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Feely wins Ras Dhun na nGall 2014 1/Jun/2014

The 24th Edition of Rás Dhun na nGall got underway on Friday evening in the bustling Donegal Heritage Town of Ardara. The event which is promoted by Four Masters Cycling Club and supported by the Nesbitt Arms Hotel and the Ardara Traders is one of the most popular stage events on the calendar for A2 and A3 riders. It has been running for twenty four years with this being the fourth year in Ardara.
Almost 140 riders took to the roads on Friday for the thirty mile 1st Stage which takes in the Frosses and Dunkineely and finishes in the Main Street of Ardara. From the off, the pace was high and a number of riders who were unprepared for the hard pace lost out as they were quickly dropped by the fast moving bunch. Three riders attacked early and went for the King of the Mountains points. In the end it was Aaron Swan of the Cycling Ulster Slane Cycles squad who managed to gain enough points to take the first KoH jersey of this year’s race. Along with him was team mate Craig McAuley and David Neill of Team Madigan who took the first prime. Ryan Reilly also riding for Cycling Ulster Slane Cycles was in moves as well but despite hard riding the leaders were eventually reeled in. Coming into Ardara all was set for a very fast bunch sprint which was taken by 24 year old Joseph Breheny of UCD. Luke Hylands riding for Team Vision Racing was second while Peter McBride of Errigal CC and Liam Corcorcan (Castlebar CC) were third and fourth. Aaron McBride of Four Masters lifted the White Jersey for the Young Rider category.
For Stage 2 on Saturday morning the riders had an early start as they faced the hilly time trial which takes them up Granny climb beside the Maghera caves. The climb is just over two miles long and is deceptively flattish to start and riders can expend too much energy in this early stage as the climb then ramps up steeply with a further ramp up in the final two hundred metres. This was to be a stage that suited the younger and lighter riders with Juniors topping the results tables taking the top six placings.
Daire Keely of SEEng was best of these and his time of 7'41.07" gave him an eleven second advantage over Craig McAuley of the Cycling Ulster Slane Cycles team. It was also sufficient to see him take the Yellow jersey from Joseph Breheny of UCD. The Cycling Ulster Slane Cycles team continued to make their mark on the race with Rory Maguire taking third and Ryan Reilly sixth in this event. The hard work of the team which also includes Harry McComb and Aaron Swan has paid off as they are top of the Team classification. However they are being chased hard by Team Belgian Project who are one minute adrift. Two more Ulster riders lifted the next placings with Errigal rider Cormac Keely recording a 08'02.78" while Matthew Adair of XMTB McConvey Cycles made up for his misfortune the previous evening to take eighth position. The remaining top ten positions were filled by UCD’s Paul O’Reilly and Brotherton’s Philip Hinch.
The weather remained sunny and dry for the participants although there was a changeable wind from time to time. This time trial is one which would have a very real effect on overall GC and there was a difference of almost three and a half minutes between the first and last riders.

