Tour of Omagh

David Ryan and David Szentesi send us these report on how our A4 Team (David Ryan, David Szentesi, Rob Bowen and Adam Woods) fared at the Tour of Omagh

First up is David Ryan’s Report – followed by David Szentesi’s below


With a strong pedigree in this race and it being one of only 2 stage races available to A4s, this was a no-brainer when it came to decision time. Driving down with Dave it was all smiles until a few minutes out from our accommodation he asked me to stop the car for a few minutes, claimed he was feeling queasy. Me hoop, STAGE RACE NERVES had set in! Once we arrived in our digs he thanked me for driving by laying claim to the double bed. Digs for the weekend was a quiet cottage at the foot of the majestic Sperrin mountains. Once unpacked and a quick catch-up with the gang it was off to check-in on the far side of Omagh

HQ for the weekend was Drumragh Sarsfield GAA club in Clanabogan. The carpark was quite full on arrival and with the ladies race on at the same time there was a deadly atmosphere. Lads were getting pre-race massages and team warm-up sessions on rollers under club gazebos.  You could be excused for thinking this wasn’t A4. The fresh bodies and happy faces couldn’t last. We had arrived in plenty of time to collect our race packs and get a quality warm up in. Back to the carpark for the rollout and the ladies are ready at the gate. Hmm that’s a bit strange, you’d think we’d be out first. Hang on, where are all the lads? A few “excuse me” and a panicky weave up through all the cars and we back on level terms. Almost dropped before the neutralised zone…smashing it!

Stage 1: starters 97 / finishers 97                                                                                             

68k, Out west, Drumquin > Castlederg > Ederney > Finish Line on the main A32 road

A cagey opener, no breakaway and a big bunch sprint. In some ways, this was exactly the stage 1 you had hoped for, no one had conceded an away goal. Unfortunately none of us got up into a position to sprint fully but all home safe and sound. Time bonuses were awarded for the 3 finishers but the yellow jersey would only be awarded prior to the start of stage 3. Daragh and Asjid were on hand to take the bikes and provide coke and food. There was a moment of silence as we scoffed our wraps until Adam suffered an anaphylactic shock and attempted to shove his lightly brushed mayonnaise wrap into Daragh’s face. Once the drama died down, this episode was to provide the laughs for the weekend. Home, showered and time for more food. Asjid nearly cracked the table in half when he landed a slab of carbonara in front of us, an Asjid special. Great banter in the house that night discussing the stage and reccying the course for tomorrow.

We were exceptionally lucky to have Daragh and Asjid volunteer and to sacrifice their weekend to guide us through our first stage race. They ensured we didn’t have to lift a finger, were well fed, and most importantly, felt like pros with shiny bikes. Can’t thank them enough.

Stage 2: 3.4k starters 96 / finishers 96

The TT was a very short course on the main road, not much to plan, should be a doddle. Balls, what gear should I start in? Why is the holder leaning me at 45 degrees,  should I drift into the smoother hard shoulder or keep straight? How fast should I round the cone? How far out will I press the Turbo button? All done there was very little to separate all 4, Robbie and his 5% body fat took the spoils. Off to McDonalds for lunch to load up on calories. I actually thought this was a joke until I was putting my automated order through. Big Macs and Coke, hadn’t planned for this

