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Liam O’Brien said he was unable to do much on the last stage of Rás Tailteann but was happy with his performance and now looking to the rest of the season (Photo: Sean Rowe)

By Shane Stokes

Lining out in the Rás Tailteann at just 19 years of age, Liam O’Brien’s super third place overall saw him seal the white jersey competition. It’s the latest strong result from the promising Corkman, and he’s keeping his fingers crossed that he will ride some very big events in the upcoming weeks with his Lidl-Trek Development Team.

“I’m reserve for the Giro [Giro Bio, otherwise known as the Baby Giro – ed.] so if I get the call up, that will be a big race. But at the moment I’m not racing that. Then I’ve nationals next, and then the Tour of Austria after that. So a busy summer ahead either way.”

O’Brien got the attention of his team, the feeder squad for the top notch Lidl-Trek WorldTour outfit, with a number of strong performances last season. These included fourth in the time trial and fourth overall in the 2.1-ranked Sint Martinusprijs Kontich race in Belgium, 11th in the junior world championship time trial and 12th in the junior Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

He also shone nationally, taking stage one of the Junior Tour of Ireland and holding yellow from there to the final day before unfortunately slipping to second overall after a crash. He was also silver medallist in the national time trial and road race championships.

He’s in his first year as a senior rider and so finishing second on a stage and third overall in the Rás is a significant result.

If he’d been told before the race that he’d achieve those results, would he have been satisfied?

“I think so,” he told Stickybottle. “Because it’s always been so close, in terms of time gaps and stuff. It’s not like a super selective race. There’s no stage where there are massive time gaps to everyone.

“So yeah, to be at the pointy end is quite nice.”

The difference between O’Brien, race winner Dom Jackson (UK: Foran CT) and runner-up Conn McDunphy couldn’t have been any tighter. Locked on the same overall time and separated only by their stage places, O’Brien tried repeatedly to make the difference during the final three stages.

He told Stickybottle after stage three that he usually gets stronger as a stage race goes on, but that trend didn’t occur this time around. Stomach issues on Saturday’s stage and then fatigue on Sunday blunted his efforts, although he did try.

“It was fast from the start,” he said of stage five. “It was always going to be an aggressive race with all of us in the same time. We had the idea to get Dillon [Corkey] to put a bit of pressure on them. He was flying today, and then [the plan was] for me to counter over the top. But I was struggling today all day.

“I had no legs. I was suffering. So yeah, I couldn’t really change the outcome much today which is a bit disappointing to finish like this. But I was swinging all day.”

Still, he can take great encouragement from how he performed.

“It shows consistency in the races,” he said of the final result. “It’s nice to be up there and I hope to improve in the coming years. To step another level.”

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