Local postman Ray Cullen, enjoyed an exciting victory in the one of the support races of the annual cycling race promoted in Carrick-on-Suir each St. Patrick’s Day, the Carrick Wheelers Cup.
This year’s event, which dates back to 1955, was kindly sponsored by Thompson Funeral Directors Waterford for a third successive year and involved three races for the various categories and a record breaking 219 cyclists! The first home of the races was the 4th Cat Race, which was held over two laps of the renowned Glenbower Circuit. This 67km race ended up in a ‘bunch sprint’ as it is known in the trade with a large peleton of cyclists entering Carrick in the final kilometres and heading for the all important finish line at the top of Sir John’s Hill just outside of the town.
Confident in his sprinting ability, Carrickbeg’s Ray Cullen of the newly sponsored Iverk Produce Carrick Wheelers, launched an explosive sprint 500m from the line, demolishing all opposition in the event to raise his hands for his, and the club’s first victory of 2012. This result brought great excitement to the local crowd and race organiser Paul Lonergan commented on the loud speaker ‘must be all the cycling Ray is doing on the post bike around the town everyday!’
Next to finish was the main event of the day with the prize of the Carrick Wheelers Cup on offer. This race has an impressive list of past winners including former Olympians, National Champions and of course Carrick Wheelers legend, the late Bobby Power, a winner on six previous occasions.
This race again attracted some of the top cyclists in the country and with 3 laps of the Glenbower Circuit, it was again going to be a top rider to add their name to the winners list for 2012.
In this race, a break-away of about 10 to 12 riders broke away from the main bunch around midway through the 100km race, with local rider John O’Shea of Iverk Produce Carrick Wheelers among them. As the group approached Carrick-on-Suir on the final lap it began to split with riders tiring from the day’s exertions. In the final 200m the crowd could see four riders sprinting for the win. Fastest however, was Dubliner Stephen Halpin of the UK based Metaltek Scott Professional Cycling Team, just ahead of ‘The Banteer Bullet’ Paudi O’Brien, a former professional with the An Post Sean Kelly Team, now home to Carrick’s Sam Bennett.
The winner Halpin said he was delighted to win this prestigious event and add his name to the roll of honour. He also pointed out that his girlfriend, Maria Kelly, is a Carrickbeg native and he spends a lot of his time training down on Carrick’s famously tough roads.
The final race of the day to finish was the 3rd Cat Race, which was also 3 laps of the same circuit and 100kms in total. This race was dominated by an early break-away group that rode clear 5km into the event. This 10 man group, including Carrick’s Cian Power, stayed away for the entirety of the race with some this group fading away on the final lap and a few fresher competitors bridging the gap from the 80 strong peleton that chased behind. Again, as the group approached Carrick in the final kilometres it was clear that the winner would come from this break-away and as the cyclists climbed Sir John’s Hill for the final time, it was Waterford’s Mark Nugent who proved strongest, or perhaps quickest, to the line, with Iverk Produce Carrick Wheelers local, Cian Power, finishing in 7th place, just inside the prizes.
So a great day’s racing for all involved, and Iverk Produce Carrick Wheelers would like to thank everyone who helped to make the day a success, especially Carrick United Soccer Club for the use of their premises, Niall Kerr for providing the podium, the local Gardaí and Civil Defence for their help in keeping the race safe for the cyclists, race sponsors, Thomson Funeral Directors, who enabled the club to give prizes to the top eight in each race, and a final word of thanks to the man recently described as the back-bone of Carrick Wheelers, Paul Lonergan for leading the day’s events and continuing the great tradition of cycle racing in Carrick-on-Suir on St. Patrick’s Day.