Stage 3: starters 96 / finishers 95

73k , B158 East to Carrickmore > Creggan Wood > Racolps Rd x 2 > KillyClogher

Another long roll out included going through the centre of Omagh. It’s a pretty cool feeling bringing a town to a standstill with a half dozen moto-marshals and a mile long cavalcade. When the flag dropped, the speed picked up and didn’t relent for 20k. Racing at its best, fast sweeping bends, short steep climbs and narrow bridges. This was my highlight of the weekend, loved it. All I was thinking was give it socks on the climbs then recover in the bunch. It turns out this is the perfect strategy for a 30k race around Blessington , not so much stage 3 for me. The middle section was similar to a ski mogul course, relentless. I cramped up after 50k, had a quiet minute to myself where I wished I was elsewhere, soloed for 10k then found some reserves and caught some other dropees and worked together to get over the line. One of the grupettos mentioned that he wasn’t going to bother to do stage 4. It’s hard not to entertain this idea when you’re in a weakened state but it definitely wasn’t a motivator. I could have beers at dinner, this is my holiday away from the family after all.  That notion was soon quashed when it arose later in the evening. The hard truth was that I hadn’t done the required training, never even raced 2 days in row before and was paying for it

Once we did our cool down spin it was back to the digs to get showered and an Italian in Cookstown. After dinner we did a reccy of Gortin. An extra 90 minutes in the car driving around back roads and viewing what was in store for tomorrow, I just wanted me springy single bed

Stage 4: starters 91 / finishers 85

72k, Drumquin > Castlederg > Douglas Bridge > Newtownstewart > Gortin

After a hearthy brekkie DaveZ lashed the bikes on the rack and off we headed for more suffering. En route he mentioned that he hadn’t inserted the lower clips of the bike rack but that “we’ll be fine, we’re almost there”. Moments later I could see his bike doing cartwheels down the road! The car behind us stopped to see if we needed any assistance. The benefits of having the race director driving behind you. With a new wheel on (our only mechanical (??) of the weekend) it was time to roll out for the final stage. I had definitely lost sleep the night before, a combination of legs in bit and dreading the climb up to Gortin. My best friend the following morning was Voltarol, my legs and backs absorbed the whole tube and it worked wonders. Felt great for the first 50k but was dropped short of the big climb. The Sperrins is a designated area of outstanding natural beauty so I picked where to get dropped accordingly. I then hooked up with a sound rider from Foyle and we worked hard together right to the finish line, feeling better than this time yesterday.  Amazing what 50g of Voltarol and 24 hours can achieve.

Overall it was a top class weekend, delighted we got the chance to experience a stage race. We need to get our act together and our asses up to A3 next year and enjoy the greater selection that it brings

Back in work on Monday morning and I had a serious bout of stage race blues…

David Szentesi’s Race report

Day 1

Arrived to Omagh with great excitement since this was my first ever stage race, also felt a bit of pressure knowing the club’s reputation in the race.

Our accommodation was outside Omagh in a beautiful and quiet setting in a cottage.

We have quickly made ourselves home as the sign on was close time was approaching rapidly.

Everyone grabbed a quick bite to eat before we made our way to the race hq.

Everything was really well organised. After sign on every racer was handed a welcome bag that contained our numbers for the bike and the jersey and safety pins should someone forgot about those! Also there were some snacks and drinks included for us which I thought was a really nice touch.

After sign on we started to get ready our bikes and gear, putting the numbers on the jersey and bike and put on the club gear.

We gathered around the team car before warm up for a last minute bike check.

Daragh and Asjid confirmed that everything was in working order.

After the warm up we arrived back to the carpark of the hq to find that the racers have already lined up on the road further down waiting to start.

A few minutes waiting, we were off!

The neutralised section saw us rolling through Omagh. The bike marshals did a great job of clearing the way for us through town. About 10 minutes later the race was off!

The race started off in relaxed enough pace, I guess no one wanted to burn themselves too early.

The course for the first day seen us going through a short gravelly section near the start with no issues. The terrain throughout the race was between flat roads and rolling hills.

No attacks on the first day from anyone in the peloton which saw us arriving to the finish line together. Near the end got a bit chaotic, lads trying to make their way to the front from the left and right of me. I saw no gap so didn’t go for the sprint. Everyone have finished with the same time on Day one.

When we arrived to hq after the race, the lads were waiting for us with turkey wraps and a can of coke. After we packed up we made our way back to the accommodation and got changed for dinner.

