Two of the three registered Apollo riders lined out recently for the 100 kilometre Tour of The Mournes, but Junior McAuley, Apolloʼs crashed out of the Tommy Given GP the day before which forced him to miss this one.
Andy McGibbon and Robert Greer, who is still riding as a junior, put themselves up against 80 other A3 and A2 riders. The race run by Newry Wheelers is regarded as one of the best in the calender and as if the course was not tough enough taking in nearly 3000 feet of climbing in all including the Tullymore/Bryansford climbs and the fearsome power climb into Rathfriland which peaks at 17% gradient, the weather as tough with rain not relenting for the entire race.
The race held together, everyone hanging on and surviving the numerous attacks which came every couple of minutes and even the climb over Bryansford was not enough to split the bunch with only a few riders going off the back at that point. More attacks came in the hills from Bryansford to Hilltown but the headwind made it practically impossible for anyone to escape that was until the Rathfriland hill. The climb is short at a few hundred feet but ramps up quickly and with over 80 kilometres of racing in the legs at that point only the strongest would get over the top in the main bunch.
The peloton split into pieces on the climb with a group of 30 breaking away at the front. Greer and McGibbon got over the top in the main bunch but both got distanced shortly after and lost touch with a few kilometres to go rolling in just off the main sprint somewhere around 25th to 30th positions.
After the race Robert Greer said, “I felt great for the whole race and only got distanced because of the junior gearing regulation. It’s a shame as Iʼm sure I would have come in with the main bunch otherwise.” Andy McGibbon said of his race. “I should have given it a bigger dig over Rathfriland as I had plenty left and Iʼm sure I would have contested the sprint otherwise.”
The race averaged a speed of 25mph and nearly 3000 feet of climbing, 17% maximum gradient all in 2 hours 30 minutes which shows why the Tour of the Mournes is one of the great local races.