The 3rd Stage continued on Saturday afternoon with a 52 mile road race stage around Portnoo, Doochary and Glenties. There was no evidence of tired legs following the hilly Time Trial when the stage got underway. All those who had been champing at the bit on the neutralised zone sprung to life when the words, "Race On, Race On" were uttered.
Almost immediately the attacks began and the pace increased making it very difficult for some riders who were trying to make their way back into the bunch following early mechanicals. Craig McAuley of the Cycling Ulster Slane Cycles team was one of these. Wearing the KoH jersey going into the stage he was obviously determined to keep adding mountains points to his tally. However he was joined by an on-form Leo McAllister of Inspired Dig Deep Coaching and Ciamin Muldoon of the Nicholas Roche Performance team. However the peloton were keeping a watchful eye and pulled these back in for a while before Muldoon escaped again with Evan Donaghue of the Donegal Jnr Development Team, Cormac Keeny of Errigal CC and Kieran Henegan of SEEng who was protecting the Yellow Jersey. The main field began to line out as the pace increased and as the race wound its way from Ardara, Portnoo, Glenties and Doochary.There were times when it was reminiscent of the Tour de France as riders and cavalcade stretched for miles across bleak but beautiful moorland. By the time the riders reached the Corkscrew climb, Muldoon, Donaghue, Keeny and Henegan were joined by McAuley, Paul Vaughan (SportActive), Daire Feely in the Yellow Jersey and Cycling Ulster Slane Cycles duo Ryan Reilly and Rory Maguire. Eamonn McBrearty of the Donegal Jnr Development Team and Jude Sands of Newry were among those giving chase. As the race entered Ardara town limits these riders had a slender advantage over the hard chasing pack. In the end it was Vaughan who dug deep and found the legs to take him across the line in top position. Keeney was second with Gary Scully of Nenagh and Darnell Moore of Caldwell Cycles taking the next positions. Cycling Ulster duo McAuley and Reilly were next home with Jude Sands, Daire Feely, Fionn Sheridan of Orwell and Karl Benson of Castlebar filling the top ten places.
Stage 4 would be a day of strong attacking as the remaining riders tackled the sixty mile last stage of Rás Dhun na nGall which would finish on the top of Glengesh pass. With ten riders less than a minute off ‘Yellow’ and category prizes such Young Rider and King of the Mountains being hotly contested, there was everything to play for.
From the outset the pace was high so by the time the riders reached the first KoH at “The Nick” less than four miles into the stage, a number of riders had already been dropped with a few deciding that they were not going any further. Chief antagonists were Craig McAuley of the Cycling Ulster Slane Cyles team who was lying second on GC and only twelve seconds adrift. He was also wearing the KoH jersey which he was determined to keep. He was well supported by his team-mate Ryan Reilly, Rory Maguire, Aaron Swan and Harry McComb. Caimin Muldoon of the Nicholas Roche Team, Philip Hinch (Brotherston), Curtis Gilmore (Team Belgian Project), Gary Scully (Nenagh CC) and Darnell Moore (Caldwell Cycles) were among the aggressive riders of the day not to mention Daire Feely of SEENG team who fought hard to retain his Yellow leader’s jersey. Feely, McAuley, Reilly, Muldoon and Gilmore managed to escape the pack and opened up a lead of thirty seconds which they held for some time.
However riders such as Jude Sands of Newry, Muldoon, Ryan Orr (Belgian Project) and Paul Vaughan (Sportactive) helped drive the bunch and eventually these five were reeled in. Feely was unfortunate to suffer a mechanical and had some hard riding to do get back into contention. A crash later on also saw him struggling to maintain contact with the bunch but his determination to hold Yellow never wavered and he rode hard to keep in contention. As the riders completed the first lap of the Portnoo/Ardara loop Matt Adair of XMTB McConvey Cycles made a surprise move and jumped from the bunch gradually opening a significant gap on the chasers. He maintained this for the second lap after which the peloton headed through Ardara to Glengesh. While he was well down on GC following Friday night’s stage he was obviously out to prove that he could be a contender. Finally the bunch wakened up to the fact that he could take the stage if nothing was done so once again the hammer went down and the chase began in earnest until he was finally caught on the climb.
As the riders began the iconic climb of Glengesh those who hoped to feature continued to battle. In the end it was Hinch and Scully who rounded the last hairpin first with 150 metres to go. The pair battled it out to take the stage with Scully eventually able to whittle away at the slender lead held by Hinch and take the stage. The next placings were almost all taken by the top contenders in this year’s race. McAuley crossed the line in third position a mere 29 seconds ahead of Daire Feeley and Darnell Moore. Ryan Orr put in a great performance to take sixth while Cormac Keeny of Errigal CC was seventh on the stage. Rossa Doherty of the Donegal Jnr Development Team, Aaron Swan (Cycling Ulster Slane Cycles) and Stephen Walsh of Carn Wheelers completed the top ten. The Cycling Ulster Slane Cycles Team took the overall Team prize, top junior and King of the Mountains. This was another excellent performance by Ulster Junior riders who have dominated this race for a number of years. Daire Feeley did enough on the top of Glengesh to retain his yellow jersey and win the race overall by 12 seconds from Craig McCauley, with Gary Scully a further second behind. Top Donegal riders overall were Cormac Keeney (Errigal), 5th @ 25 secs, Paul Vaughan (Sportactive), 9th @ 50 secs, Rossa Doherty (Donegal Jr Dev) 13th @ 1’16 and David Donaghy (Caldwell) 16th @ 1’37 and Michael McBride (Belgian Project) 20th @ 2’00.
Four Masters Cycling Club would like to thank all those people behind the scenes who made this race run safely and successfully. The Gardai, race officials, motorbike marshals, club marshals, marshals from neighbouring cycling clubs that assisted with marshalling, medical crews, Marian and Tommy Lamb (race reports), local press and anyone else that helped out to make this event a great success. The staff at the Nesbitt Arms were terrific while the Ardara Traders made everyone feel very welcome. A special mention must be made of all the B&B landladies who were very accommodating to all the riders and teams. Finally, thanks to all the riders and teams that signed on and gave us entertainment for the weekend and hope to see you all again in 2015.

Rás Dhún na nGall 2014 Final GC Top 20
1. 105 Feeley, Daire J SeEng 6h08’46″
2. 33 McAuley, Craig J Cycling Ulster 6h08’58″ @12″
3. 136 Scully, Gary 2 Nenagh CC 6h08’59″ @13″
4. 16 Moore, Darnell J Caldwell 6h09’05″ @19″
5. 51 Keeney, Cormac 3 Errigal CC 6h09’11″ @25″
6. 12 Hinch, Philip 2 Brotherton 6h09’13″ @27″
7. 118 Orr, Ryan J The Belgain Proj 6h09’33″ @47″
8. 35 Reilly, Ryan J Cycling Ulster 6h09’35″ @49″
9. 108 Vaughan, Paul 2 Sportactive 6h09’36″ @50″
10. 135 Walsh, Stephen 3 Carn Wheelers 6h09’50″ @01’04″
11. 95 Wright, Jody 3 Phoenix CC 6h09’54″ @01’08″
12. 36 Swan, Aaron J Cycling Ulster 6h09’56″ @01’10″
13. 38 Doherty, Rossa J Donegal 6h10’02″ @01’16″
14. 68 McGauley, Mark 2 MAD MTB 6h10’09″ @01’23″
15. 126 O’Reilly, Paul 3 UCD 6h10’14″ @01’28″
16. 15 Donaghey, David 3 Caldwell 6h10’23″ @01’37″
17. 112 Hughes, Keith V Bikeworx 6h10’39″ @01’53″
18. 23 McCrory, Joseph 3 Carn Wheelers 6h10’40″ @01’54″
19. 111 Stewart, Rodney V Team Vision Raci 6h10’44″ @01’58″
20. 117 McBride, Michael U The Belgain Proj 6h10’46″ @02’00″

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