James Curry achieved his biggest victory on the road at the weekend at the gruelling Ras Dhun na nGall. The Banbridge CC rider was riding the 4 stage event alongside fellow Banbridge rider Cameron McIntyre in the Sierra Navada team. Also riding were Banbridge CC’s Matthew Adair and Mark Kendal, who was taking part in his first stage race.
The event, known throughout Irish cycling for its savagely hilly parcours, is one for those who are on top of their form with no place to hide on the steep gradients. Friday night seen the opening stage marred by crashes on the fast decent into Ardara village in Co Donegal. All Banbridge riders managed to avoid much mishap and finished well up the standings ahead of the short time trial scheduled for early on Saturday morning. This is where young Curry would play his first hand and showed his intent by placing 2nd, only 1 second off the winner’s time.
The Saturday afternoon stage would take the riders over more gruelling roads and was her that Curry made his move. He broke clear as part of a 4 man break, picking up some valuable time bonuses along the way. With his head down and driving from the front , by the time they reached the finish line Curry managed to pull out an advantage of almost 2 minutes over the main bunch which contained the leader’s yellow jersey which would now leave the shoulders of Celbridge’s Adam Stenson who was riding for Bikeworx. Curry came incredibly close to winning stage in the 4 man sprint, but was narrowly beaten by Kevin McKinney of Velo Café Magasin. His focus was on the overall lead however which he had now secured by 16 seconds over breakaway companion and stage winner McKinney.
The 4th and final stage on Sunday was known for one thing alone. While the stage featured numerous climbs, they all paled into insignificance in comparison to the final ascent which would see the race finish atop Glengesh Pass. With twisting s-bends and with a gradients that average over 10% over 2km and peak at over 25% it’s suited to those with explosive climbing ability.
A break had moved clear during the stage and reached the foot of the final climb of Glengesh with over a minutes advantage on the main bunch containing Curry, however when the fireworks started and those who felt they could challenge the yellow jersey launched their attacks that advantage quickly dwindled. Instead of marking the wheels of his challengers James stamped his authority on the race and demonstrated the class and ability that has taken him to multiple off road national championships.
No-one could live with the Banbridge lad and he was able to celebrate as he crossed the line as victor of the stage and overall winner of the 2016 edition of the Ras Dhun na nGall. The victory will earn Curry an upgrade to the elite ‘A1’ category in only his first year of senior riding, and with this win and the dominating nature in which he claimed it the future looks very bright for this talent from the Banbridge CC stable.
Cameron McIntyre also rode impressively all weekend and finished the race in 5th place overall and first Junior rider. Mark Kendal’s debut into stage racing was an impressive one, finishing in 33rd place out of the 150 starters. Matthew Adair was close behind in 42nd.