Potts breaks McAuley’s heart with ride of his life at Shay Elliott

Posted on: May 15th, 2016

Marc Potts beats Craig McAuley at the finish of the Shay Elliott Memorial Classic in Co Wicklow this afternoon (Photo: Stephen McMahon – Sportsfile)


Marc Potts (Neon Velo) has this afternoon in a sunny Co Wicklow taken the biggest win of his career at the Shay Elliott Memorial Classic.

He claimed a two-up sprint against young Craig McAuley (Caldwell Cycles) to win perhaps the most prestigious one-day race on the Irish calendar outside the National Road Championships.

It was just a shame that one of the leading pair had to lose.

Potts had been up the road all day and McAuley rode out of his skin to tap the Irish team selectors on the shoulder very abruptly.

Potts had gone clear inside the opening 20km with three others and while they were joined by a strong chase group from behind – which included runner-up McAuley – after the climb of Glenmalure he still had enough in the tank to throw himself into the key exchanges inside the last 10km.

And when he and McAuley hit for home and began to combine really well as the kilometres counted down from 10 to the chequered flag, it was clear they wouldn’t be seen again, with Potts proving too strong at the finish.


How it happened

While the action was fast and furious from the off, it was until over 20km had been covered that the first real breakaway formed.

Niall Clarke of ASEA-Wheelworx was in that front group as were Paul Kennedy of Newcastle West, Marc Potts of Neon and the very much in form Conor Hennebry of Aquablue.

They got down to work immediately on the circuits and going through Avoca had built a modest gap of about 20 seconds on the main field.

The breakaway – after the chasers merged with the original leaders – hitting 60km per hour coming out of Woodenbridge (Video with thanks to Bray Wheelers)


The riders contended with three laps of a 21-kilometre circuit before hitting climb of Glenmalure, in what was a new format for the race this year.

The circuits themselves were not overly difficult, but there was a slight rise each time and on hard roads before the day’s major climb it sapped the energy right out of anyone not on a good day.

After Glenmalure there was a fast descent down towards Glendalough and onto Laragh to a new race finish at Djouce via Boleynass.

The leaders stay clear for the three laps, but their gap on those behind only ever reached about 1:15 and was well below the minute mark for much of the circuits.

It meant with a very tough final facing the riders after the circuits, anyone who had been up the road from early would have needed a much bigger advantage when heading from the circuits towards the finish if they were going to hold on all the way.

However, on the final circuit they were joined by four others approaching Woodenbridge making it eight up front.

Those chasers to bridge across brought some fresher legs and serious firepower in the shape of David Hamilton (North Down CC), Eoin Morton (UCD CC), Ronan O’Flynn (Orwell Wheelers) and Bryan McCrystal (ASEA-Wheelworx).

At the start of the climb of Glenmalure it was Kennedy and O’Flynn who were first to find the pace too hot and they lost their places in the breakaway, leaving six men up front.

They had a gap of just over 1:30 on the main field which was also starting to break up, with chasing group of five about 30 seconds off the front of the bunch and one minute behind the six leaders.

At the top of the climb, it was clear that Potts and Hennebry had had a second helping of Weetabix this morning as they were still in the trimmed down breakaway despite being up the road from the very earliest of stages.

Also still there were McCrystal, Morton and Hamilton, with the gap of that leading five coming down to 50 seconds on a chase group of five who had clearly enjoyed a strong ascent of Glenmalure.

Clarke of ASEA-Wheelworx had lost his place in the front group, but was chasing.

Through Annamoe, that gap between breakaway and chasers had come down further to 35km and inside the final 20km the two groups merged.

In that second group were some really great riders: Craig McAuley (Caldwell Cycles), Darnell Moore (Caldwell Cycles), Sean Lacey (Team Aquablue), Sean McKenna (Team Aquablue), Mark Dowling (ASEA-Wheelworx) and the resurgent Niall Clarke; the ASEA-Wheelworx man digging deep to get back to the front of the race again.

And no sooner had the two groups merged to form a super breakaway and set up great finale between some really great riders than Potts and young McAuley took off.

And with 5km remaining they were still clear, with their heads down at the end of what had been a great day for racing in fantastic conditions in the garden of Ireland.

And that’s the way it stayed; the two bravest and strongest men surviving out front to the finish line where Potts broke McAuley’s heart to win.

Hennebry continued his great run of late with 3rd place and the up-and-coming Darnell Moore was 4th; an excellent ride by a young gun to watch very closely for the remainder of the season.


Shay Elliott Memorial Classic

Sunday, May 15th: Co Wicklow

A1-A2 Race

  1. Marc Potts Neon Velo
  2. Craig McAuley Caldwell Cycles, Omagh
  3. Conor Hennebry Aquablue
  4. Darnell Moore Caldwell Cycles, Omagh
  5. Sean Lacey Aquablue
  6. Mark Dowling ASEA-Wheelworx
  7. Eoin Morton UCD CC-Fitzcycles.ie
  8. David Hamilton North Down CC
  9. Sean McKenna Aquablue
  10. Niall Clarke ASEA-Wheelworx
  • Sprint: Joseph Breheny UCD-Fitzcycles.ie
  • KOM: Marc Potts Neon-Velo