Saturday 2nd August saw the International Suir Valley 3 Day stage race take place in Clonmel, Tipperary.
East Tyrone this year sent a five man team down to the event (the only team from Ulster) that consisted of Harry McCombe, Melvyn Steele, Gary Jeffers and guest riders Cameron Jeffers and Barry Doyle.
This is a stage race that attracts the highest calibre of riders with pro teams such as Championship Systems including Dillon Byrne, Mark Dowling, Bryan McCrystal to name but a few.
The first stage of 72 miles was on Saturday and was in miserable wet conditions. Harry and Barry finished in the main bunch just behind the lead group 3.38 down on the winning pack.
Gary and Melvyn had bad luck with punctures; Gary having two and Melvyn having one then having to chase hard to get back in again. Cameron was riding very strong in the group then took a hunger knock and lost 13 minutes on the day.
Stage 2 was a 57 mile route that was controlled and managed by the Championship Systems team in yellow, making sure there were no break aways and so the bunch largely stayed together for the complete stage, averaging over 27 mph.
Gary suffered from a chest infection he has been carrying all year and had to abandon the race. Barry, Mel, Harry and Cameron all finished in the main bunch only 25 seconds off the leaders.
Stage 3 was the Crit in the middle of Clonmel town running over a 2.5 mile circuit, averaging 25 mph over a tight twisty circuit. Harry was feeling the tiredness in the legs and suffered from the outset.
Melvyn lasted to half way round the stage, however Barry and Cameron had excellent stages with Cameron’s experience of criterium racing in England finishing 12th overall, getting the same time as the winner and Barry finishing only 1.41 down.
The last stage was 82 miles and took in two mountain climbs, “the Vee” and “the Nire”. Regardless the average speed was still 27.5 mph for the first riders in.
ETCC’s riders had started to suffer with Mel losing the wheel on the first mountain, however managed to get back into the main group again on the descent. Cameron finished 19th on the stage only losing 1.56 on the lead pack. Melvyn finished 13 minutes down and Barry 4.53 minutes down after taking a tumble on the climb.
Overall ETCC had a commendable performance with Harry finishing 85th, Melvyn finishing just behind at 87th 41 minutes down. Cameron got stronger and stronger as the weekend went on and finished a credible 64th 15 minutes down and Barry 48th only 10.26 down.
As a team ETCC came 10th out of 20 teams entered in the race, a great result for ETCC.
ETCC would like to thank all the riders for taking part and representing us at this event, and the support teams who looked after the riders all weekend and those in the club who sponsored the event to help cover costs.
The Suir Valley 3 Day is being televised on Setanta Sports Ireland on 14th August from 7pm to 8pm.