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 fabled Rás.
Stage 1 – 135.4km Dunboyne To Longford
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.
Stage 2 – 160.9km Longford To Nenagh
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 go 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|
Stage 3 – 141.1km Nenagh To Listowel
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.
Stage 4 – 153km Listowel To Glengarriff
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 jersey.
|Richard Leading In The King Of The Mountains Jersey|
Stage 5 – 150km Glengarriff To Mitchelstowm
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.
Stage 6 – 154.6km Mitchelstown To Carlow
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 present
Stage 7 – 141.2km Carlow To Naas
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 the finish… 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.
Stage 8 – 144.6km Naas To Skerries
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|