Yesterday in Tralee the domestic racing season got underway with ‘The Lacey Cup’ . Run on a handicap basis this race always proves to be an interesting but very tough contest . Speculation was rampant before the start as to who would be going off in what group , as a number of elite senior riders have gone over the age threshold to be now classed as Veterans . That is forty and above .
It was decided to send the likes of Martin O’Loughlin off with the ‘B’ group just two minutes ahead of the scratch participants , rather than to include him in the vets group who received an eight minute advantage .
An early breakaway from the first pack off saw Maurice Hartery and Sean McElroy in a group of four to be the first to summit the long climb of gleann na gealt .
In the bunch behind Martin , Hugh Mulhearn and Sam Bennett were already in a group of seven who had forged ahead . They were shortly joined by Derek Burke and Sean Lacey who had broken away from the scratch group .
With the remainder of the scratch group now closing fast with speeds approaching 60 kph on the flat with the favourable wind , Martin and Sean Lacey attacked eight kilometres from Castlemaine. Hugh tried desperately to get across to these two upfront but one man on his own wasn’t going to be able to close up on two very strong riders sharing the pace-setting between them .
The gap hovered around twenty seconds with the likes of Micheal Concannon and Big Ben Kenneally doing some big turns to keep them in sight . Then with five k to go Big Ben dropped it down into the eleven cresting the final climb and closed a twenty second deficit in only four kilometres .
One kilometre to go and three riders dangling precariously in front of the chasers who could smell the finish . It was going to be a test of nerve to see who would crack first . Local boy Lacey wanted desperately to win the race named after his grandfather and it was this desperation which led him to the front for the final kilometre . This played right into the hands of former team-mates O’Loughlin and Kenneally who have been training well together all winter long . The sprint began and all of the standing starts practiced out near Kilmanihan paid dividends as Martin took the gallop from Brian ahead of Lacey in third .
Sam Bennett riding for the first time in his new Dan Morrissey kit took home the cup for best unplaced junior and Geoff Mac joined him on the podium for the unplaced vets prize .
Ray Clarke was unlucky to puncture near Castlemaine and Ray Power was even more unlucky to be involved in a pile up . Cuts , bruises and a swollen hand were all he had to show for his trip to The Kingdom . Hopefully he will make a speedy recovery and be all set for next weeks exploits in Broadford .
Captain Chaos once more lived up to his name . In order to be fresh for the race he went down the night before and stayed in The Earl of Desmond hotel . Before signing on he left his helmet etc. in team manager Seamies’ red Audi 2 litre tdi avant A4 . After signing on he rode out to the start two miles away . Seamie was already out there driving the team Murphy and Gunne silver BMW 320i touring . After procuring Seamies keys and riding back to get his helmet etc. he returned to discover that the race had already begun . A frantic chase ensued but with all guns blazing up ahead he was never to catch sight of the race again .
After the race , just past the finish line the Murphy and Gunne riders could be seen all huddled around the team car in eager anticipation of the arrival of their team captain . This display of team comraderie had more to do with the fact that all of the kit bags were in the A4 , whose keys were in Morgans pocket , than an actual bonding experience . Captain chaos strikes again !
The first race of the season certainly delivered on speed and excitement along with a certain amount of drama . Roll on next week to see what happens next !