Asjid have prepared us Spaghetti Carbonara for dinner. It turned out that cooking the same amount of food for us as for the Juniors was a bad idea. After everyone had finished their plate, nearly half of the food was still untouched.

A bit of chat and we were off to bed. 

Day 2

When we woke up Asjid and Daragh were already preparing our breakfast for us.

I had porridge and an omelette with toasted bagels.

After breakfast we were off to sign on for Stage 2 which was a 4km TT.

We went for a lengthy warm up to make sure the legs were up for the challenge.

During warm up I didn’t feel great but was hoping that it would get better during the TT.

Unfortunately it didn’t and the fact that I messed up the turn at the bottom of the road didn’t help either. On my way back from the turn I did feel a lot stronger even though I was battling head wind and a slight drag. My time was the 3rdbest from the four of us which was indicating to me that I wasn’t in the best shape of my life, but there was little time to ponder on things like form in the middle of a stage race.

After we all got back to hq carpark we agreed that we would go for a quick bite to eat before Stage 3. We went to McDonalds for a filthy burger/wrap and chips which was quiet comforting at the time.

If I were to do it again, I would probably have had a pasta dish or Chinese.

We had a bit of rest after the grub and off we went again to sign on. Quick bike check, warm up and we found ourselves waiting to roll out with the other racers.

Once we have left the neutralised zone, Adam have launched an attack which was shortly followed by Robbie. I couldn’t join them to help sustain their efforts as I got boxed in on the left side somewhere in the middle of the peloton.

Later the race organiser thanked STCC for lighting up the Stage a bit with the attack.

This stage was sprinkled with a couple more steep KOHs which found me getting shelled each time and playing catch up with the main bunch. After the 2ndKOH I got dropped from the main bunch and even had the chance to say hello to our support team in the cavalcade.

I didn’t give up on getting back though so I jumped on one of the racer’s wheel and made our way from one team car to the next until we caught the main bunch again!

The last 5 km was on a slight downhill which then evened out in the last km or so.

This time I was more vigilant and jumped when I saw an opening. Unfortunately got hold of the wrong wheel in front of me and only managed to grab 12thon the day but was delighted with it since I was dropped earlier on.

That night we decided to go out for dinner as a treat. David Ryan did the research into Omagh’s finest restaurants and managed to find a nice Italian place.

The spirits were lifted during the nice dinner and chat. I never thought how tiring stage races can be.

After we got back to our accommodation we had a little chat and off to bed we were.

Day 3

Again we woke up for nice breakfast on the last day. I have opted for porridge and an omelette again. Once we grabbed all our belongings we made our way to hq for the last time.

It was a bit of a relief to be honest that I would have to torture myself for the last time on the bike that day…

Our way to the hq was not uneventful however. My bike fell off the bike rack on the back of Dave’s car. I did get lucky I must say. My first wheel and right brake lever took most of the hit.

Thankfully we had a spare front wheel which meant I was back in the game for the last stage.

The lad who won the TT was still in the leader’s jersey and it didn’t look like he was about to give it away. Couple of kms from the last big climb I got shelled on one of the KOHs again and tried to make my way to the main bunch but couldn’t this time.

I started my ascent on the last KOH still hoping I would make up time on the main bunch but my legs were saying no. It was a massive relief when I saw the finish line on the end of the fourth stage.

During the race I kept thinking to myself why do I keep torturing myself on the bike?

Needless to say it was a huge relief crossing the line for the last time during the weekend.

All in all it was a great experience and would recommend to anyone who is looking to find out what they are made of.

I would most certainly do it again and would encourage all potential racers to sign up if they ever get the chance. 

Daragh adds – Congrats to all our racers for a job well done. You gave it everything and more. Well done to Rob who took 16th overall and 5th in the A4 Masters. Many thanks to Asjid for all the advice and calm words in the cavalcade!

Many thanks to everyone at Omagh Wheelers for an exceptional weekend of racing.

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