Ireland’s ultra-successful Paralympic cycling team suffered some bad luck right at the end of the testing 71km Road Race course in Rio de Janeiro yesterday.
The cyclists had already bagged four medals between them (two golds, one silver and one bronze) but Galway-based university lecturer Eoghan Clifford, who’d already won C3 Time Trial gold, was left to curse a slipped chain yesterday.
Racing in the combined C1-3 Road Race, he was part of a six-man break that got away in the first lap and included Japan’s reigning world champion Masaki Fujita, Spain’s world bronze medallist Eduardo Santas Asensio of Spain and Italy’s Fabio Anobile.
But when the race came down to a final sprint finish, Clifford’s chain slipped just 200m from the finish line and he finished fifth.
“I felt good coming into the sprint, just unfortunately my chain came off with 200m to go,” said the Bruff native.
“That’s bike racing really. Today I felt very good and did everything I could do. It’s disappointing but these things happen,” he added philosophically.
Clifford’s bid for a third medal was helped by having track bronze medallist Colin Lynch also helping him in the race.
“Colin got in the early break and that was good. A couple of the other teams had to chase so when they pulled it back, I went and about eight of us got away.
"On the first lap there was a lot of attacking on the hills and it whittled it down to six. In the last lap, we really let fly at each other, there was a volley of attacks on the hills.”
Lynch, who finished 24th, was happy to help out his teammate.
“I did my best to stay at the front and, just at the right time, I was able to jump away with one other rider and create a little bit of a gap.”
Ireland’s cyclists have three final shots at medals today when the three tandems compete in their Road Races, and Clifford and Lynch have already promised to support them by helping out on the road with their water bottles.
Elsewhere, Ireland’s 11-time Paralympian John Twomey and his Sonar crew of Ian Costelloe and Austin O’Carroll recorded two 12th places in races nine and 10 of the Sonar sailing series. It’s left them 13th ahead of today’s final race which they said was disappointing.
Twomey admitted that they have struggled all week with the winds.
“It’s a tricky place, we’re still trying to figure it out,” the Cork veteran said. “The wind is really, really shifty and tricky.
“We’d like to be back in the top five tomorrow in our last race, like we did earlier in the week,” he said, adding that their experience put Annalise Murphy’s Olympic gold into perspective.
“It was a real credit to her to put it together here because these are the most difficult place I’ve ever sailed and I’ve been hanging around sailing a long time,” he said.
Elsewhere Clontarf’s silver medallist Ellen Keane swam a 1:15:44 PB to qualify for the S9 100m Backstroke final.
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