O’Connor times it just right to gain a late podium place

Shutt Velo Rapide's Phil O'Connor climbs the hills on his way to second place
Shutt Velo Rapide's Phil O'Connor climbs the hills on his way to second place

Phil O’Connor made the long trip to Kilmarnock to compete in the Tour of Ayrshire worthwhile.

The Shutt Velo Rapide rider took part in the UCI Gran Fondo Series event and came second.

Similar to the London Marathon in format, the event is run as a mass participation ride. But there is an elite race at the front with riders competing within their age group for a qualification place at the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in France later this year.

The challenging hilly 80 mile route was coupled with a brutal headwind for the first 40 miles which forced some tough selections early on. O’Connor had to work hard to stay with the sharp end of the race but after two hours of tough racing he remained in the lead group with around ten riders from his age group (45-49).

With two other riders, he led the chase down of Jason Roberts of ProVision Cycling who had clipped off the front and joined three riders from another age group. The pressure from this chase whittled down the remaining group of contenders further.

With 25 miles to go Jeff Lamb of VC Meudon jumped a gap to another group of eight riders from a different age category to put himself in a solid second position. But O’Connor orchestrated a chase with Kelvin White of Deeside CC that took ten miles and eventually, with 12 miles to go, the catch was made.

The effort was starting to tell and with no-one willing to hunt down the lone leader ahead, O’Connor found himself one of three riders competing for the two remaining podium spots. It was then a question of cat and mouse to the line where O’Connor timed his sprint to perfection to take second place.

O’Connor will be taking to the streets of Albi in August to fly the GB flag in his age group in the Gran Fondo World Championships.