Richard Handley went into this year’s
An Post Rás Tailteann as Rapha Condor JLT’s team leader. Handley has
consistently shown excellent form this year, taking several early victories
and, after finishing an excellent 5th in the 2012 Rás, held realistic ambitions
of a podium place.
The Rás though, perhaps more than any other of the races that the Rapha Condor JLT
team will take part in, is an unpredictable and uncontrollable beast. The field
is made up of 5 man teams, and the competition and terrain is savage at best.
Looking back over his race, Richard takes us through his week in Ireland with
the Men in Black, and describes the ups and downs of vying for victory in the
We tried to get riders in the move,
but we didn’t totally commit to it, as we all really expected a bunch sprint
today. Aaron (Buggle) eventually got himself into a break that looked quite
promising, and he took a time bonus sprint. This was important for us, because
John had drawn team car 22 in the convoy, and we needed to try to slide him
further up. The roads at the Rás can be quite tight, so if we had a puncture
with John that far back we could have been in real trouble. The time bonus
meant that Aaron would be up on GC and John would be better placed from then
on. Eventually two riders clipped off towards the end and finished with a 30
second advantage, and our team all finished safely in the bunch – exactly what
we were after on the opening day really. I struggled a little today, I didn’t
seem to have my best legs but by finishing in the bunch it wasn’t a problem as
nothing was lost.
Horrible day today, made even more
stressful for us because we are trying to get riders up there overall on GC, so
we can’t afford to miss a move. It was a typical Rás stage, with no real
control just attack after attack.
The thing that you have to watch out for is when three or four breaks have gone
up the road and then all come together, you suddenly realise that there is now
a whole peloton up the road!
This is exactly what happened, and I had to chase to get across with a few
riders in the last 20 km. We made contact with about 6kms to go but
unfortunately the winning move had already gone from that group. We lost about
40 seconds, but that kind of time gap will be hard to pull back against the
guys like Hawkins, and Biablocki.
|Richard Handley An Post Rás Race Number 2013|
3 – 141.1km
Another mixed day for the team today,
we covered all the main moves over the first set of climbs for the day, but
eventually it was a small break that got away, and being a flat, headwind run
in, we sat tight for the bunch kick.
Unfortunately Aaron and Ed (Laverack) ploughed a traffic-calming curb at
50kmph, which ended Aaron’s race with a set of stitches to the chin. Ed was
left pretty sore for the rest of the race. Mike (Cuming) and I tried an attack
on the last climb, just to test the water really; attacking in tandem seems to
be a good idea.
Today was the toughest stage of the
race, and we figured with the stage being so hard it would be hard for the
leader to chase break back later in the day. We went into the stage with a plan
to try to make the race here.
Mike and Ed both made the move of the day, and on the 2nd cat climb with 80kms
to go, I crossed to the move with Marcin (Biablocki) of UK Youth. On the next
2nd cat climb Mike and I launched an attack together that gave us with a
2-minute gap going into the last major climb of the day, Healy Pass. I was race
leader on the road in a strong group with one teammate, so it was now or never
for the overall.
After descending off Healy Pass, which was very technical, it was a case of
trying to hold off the strong chase group that had formed. We managed to hold
off the chase with 28 seconds spare at the line, not enough to take yellow of
Marcin but it closed the gap and left me in 4th overall with Mike taking the KOM
|Richard Leading In The King Of The Mountains Jersey|
We tried to rest up as best as
possible today to save ourselves for the next two hilly days, it proved quite a
difficult task though as there was a lot of crosswind today. There were a few
late attacks from the 3 riders who were all on the same time at the top of the
GC but they didn’t get anywhere. I thought I was in a good position for the
sprint, I was in the top 20 into the last corner with 500m to go but there was
a split further up in the sprint and I couldn’t close it. I lost 6 seconds to
the first 3 on GC but retained 4th overall. Mike kept the KOM jersey although
the gap had closed up.
Quite an overrated day today, on
paper it looked pretty difficult towards the end and that was going to suit
Mike and I, and our plan was to put UK Youth under pressure towards the end,
but when we got there the climbs weren’t any where near as severe as they
looked on paper, the stage ended in a 50 man sprint with all the leaders
We knew today would be the last real
chance we had to try for the overall. Stage 7 was a pretty hilly stage, and we
weren’t the only team who wanted to make it hard for UK Youth and Synergy –
Baku started the attacking one climb earlier than we planned so we took the
opportunity to join in. Ed and Elliot (Porter) were both climbing well today
and they were a big help to me all day. I attacked on the second 1st category
climb of the day; Wicklow gap, which is a long but gradual climb, and my aim
was to try and cross to the break, which had a 1’15” gap at the bottom. Using a
break as a target like this is the ideal tactic really, if you can make it
there, then you have company, and there would be a good chance to make it to
I got to within 15 seconds by the top but couldn’t close the final part over
the top of the climb and was caught on the last 3rd cat climb on the run in.
The break stayed away, but all the overall contenders finished in the bunch
sprint of 30 riders behind.
The final stage was relatively flat
with two circuits including a short 3rd cat climb before the line. Ed had a
good try to get in the early move but it was to no avail, and the rest of us
sat tight and saved ourselves for the finishing circuit. Elliot did a great job
keeping me towards the front for the two climbs on the finishing circuit and I
put everything I had left into one final try on the climb with 10kms to go.
Unfortunately everyone seemed to have the same idea and we ended up just
neutralising each other.
Even though it was the last day, you have to stay alert – anything can happen
in the Rás, and until you cross the final finish line you can’t be too careful.
The work that the team put in to keep me at the front paid off as there was a
crash at the foot of the climb and the bunch split, this resulted in Remi
Pelletier-Roy, who I’d been fighting for 4th position on count back with, to
loose time, which took a little stress out of the sprint finish.
Overall I came out of the race happy with my ride, and with the team too. It
would have ben nice to make the podium, but we threw everything we had at the
race, and I am content to say that we couldn’t have done more.
|The Rapha Condor JLT Team With Race Director Tony Campbell|