Official ‘Omagh Wheelers’ Race Report on Women’s International Tour Of Omagh.
The Spar Tour of Omagh has delivered yet another “Super Sunday” with exciting racing and a nail biting finish.
A grey but dry morning with the potential for rain added to the tension in the air as the final stage started.
There were many questions to be answered – could the powerhouse that was Ballymena CC ride the legs off the other GC riders and potentially expose any weaknesses, would one of the other GC riders decide to give it a lash, or would the Cycling Leinster Ladies provide a repeat of their 2018 attempts to win the final stage.
In the battle for the W3 jersey would a strong Cycling Ulster team be able put the present holder (Nikki Taggart) in the red and snatch the jersey for leader Laura Wylie.
An enthralling morning of racing was to provide us with all the answers.
Throughout the weekend the Women’s race had everything and Sunday was to prove no different.
As the race commenced the Ulster team went straight to the front of the W3 group, and with assistance from Newry began to really drive this group on.
Experience cyclists like Julie Rea (guesting for Newry) were key in organising the effort.
The W1/2 group started at a leisurely pace, “A Sunday Coffee spin” according to commissaire Tommy Mc Cague. Laura Campbell found herself of the front and decided to put the head down and “give it a go”. Her Ballymena team mates were happy to let her go and leave the chase to other teams.
Laura was to extend her lead on this group to just over two minutes but never really made any inroads on the W3 group who continued to race hard.
The commissaries and moto marshal were superb in running regular time checks and keeping all groups involved. In fact this galvanised the W3 group who down towards Victoria Bridge kept up a relentless pace and by the time they reached the second QOH prime they had a lead of over 6 minutes on the W1/2 group.
The Women’s Cycling Ireland Team had also joined the effort in the knowledge that Nikki Taggart was now in the virtual pink jersey, and that a real shock could be on the cards.
As the W1/2 group turned towards Victoria Bridge the pace suddenly increased with the GC contenders realising the virtual Pink jersey was now up the road.
On the second QOH the leaders of the W1 group were to catch the valiant Campbell. As they turned at Newtownstewart the time to the W3 group had halved and the race was well and truly on.
This group contained all the GC contenders bar Yvonne Doran (Leinster) who had regrouped with her team, less than a minute behind. They were working hard to get her back on but their effort was in vain and she was to finish in the second chase group almost two minutes down.
As the race approached Gortin and Lenamore the W1/2 group was really driving on and the gap to the W3 group was rapidly falling – and Lenamore was to prove crucial.
On the foot of the climb four riders from the W3 were to go clear: Wylie and Kelly (Ulster) Taggart (Women’s Cycling Ireland) and Davenport (UCD) , with the Ulster Girls attempting to take time off Taggart in the battle for the W3 jersey.
Meanwhile in behind a select group of W1/2 riders (GC Contenders) were also on the climb and less than 30 seconds behind.
On the descent Wylie (Ulster) was to go it alone and with the rest of the W3 group swallowed up by the W1/2 group, we witnessed a superb chase for stage victory and the pink jersey.
Wylie was to be rewarded with a stunning stage victory holding of a charging chase by just 11 seconds.
With Smyth winning the sprint for second and Hughes (Westport) in third, and claiming some crucial bonus seconds.
Race Leader Claffey (UCD)who had defended her Pink Jersey against some of Irelands best riders & Teams over four stages finished 4th on the stage, however the four second bonus awarded to Hilary Hughes was enough to see her clinch the pink jersey by just 2 seconds. Claffey held on to the Polka Dot Mountains Jersey , and 2nd Overall on G.C.
The determined Nikki Taggart (Women’s Cycling Ireland) finished 7th to win the first ever W3 jersey.