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Graham powers clear to finish on a high note and wrap up Tour of the North glory

 

By Mark McCullough

Rupert Graham of English favourites Spirit Tifosi clinched overall victory at the Dixon's Tour of the North Cycle Race in style by winning the final stage.

Stage Four was subject to a last-minute course change due to snow over the higher ground on the original route, organisers deciding to go back to Sunday's course around Roguery.

Early on, a group of nine pushed clear on the first climb, Whitesides. This group contained the top contenders except Jack Stanton, who had a spill.

He regathered himself but the damage was done. The break pushed further ahead, gaining over 6.45 over the nearest group.

They forged on, with constant attacks coming from Lindsay Watson (Powerhouse) and Darnell Moore (Caldwell), both of whom were just seconds from the yellow jersey. Ben Joughin (Pro Vision) and Cian Delaney (Stamullen) were also active.

Towards the end of the penultimate lap, Graham, Watson and Ed Clemens (Spirit Tifosi) pushed clear which forced a frantic chase behind with Watson gaining the points to take the KOH overall.

Watson had a mechanical on the descent from Roguery, which left two out in front.

Darragh McCarter (Donegal Bay) hit out to chase and was closely followed by Joughin.

But McCarter and Graham pushed on, holding a 30-second lead over Joughin. McCarter had the misfortune of a puncture which left Graham on his own for the stage and overall victory.

Joughin held on for second, nearly two minutes back with Cycling Ireland's Connor Gallagher completing the podium.

The remainder of the break was led home by McCarter in fourth, followed by Clemens, Marcus Burnett, Watson, Moore, Delaney and Toni Ballester Llobera.

Burnett took home the Under-23 young rider's jersey which he held from start to finish.

Watson finished a productive weekend with the KOH Jersey as well as a fourth-placed finish.

Spirit Tifosi took the best overall team crown.

Only 61 riders completed the gruelling event.

Belfast Telegraph

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