambridge up to 2nd place overall; a great achievement in a race with almost 150 riders and a very strong international line-up.

Keown told stickybottle he felt stage 2 on Wednesday had gone well. However, there was also a sense of what might have been after he lost time to the eight others he was with, though he has now turned it all around.

“I was disappointed to be dropped from the break as my teammates had worked to slow the bunch and keep the break away,” he said.

“However, in the end it turned out to be the best thing that could’ve happened as it meant the bunch weren’t worried about me,” he said of yesterday’s stage 4.

Kevin McCambridge of the Irish team up the stage 4 breakaway (Photo: Sean Rowe)
Keown finishes and he knows he’s the man in yellow (Photo: Sean Rowe)
Nathan Keown is presented with the jersey by Cycling Ireland president Ciaran McKenna, who is also working on the Junior Tour (Photo: Sean Rowe)

Keown continued of yesterday: “I went up the road with one American guy early and got about a minute head start for the hill,” he added of yesterday.

“There were then lots of attacks from the bunch and Kevin and Finley were strong enough to go with them, so we formed a large break.

“There were a few riders who weren’t working in the break as they had leaders behind. But most of the riders did ride through with us until the last 20km or so.

“The gap stayed small at around 20 seconds for quite a long time until the elastic eventually broke.”

He added he was surprised he was the only rider from the stage 2 breakaway to get up the road. But that simply meant they weren’t chase as hard at they might have been early in the day.

“It was only after the last KOH with around 20km to go that I realised I was in virtual yellow,” he explained.

“Finley and Kevin rode really strongly from then on and even pulled the gap out on the chasing bunch.”

Asked if he was delighted with the yellow jersey, he replied: “Extremely. It’s probably the biggest race I’ve done, and I didn’t expect anything like this.”

For full results after stage 4, follow this link.