The route for this year’s Suir Valley Three-Day International has been unveiled, with a hilltop finish on Monday’s concluding stage set to make it one of the most exciting editions of the event yet.
Three Continental teams have also committed to taking part, which is sure to make it a difficult and hard fought assignment.
Speaking at the launch of the event, Declan Byrne said he and his fellow organisers are very much looking forward to the race, which will take place over the August Bank Holiday Weekend.“It’s going to be one of the best races we’ve put on in Clonmel and the surrounding areas in recent times,” he said.
“We’ve opted to change it up a bit from last year and added a hilltop finish on the Monday. Anyone who knows the climb itself, knows the race will be up for grabs right up until the last few metres.”
Last year’s race was won by Blarney’s Barry Twohig who lifted the yellow jersey from Ryan Sherlock, then riding for Cycleways, on the final day when he clipped off in a break. And despite starting the day in fourth overall he gained the time he needed to move up the standings while also managing to stave off the challenge of Paddy Clarke (Castlebar CC) and Iverk Produce Carrick Wheelers man Martin Mijgayski.
Sherlock was on hand to help with the launch this year and he said he’s very much looking forward to bringing the Polygon Sweet Nice team over for a good crack at the overall and stages.
“This race always comes up trumps and the organisers leave nothing to chance when it comes to running the event,” he said.“The roads are always good, the route is always safe, the competition is right up there with what you want and this year is going to be no different. This was the first stage race I ever did after converting from mountain biking to road racing and I love it, which is why I’ve raced it so often now.”
As well as the Polygon Sweet Nice team, the race received a major boost when UK team Rapha Condor-JLT said they will travel over, as will the An Post-Chainreaction team and an Isle of Man selection.
Those teams should make the race more interesting and give it more of an international feel.
The Rapha Condor JLT team will likely see Irish internationals Aaron Buggle and Felix English contend, while up and coming British talents Mike Cuming and Richard Handley will also be in line to return to Ireland having ridden well in the Rás last month.
The An Post team will be favourites to win the race outright and will likely bring new U23 champion Jack Wilson as well as Sean Downey, Ronan McLaughlin and double Rás stage winner Sam Bennett.
Downey has been going very well this season and was fourth in the elite time trial at the national championships last Thursday. That effort was his first test of the season and took more out of him that he was expecting, meaning he did not threaten in the road race on Sunday.
However, he seems to have progressed a lot this year and could be a good bet for the overall in Clonmel, while Wilson and Bennett are also capable of a strong assault on the overall and winning any of the stages.
McLaughlin was 6th in the road title race last Sunday and along with Downey would be an obvious favourite for overall victory in the Suir Valley, with those two most likely to ride well on Monday’s summit finish.
The Isle of Man team are no strangers to the Irish racing scene and have participated in the race several times. Last year they had a number of men well placed on GC going into the final stage but their key men missed the break and with it went their chances of a maiden win. They’ll be looking to put that right this time around.
The opening stage is a tricky 115 kilometre trek starting and finishing in Clonmel. The stage was last used in 2010 and contains a nasty category three climb in Portlaw after about 30 kilometres. It is followed by two category two climbs in quick succession, at Templeouroum and Kilmaganney. But the final 35 kilometres is relatively flat so riders will have the chance of regrouping on the run-in to the finish.
Sunday features two stages that are definitely for the fast men. The morning stage is one of the most famous loops in the area and is a favourite training lap of Sean Kelly. Again, the race rolls out of Clonmel and will finish in the town, but not before taking in Ballymacabry, Dungarvan, Leamybrien, Carrick, Kilsheelan and Clonmel.
An interesting aspect of this stage is it is sponsored by Bulmers and they have agreed to give every participant a bottle of their finest if the record time for this stage of 2:01:25 seconds is broken by the winner.
Sunday’s evening stage is set to bring the crowds back to Clonmel for a highly-anticipated criterium around the centre of the town.
The route will be a 2.1 kilometre lap which features eight 90 degree bends, with one long straight along the back, known locally as Saint Nicholas Terrace Raheen Road. This will be a stage for the fast men and will last just 45minutes and five laps.
If the general classification isn’t some way sorted by then, Monday’s stage four will sort it conclusively because not only is it easily the longest day the riders will have in the saddle, it is also the most difficult and features three categorised climbs.
The opening 60 kilometres from Clonmel, back to Cahir, into Mitchelstown will be relatively straight-forward but then the fun really starts when riders tackle the Vee. They’ll sweep down into Lismore then onto Master McGrath before commencing the ascent of the category two Colligan.
From there, the race swings north for Ballymacabry and will come to a thrilling climax atop the category one ranked Nire climb. That will come after 130 kilometres and is sure to open up significant gaps in the field.
As usual, there are several jerseys on offer, with a total of eight to play for.
Well known is the yellow jersey, green jersey and mountains jersey but there is also the pink ‘hot spot’ jersey to contend for, the blue A2 leader’s jersey, the red a3 jersey, the white jersey will be awarded to each of the four stage winners.
For the second year running, there will be a jersey presented to the most aggressive rider for each stage as well as overall. That jersey is in memory of the late Paul Healion and is sponsored by the South Dublin club.