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Damien Shaw Delivers at National Championships

posted 2 Jul 2012, 04:22 by Kevin Monaghan
(By Shay O'Toole)
Sunday, June 24th 2012 will live long in the memory of any Lakeside Wheeler who pays the slightest attention to the progress of our racing team, and especially in the memory of Damien Shaw, who rode a phenomenal race to claim 8th position in the Elite Senior road race at the Irish National Cycling Championships in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.

The day could not have started better with glorious sunshine beaming down as we rolled into Clonmel in the “Premier” county. The street was a hive of activity with riders and support personnel busying themselves in preparation for the long day ahead. To be honest, it was with some trepidation and anxiety that I took my seat at the Team Managers meeting for this prestigious event. This nervousness was soon rewarded as the chief Commissaire rattled off a barrage of Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), Anti Doping, no sticky bottle and no drafting regulations that I, as “Manager” of Team Lakeside Wheelers was supposed to understand and uphold. Immediately afterwards, I went downstairs, out the hotel door and across the street to Johnny Murray where I asked him to please give me his bike and let me ride the race as I perceived this option to be easier than the one facing me in the team car. However, twenty minutes later with a shot of caffeine on board and the cold sweat now dried into the backs of my ears our Hybrid Toyota supplied by Grange Motors was in place and behind the Marching Band for the ceremonial roll out.

The race is now in full swing and lap one of nine of the 18.6KM circuit is hectic to say the least and testing my driving skills to the limit. Cathy, my co-pilot/soigneur/note taker is busy taking in the many messages that the Commissaire is firing across race radio and with both our antennae up listening for two numbers, 78, Johnny Murray and 89, Damien Shaw it is shaping up to be a chaotic day. We don’t have too long to wait as towards the end of lap 1 we hear number 89 called out and learn that Damien is rolling off the front of the main bunch and pulling out a gap of 10 then 15 seconds. Suddenly, the race is alight with twelve more numbers crackling across the airwaves and in pursuit of the Mullingar man. The amazing thing about this message is the calibre of rider now chasing Damien, three An Post Sean Kelly riders, Olympian, Martyn Irvine, Phil Lavery of the English, Giordana Node 4 Team and two times National Champion and pro tour rider with Omega-Pharma Quick Step, Matt Brammier. Most amazing of all was the fact that next week’s Tour de France hopeful, Nicholas Roche of AG2R La Mondiale had missed the break and was languishing in the main bunch. This group worked well for the next half hour as we sat patiently waiting for the magic gap of 1 minute 30 seconds at which time we got clearance from the Chief Commissaire to pass the bunch and sit in behind the break. This manoeuvre was nerve wrecking as it was extremely dangerous speeding past the bunch of cyclists, containing our own Johnny Murray, who themselves were doing speeds that helped them to an average speed of just under 30mph for the first hour of racing, with very little space in which to do so, and all the time knowing that one tiny error with the steering wheel could cause absolute mayhem. 

However, it wasn’t long before the inevitable happened and once again race radio informed us that “Nico” was on the way but even with some of the brightest stars of Irish cycling such as Sam Bennett and Adam Armstrong for assistance he still had a major job on his hands to bridge across. The effort proved too much for Armstrong but not for Roche and Bennett who closed down a gap of 1 minute and 10 seconds to join Damien and the lead group. Now, with the main attraction of the day in the break it was clear that the race would change and immediately the attacks began. Our Lakeside man was not shy and put in one of his own with Irvine as they departed Clonmel town centre on lap five but the chasers did not give much leeway and soon they were together again. A succession of attacks followed throughout the 5th lap leading eventually to two groups of four forming with Roche, Brammier, Lavery and Irvine opening up a gap on Damien, the two Sean Kelly An Post pros, Conor McConvey and Sean Downey and former pro rider, Paidi O’Brien. At this stage these two groups had a clear 5 minutes plus on the main peloton and barring a disaster it was clear the Mullingar man was certain of a coveted top ten finish.

The remaining laps were rode at a steady tempo and whilst Damien’s group never looked like regaining contact with

the four leaders who were continuously putting time into them it was none the less tense as they ascended and descended the two main climbs on each lap. On the final ascent of Colonel’s Hill the two Sean Kelly riders put in a big effort to shed Shaw and O’Brien but once again Damien got the strength and out of the saddle he rode back to their wheels with O’Brien sitting in tow. The status quo remained until they reached the 5KM mark when once again the cat and mouse commenced and with a text book manoeuvre from McConvey then Downey the latter went up the road leaving the trio of Shaw, O’Brien and McConvey to fight it out for 6th to 8th positions as they entered the town centre for the last time. The Mullingar man was temporarily dropped on this technical section of the course but true to his tenacious form on the day he undershot his two rivals on the last corner but unfortunately was pipped again as they crossed the white line in front of the huge crowds enjoying this spectacle of sport.

With a fantastic 8th position in his pocket Damien was feeling elated but needless to say he was completely drained as a result of his unbelievable efforts. Interestingly, one of the first people to congratulate him on finishing this arduous race was the legend himself, Sean Kelly, which shows the esteem that Shaw is held in by the former professional.  
What a day out, not only for Damien and Johnny, but also for Lakeside Wheelers who were once again placed in the spotlight of Irish bike racing. Thanks again to Eddie Tyrell and the Grange Motors crew for turning out yet another car in impeccable condition for the support team.  
Shay O'Toole Damien Shaw and Sean Kelly after the 2012 National Cycling Championships in Clonmel
Shay O'Toole Damien Shaw and Sean Kelly after the 2012 National Cycling Championships in Clonmel