THE cycling season may have ended three months ago, but David O’Loughlin is still in great shape as he proved by winning last Thursday’s Rás an Turcaí at Carraroe, Co Galway. After 60 kilometres of hard-fought racing, O’Loughlin was a clear winner, sprinting home more that a bike’s length ahead his coaching mentor Padraig Marrey, another ace who maintains year-round fitness.
It was O’Loughlin’s second win in the Christmas classic in three years, while Marrey now has a tally of two second places and two thirds in the event, which was first held in 2001.
From modest beginnings, the Rás an Turcaí has grown to major race, with Thursday’s 138 starters enjoying dry conditions – a welcome rarity for this out-of-season event.
The top three finishers had started with a two and a half minute deficit on the main group, which included former world number one Sean Kelly, who was reportedly fit and eager to add a second Rás an Turcaí success to the one he won in 2001.
The scratch trio sliced through the field and when Team Navigators pro’ O’Loughlin attacked on the main climb, only Western Lakes’ Marrey and Simon Coughlan (Donamon) could stay with him.
As the finish approached the leaders started to play cat and mouse, and risked being caught be the chasing group, which was driven along by the likes of Kelly and double FBD Rás winner Phil Cassidy.
However, they stayed clear to the finish where O’Loughlin easily took the three-man sprint. His reward was a seasonal turkey plus a little prize money, while Marrey went home with a hamper. Sean Kelly, now in his 50s, had to settle for ninth spot.
O’Loughlin had warmed up for the race by cycling the 40 miles from Cong to Carraroe. While he was delighted with his win, O’Loughlin’s sights are set on the international track scene and qualification for the World pursuit championships in Majorca at the end of March.
He has made a sensational debut on the track this winter, beating world-class opposition in Manchester and Moscow. “I’ll be training on the indoor track in Ghent, Belgium, from January 8-11 and then I head for Los Angeles and the next round of the World Cup.
“If I can continue as I have doing, I hope to collect enough points to ride the Worlds. My performances this year have been done without a lot of track training and I think there’s still a lot more to come,” he said.
1. David O’Loughlin (Team Navigators); 2. Padraig Marrey (Western Lakes CC); 3. Simon Coughlan (Donamon Dynamo); 4, Derek Burke (Murphy & Gunn); 5, Simon Kelly (Murphy & Gunn); 6, Gert Hack (Germany).