An Post – Chain Reaction : Stage Win and Third Overall for Glenn O'Shea
The An Post-Chain ReactionCycles-Sean Kelly Team lined up last week for the Rond De L'oise in northern France. This four day stage race is a UCI ranked 2.2 event and is run over rolling terrain. The team had six starters here, namely, Ronan Mc Laughlin, Sean Downey, Mark Mc Nally, Glenn O'Shea, Niko Eeckhout and Niels Wytinck. The first day was a shorter than usual 135km evening stage. The stage was a rather controlled affair with a small two man move going clear early on and building up a maximum advantage of just over two minutes before finally being caught on the finishing laps to set up bunch sprint. With the speeds very high and alot of fresh legs in the bunch a chaotic final few kilometers eventually led to a sprint won by Maxime Le Montagner of the Roubaix Metropole team. Glenn was the best finisher of the team coming home in 16th position.
Stage 2 was a longer stage covering 180km and six categorised climbs. It was a very hot day in L'oise today with temperatures between 28 and 30 Celsius for the entire stage. The first hour of racing was very intense with many moves going clear and coming back before finally a two man break established a decent gap and was allowed to move clear by the peloton. This two man move built a lead of over three minutes but was eventually brought back. With a tough finishing lap to be tackled twice the team where very motivated to ride aggressively for the stage win over the final fifty kilometers. Glenn was on a very good day and made a move on the first local lap before a move bridged across with both Mark and Ronan in this move the team was now in a very strong position. This group then split again leaving Ronan and Glenn in the front group of 16. Glenn attacked on the final KOM but was brought back. Just after the descent of this climb Glenn tried again and this time was successful, going clear with six other riders. Glenn knew he still had enough in the tank to win the sprint and was happy for this group to stay together all the way to the finish where he out kicked the others to take his first win in the AN Post-ChainReactionCycles-Sean Kelly team jersey. After time bonuses where counted it was announced that Glenn would be the new race leader and this really put the icing on the cake for the Aussie. Glenn said he was absolutely delighted to take the win, after feeling strong all day he was really confident in the final and pulled off a great win.
With the race leaders white jersey in the team, the riders where really pumped up for the third stage. The boys where dertermined to help Glenn defend his lead but at knew that this would be a very difficult challenge as Glenn held a very slender one second lead and with two intermediate bonification sprints and also extra time bonus's available on the finish line meaning that even if the guys kept the race together Glenn would still need to pick up some time bonus's along the way. A lone rider went clear early in the stage and this was a perfect situation for the team. This breakaway was however swept up just before the first intermediate and so the team needed to set up a leadout for Glenn who took third and extended his lead as the riders closest to Glenn missed out in the sprint. There was then a brief scare as Glenn was caught up in a crash but he was quickly back on his bike and back to the front of the race in time for the second intermediate sprint, where he again extended his lead by taking second place.
The team had to chase down a dangerous breakaway in the closing stages and although they didn't quite catch the last two breakaway riders they did get the gap down to just three seconds and in doing so kept the jersey for another day.
The team did a fantastic job today and team manager Kurt Bogaerts was delighted with the effort and result from the team.
As the riders woke this morning they where surprised to see the weather conditions had completely changed over night, instead of glorious sun shine and 30 degree temperatures the riders had enjoyed in the previous three days, today they had to cope with wind and rain. Despite the change in the weather, there was no change in the teams motivation and determination to defend Glenn's white jersey. Everybody was feeling tired today after a very hard day yesterday, but that's stage racing and the boys didn't let it affect them. The stage got off to a typically fast start and a group of 18 riders soon went clear with both Sean and Niels present and no rider from the Europcar team, this was a good situation for the team. When the gap went up to three minutes Europcar decided this move was too dangerous and began chasing very hard in a crosswind section splitting the bunch into three big groups in the process. Just as this initial break was being caught another breakaway went clear, Sean also made this move, but, with two dangerous general classification riders present, Sean had to drop out of the breakaway and wait for the peloton to help with the chase lead by the An Post-ChainReactionCyles-Sean Kelly Team. The team rode their hearts out in chase of this breakaway over the next 90km and despite a fantastic effort and being out numbered by the riders in the breakaway the boys brought the gap from over three minutes right down to 20 seconds on the finish line, but unfortunately this wasn't to be enough as Glenn dropped from 1st to 3rd overall. Although understandably disappointed, Glenn was able to accept the defeat as himself and the team had given 100% and more in defense of the jersey and just fell short. He was still quite happy with his race with a stage win and a third place overall, he feels he can now move forward and build on these results in the coming races.