Christie the stage hero but Aquablue train can’t be stopped

Posted on: May 2nd, 2016

Marcus Christie wins a brilliant final stage of the AGE Tour of Ulster in Moy, but Team Aquablue took 1st and 2nd overall with Conor Hennebry and Sean Lacey (Photo: Stephen McMahon)

 

Having only returned to the sport after changing his mind about hanging up his racing wheels, Marcus Christie has taken the final stage of the Amber Green Energy Tour of Ulster.

The former U23 road international and elite Irish team track rider and Commonwealth Games athlete came hone solo after a fantastic circuit race stage; seven laps of a loop of just over 10 miles in Moy.

But it was Conor Hennebry of Team Aquablue who was crowned 2016 overall winner.

He marked a later dangerous attack by defending champion Mark Dowling (ASEA Wheelworx).

And with a group up the road for the whole stage, none of whom were within two minutes of the race lead, Team Aquablue judged it to perfection; catching the back of that escape right on the finish line.

That ensured no change overall, with Hennebry winning from team mate Sean Lacey and Dowling rounding out the podium.

 

The final podium of the AGE Tour of Ulster 2016 was a very strong one; Hennebry in pinking winning from team mate Lacey, left, and last year’s overall victor Mark Dowling (Photo: Stephen McMahon)

 

But Christie (Omagh Wheelers) had attacked the breakaway in the last kilometre and used his power to time trial to victory, having just three seconds to spare over stage 1 winner Angus Fyffe.

The rest of the five-man winning move was a further 3 seconds back, with the reduced peloton on their rear wheels and being credited with the same time.

 

How stage 3 happened

As was the case yesterday, some very strong men were out of the traps very soon after the start this morning; the eventual winner Christie going clear with Ronan McLaughlin (Foyle Racing Team) and Eoin Morton (UCD-Fitzcycles.ie).

Morton was first over the first categorised climbed at Moy with just under 10 miles done; with Christie next followed by McLaughlin – both of them former An Post-Chainreaction riders.

With 17 miles done, the three leaders were still out front but only just, with the time checks indicating a modest buffer of some 20 seconds.

Behind, McLaughlin’s two team mates – Sean Noon and Mark McClure – pulled clear with David Hamilton (North Down CC) in pursuit of the three leaders.

 

Sean McKenna on the front of the bunch led by Team Aquablue and ASEA-Wheelworx as they fought out the order of the final podium (Photo: Stephen McMahon – Sportsfile)

 

However, there were soon caught as the breakaway continued to gradually extended its lead, with Aaron Swan (Ballymoney CC Biesty’s Centra) attacking the bunch behind.

He was in the middle of breakaway and bunch at the 25 mile marker, with the gap just a shade over 50 seconds.

However, he failed to get across and was caught, with stage 1 winner Angus Fyffe then going clear with Noone and Alastair Gribbon of Carn Wheelers.

And making a very decent charge up the road, they quickly closed to with 20 seconds of the leaders as Gareth McKee (Banbridge CC) was a further 10 seconds back and the bunch around 20 seconds behind him with 30 miles covered.

Taking the climb of Moy on the circuit for the third time, it was Morton who crested it first up front.

And shortly after the UCD-FitzCycles.ie man took maximum points, the leading three were caught by Fyffe and Noone; the latter doing a brilliant job of marking the moves for his team mate McLaughlin.

Morton also took the climb on the following lap to close to 2nd in the climbers’ classification behind leader McKee.

And with the gap never going over 50 seconds between the five-man leading group and the bunch, a new chase group formed.

 

It was a terrific day for racing, with the field blessed with some really great conditions (Photo: Stephen McMahon)

 

In that move was McKee, who was clearly intent on getting back to the head of the race to contest the climbers’ primes and put manners on Morton.

Also present in the chase group were Darnell Moore (Caldwell Cycles Omagh), Eoin Lynch (Cycling Leinster), David Hamilton (North Down CC) and Roger Aiken (Dunboyne Cycling Club).

However, there was still plenty of life in the main field – with the Team Aquablue squad of race leader Conor Hennebry – clearly intent on controlling the danger men.

And so the chase group was quickly caught and the leaders pegged back to just 15 seconds as the racing approached the 50 mile point.

And on the fifth passage of Moy, Morton again took the climbers’ prime with the gap having edge back in the direction of 25 seconds.

And with Morton now just one point of McKee in the climbers’ classification, the Banbridge man took off again from the main bunch in an effort to catch the leaders.

Frustratingly for him, he was give virtually no rope and was quickly reabsorbed, and the gap between breakaway and bunch went north of 40 seconds.

 

A man who has made relentless progress in the last few seasons and has now landed a big one; Conor Hennebry is the 2016 champion of the Amber Green Energy Tour of Ulster (Photo: Stephen McMahon)

 

With that, a very strong group attacked from the bunch featuring race leader Hennebry, defending champion Mark Dowling (ASEA-Wheelworx) and Marc Potts of Omagh Wheelers.

Dowling was within 12 seconds of Hennebry starting out the day and picked Eoin Morton’s pockets – and the leader’s jersey off his back – on the final stage 12 months ago.

But while the chasers closed up to  the leaders, the bunch reacted and caught them; though the five up front stayed clear and continued to plough on despite the gap constantly reducing only to budge back our again.

And on the sixth passage of Moy, Morton yet again took the points to take the lead in the climbers’ classification, with the breakaway still holding a small gap going onto the last circuit of 10 miles.

Back in the bunch there was drama for Team Aquablue of the race leader Hennebry, with its second ace up the sleeve Sean Lacey – lying 2nd overall this morning – puncturing, only to get a change and be back in the reduced peloton in no time.

And while Bryan McCrystal jumped off the front of the bunch a little further up the road in an effort to catch the breakaway, the race lined out after him and he was caught, with the gap to the leaders now dipping well below 20 seconds again.

In the last kilometre, Christie took the initiative and attacked with the decisive move, getting clear and holding on all the way to the finish line for a great win.

He crossed the finish line three seconds ahead of Fyffe who led home the rest of the breakaway, with just a further three seconds elapsing.

Hennebry was in the reduced peloton that caught the back of the breakaway right on the line and held on to win the race outright by eight seconds from team mate Lacey, with Dowling a further four seconds down in 3rd place.

More to follow.

 

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