Shaw Excels in Southern France

Post date: Feb 08, 2016 2:6:37 PM

(By Shay O'Toole - Sun. 8th January 2016)

As reported in recent weeks, Mullingar’s Damien Shaw has commenced his professional career with the An Post-Chainreaction Sean Kelly Team. Damien’s first race was the UCI 2.1 ranked Etoile de Besseges 5-day stage race which rolled off the start line last Wednesday in the south of France.

Shaw got a baptism of fire in the opening stage with the World Tour teams setting a very high pace from the gun, resulting in some “stressful” moments for the former Westmeath Co. Council fireman. Stage 2 was a bit calmer allowing the current Irish National Champion to settle in and find his bearings amongst some of the world’s elite riders. However, just 10km into Friday’s Queens Stage, Damien announced his arrival to the Pro ranks as he forced his way into a 28-man breakaway which included race leader and elite sprinter Bryan Coquard and former French National Champion, Sylvain Chavanel. To give some idea of the kind of company Shaw was now riding with, Coquard is a former world silver medallist with two Grand Tour appearances whilst Chavanel has previously held both the Yellow and Green jerseys on the Tour de France. He remained with this elite bunch for the majority of the 176km race only getting dropped on the ascent of the last of three Category 1 climbs.

In Sunday’s 5th and final stage, a 12KM TT, Shaw posted a very respectable 18 minutes 25 seconds which saw him finish 54th out of 121 riders leaving him placed 86th in General Classification. Speaking to Damien later that evening he gave a very honest appraisal of his debut experience stating that, whilst it was “sobering”, it was also a dream fulfilled to be at this level and he is confident he will be up to the challenge of professional racing. In reality, this was a fantastic achievement in his first professional outing considering the final podium was filled by such illustrious names as winner, Jerome Coppel of IAM Cycling, second placed Tony Gallopin of Lotto Soudal and third, Thibault Pinot of FDJ. An Post-Chainreaction team manager, Kurt Bogaerts, was also very satisfied stating that Shaw’s display augurs very well for the season ahead.

Damien Shaw on the front of the peloton in the 2016 Etoile de Besseges race.