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Damien Shaw Takes Overall Victory in Rás Mumhan

posted 1 Apr 2013, 09:07 by Kevin Monaghan   [ updated 2 Apr 2013, 01:29 ]
Damien Shaw Overall Winner on the podium

(By Shay O'Toole)   
Damien Shaw has announced his arrival to the elite end of the Irish road racing scene in spectacular style by winning the prestigious Kerry Group Ras Mumhan over the Easter bank holiday weekend.
The Mullingar cyclist - a member of local club Lakeside Wheelers - and racing in the colours of Munster based Aquablue Racing Team went to this 4 Day International event with one thing on his mind, winning! This race rates very highly on the international cycle racing calendar as was evident by the field which was peppered with top class riders from home and abroad. Damien won the first stage, 115km around Killorglin, on Good Friday evening with an exceptional display of power by riding away from the peloton in the final 5km and thereby gave himself an advantage of 33 seconds over his nearest rival heading into stage 2.

Saturday morning saw the bunch depart scenic Kenmare on the Queens stage, for a torturous 152km ride around the Beara Penninsula and back to Kenmare and with the Yellow jersey on his back Damien was the target man for the rest to aim at. This stage included several categorised climbs but with the efforts of Friday in his legs the fireman from Mullingar was happy to sit in the bunch and recover. However, this proved to be a dangerous tactic as at the end of the stage his Yellow jersey and his number 1 slot on General Classification (GC) had slipped onto the shoulders of Dutch man, Harry Sweering of the West Frasia team based on the continent.

Easter Sunday, and whilst most of us were dreaming about chocolate (Damien included, as there is no better man to devour the dark stuff) the Ras Mumhan peloton was setting off on a gruelling 150km route around Waterville and Valentia Island in terrible weather conditions. Not deterred by the weather Gods, this holiest of days proved to be the day that Shaw would put his stamp on the annual South Kerry classic which has several of Ireland’s and Europe’s top riders past and present on its impressive roll of honour. The Lakeside man opened up the taps and hammered it up the climbs leaving the field in his wake to ponder his awesome strength. Despite a mechanical difficulty on one of the now treacherous descents which saw his chain jammed in the small ring and effectively restricting him to third gear for the remaining 35km of the stage, Damien put all mishaps out of his mind and rode like a man possessed to the finish where he claimed fifth spot, but more importantly, he regained the coveted Yellow Jersey and also a healthy gap of 28 seconds on top of the GC.

Shaw In Yellow on stage 4
Bank Holiday Monday, and although in pole position, Damien was under no illusion that this famous race was over as he told me it always throws up surprises on the final stage. He was expecting a relentless series of attacks on his GC slot as the bunch tore off on a circuit around Killorglin and Killarney, finishing with 10 laps of a short, criterium type track on the streets of the Puck Fair town.....he wasn’t disappointed. From the outset his rivals were doing their best to wear him down with several efforts made to get up the road, but all appeared to be in Shaw’s favour as the bunch approached Killorglin for the grand finale. Then, as if by appointment, the race was blown wide open with Sweering getting off the front and at one stage he had a gap of 15 seconds on the Mullingar man leaving the Flying Dutchman in virtual Yellow on the road and the Tweeters frantically typing ”Where is Damien”? Cool as the proverbial cucumber, Shaw and his Aquablue teammates got the bit between their teeth and drove for home reeling the danger men back in and with speeds touching 60kph they crossed the line with a gap that was so slight it left the commissaries scratching their heads and with a lot of computing to do. Eventually the result was confirmed and after four days of tough tough racing, Damien Shaw was declared the overall winner of the 2013 Kerry Group Ras Mumhan by an amazing four seconds.

This last stage was not for the faint-hearted, but what a thrilling finish and a well deserved victory for the Mullingar racer who will surely now go on to bigger and better things over the summer. On arrival back to his home town, Damien was feted by several of his Lakeside Wheelers club mates who coincidentally enough had gathered in the same location as the winning connections of the Ladbrokes Irish Grand National winner, “Liberty Counsel”. When questioned last weekend the Legend himself, Sean Kelly hinted that Damien had yet to show his full potential and stated that we hadn’t yet seen the true extent of his horsepower.  We have now, well done Damien, you are a proper thoroughbred!

Damien Shaw powerfully defends his yellow jersey in stage 4
(All pictures Pat Doherty / Sticky Bottle)