Spath beats Horgan and Dillon to win Irish road race championships
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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Spath beats Horgan and Dillon to win Irish road race championships

by Shane Stokes at 3:25 PM EST   comments
Categories: Race Reports and Results, National Championships
Former mountainbike specialist beats more experienced road rivals

Mel SpathTaking the victory with a well timed kick and a powerful sprint, Mel Spath grabbed gold at the end of the women’s road race championship yesterday in Clonmel. The Cycleways rider kicked hard with 200 metres to go, sprinting on the left side of the road while he rivals were watching each other on the right, opened a gap and continued to pull away to the line.

She finished a couple of bike lengths clear of five-time champion Siobhan Horgan (GS Gestion) and the 2010 victor Olivia Dillion (Now and Novartis), with Lydia Boylan (Look Mam No Hands) impressing in netting fourth.

“At the end, I was saying to myself that I hoped I would get into the medals, but it just worked out,” she told afterwards. “Olivia attacked with one kilometre to go. We went around the corner and with 500 metres to go, Olivia and Siobhan and Lydia were on the other ride and I was on the left. With 200 metres I didn’t see them going so I said I’d go; I went for the sprint and never looked back.”

Spath is from Germany but is married to Irishman Ryan Sherlock, and became an Irish citizen several months ago. This was her first time being able to contest the road race, and it paid off very well.

“I am quite confident in my sprint; I am getting more and more confident now. The first time I found out I had power was when I went for a sprint with my power meter in the off season and I was hitting wattages of over 1000 watts, which for me is very high. So I knew I had good sprint.”

Spath, Horgan, Dillon and Boylan pushed ahead on the penultimate lap and although there were numerous attacks from that group, with Horgan and Dillon being the most aggressive, the elastic didn’t break.

Horgan had been aiming to take her sixth gold but had to be content with the runner-up slot. “In previous years I definitely felt the pressure but this year is my last year cycling and I was here to enjoy it, to be honest,” she said. “I think Mel was a deserving winner; maybe myself and Olivia were watching each other too much in the end and she came up on the left and won it fair and square.”

Dillon had returned from her US base to try to scoop another gold, as she did two years ago. She was clearly very strong but couldn’t get a gap. “We forced a selection each time around the climbs, I attacked a lot. I decided to go with one kilometre to go which in hindsight was a bit early, but I did get a gap. Siobhan came up, we went around the corner still with a gap but Mel came up on the left side. She had a great ride, a very strong riders, so congrats to her.”

The quartet hit the line over one and a half minutes ahead of chasers Eve McCrystal (Garda CC Richies Bikes), Michele Geoghegan (Steeds Vooraan), Louise Moriarty (Look Mam No Hands) and Sandra Fitzgerald (Garda CC Richies Bikes).

How it played out:

The 28 women who lined out in the event had seven laps of a 12.5 kilometre circuit to cover, thus 87.5 kilometres in total to settle the medals. On the first lap Orla Hendron (Orwell Wheelers – DTC) jumped clear and build a decent lead, then was joined soon afterwards by Roisin Kennedy (ESB) and Amy Brice (Phoenix CC).

They were clear heading over the finish line and opened a 45 second gap. Defending champion Siobhan Horgan surged clear in pursuit, but was quickly marked by the 2010 victor Olivia Dillon (Now and Novaris), who was determined to add road race gold to the time trial victory she took on Sunday.

The break was caught after just over half an hour of racing. Brice wasn’t deterred and clipped away again with Sandra Fitzgerald (Garda CC). They opened a lead of a minute and while Mel Spath (Cycleways) tried to get clear, she was marked by the other favourites and the speed dropped once more. She surged again but Horgan closed it down.

Fitzgerald was feeling stronger than Brice and pushed on alone. Fiona Meade (St. Finbarr’s) decided to try to bridge and surged clear, being joined by two others, but the peloton reeled both them and Brice in. The acceleration reduced Fitzgerald’s gap to under half a minute, and even further when nine chasers pushed ahead of the rest.

They were Horgan, Meade, Dillon, Spath, Brice, Eve McCrystal (Garda CC), Lydia Boylan (Look Mum No Hands), Louise Moriarty (Look Mum No Hands) and Michelle Geoghegan (Steeds Vooraan), and this group gobbled up Fitzgerald. That brought the group up to ten, and it swelled to a dozen when Mary Costello (Alliance Environmental) and Francine Meehan (Tullamore) got up to them.

Boylan clipped away and was clear for fifteen minutes; while the solo move didn’t last, it provoked a split and seven riders got up to her. They were Spath, Horgan, Dillon, Moriarty, Geoghegan, McCrystal and Fitzgerald, while further back nine others were trying to get back on terms: Meade, Meehan, Costello, Kennedy, Emma Walsh (Dungarvan CC), Brice, Judith Russell (Phoenix CC), Anne Dalton (Orwell Wheelers DTC) and Sinead Rivers (Roe Valley).

That put the race into two distinctive groups, separated by 25 seconds, and drenched by heavy racing.

At the end of lap five, Dillion surged and got slightly clear. Horgan brought the others back to her, but the effort served to soften up that lead group. Heading up the climb for the penultimate time, Spath drove the pace and Moriarty, Fitzgerland, McCrystal and Geoghegan lost contact.

That reduced the lead group to the four strongest in the race and going onto the final lap, they had a 40 second lead over that chasing quartet.

From there until the line it was a case of surge and react; each of the riders tried to get clear, with Dillon and Horgan being the most active and effectively cancelling each other out. There was some very good racing all the way to the line but heading onto the finishing straight, the four were still together.

Horgan, Dillon and Boylan were on the right hand side going into the final 300 metres; Spath was by herself on the left, and floored it with approximately 200 metres to go. That caught the others unawares but so too did her strength; she pulled clear between there and the line, hitting it well ahead to become national road race champion for the first time.

Five-time winner Horgan had to be content with second, while 2010 winner Dillon was third. Boylan finished outside of the medals but impressed by her tenacity; some big results look to be in store for her in the future.

Irish women’s road race championships, Clonmel:

1, Melanie Spath (Cycleways CC) 87.5 kilometres in 2 hours 30 mins 38 secs
2, Siobhan Horgan (GS Gestion)
3, Olivia Dillon (Now and Novartis)
4, Lydia Boylan (Look Mam No Hands) all same time
5, Eve McCrystal (Garda CC Richies Bikes) at 1 min 38 secs
6, Michele Geoghegan (Steeds Vooraan)
7, Louise Moriarty (Look Mam No Hands) both same time
8, Sandra Fitzgerald (Garda CC Richies Bikes) at 1 min 40 secs
9, Fiona Meade (St. Finbarrs) at 5 mins 38 secs
10, Amy Brice (Phoenix CC) same time


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