Sunday, May 19 Stage 1
I sharing a room with the stage winner and yellow jersey of the Rás tonight, no I haven't sneaked into some pro's room its my teammate Conor Dunne. I still cant get my head around it, its unreal really great news as i write this he has just said "fuck" shook his head and smiled this one will take a while to sink in.
Ok back to before all of this happened.
We arrived in the Green Isle last night to get the show on the road, I said to the lads I always hate this part as you pull into the car park see all the pros fancy team cars and bike's then you see the riders they all look 12 years of age and have 5% body fat, it could be a bit intimidating if you were so inclined!!! Some of the guests of the hotel provided a bit of entertainment when three women started fighting with each other then a classy gent decided to punch one of the them in the face, I didn't see it all but it ended up with one guy out cold on the road in front of the hotel. Turns out he was caught stealing money out of his nephews communion cards, it really is a classy joint.
The evening was spent getting a bite to eat and having a quick team meeting. we actually joked during the chat about how the pros view the county riders and how the county riders can start racing late in the stage for the county rider prize we also said how funny it would be if a county rider had the jersey and the pros expected his team to defend it........little did we know
As always there was a great atmosphere in Dunboye and we set off under bright sunshine. Timmy Barry Sam Bennett and myself bagged the dream spots behind the race directors car on the neutralised lap so we could stay out of trouble. Our neutralised section was extended as a rider had a mechanical before the flag was dropped so we crawled along waiting for him to get back on. Once the flag was dropped there was no more hanging around as we were up to over 50kph straight away. I was nicely positioned at the front but was not feeling great I didn't have the legs for the jumping around and quickly retreated back into the safety of the bunch. Our main aim for today was not to loose time or skin, but mostly not to loose skin. The first day can always be a crashfest as guys are fresh and eager to get stuck in. I think the fact that we were regularly touching 60kph on the flat kept the county riders from getting stuck in so it was a safe enough stage.
I took a gamble and retreated to the second half of the bunch as I felt it would be safer there and a bit easier there is always the risk of getting held up behind a crash but i was willing to take it. I moved up after 50k as the KOH was at 60k at this stage Conor was in an 18 rider move Rapha and Sigma Sport were riding on the front and it looked like the group would come back as we hit the KOH we were nearly on them. The KOH was harder than expected Stephen O Sullivan told me before the start that it was handy, I wouldn't have described it that way!! There was a great crowd on the climb which was great to see.
After the climb the race continued as normal i.e. 50-55kph all the time it took until about 100k had passed for the race to settle down a bit, we were still enjoying the sunshine I was starting to feel the heat a bit I always suffer on the first hot race day of the year. With the stage destined to last a little over two and a half hour I could have got away with two bottles but in the heat that didn't look likely but due to the speed of the bunch the prospect of going back for bottle did not seem appealing but fortunately Mick Fitz obliged and appeared with a bottle which was a life saver.
At this stage another break had gone and come back and a bit of calm descended on the bunch two of the Baku riders were riding on the front I decided to have a crack but I would say I hardly got my name on race radio before I got pulled back. I was getting twinges of cramp at this stage so had to use the head to ensure i got through it without going out the back door. At this stage Conor decided he was bored in the bunch and took off again. I was at the back and made my way back up the bunch when Sam told me that Conor was away. The lads had a minute with 10k to go, Stephen O Sullivan said they would stay away as the last 10k were relatively downhill. I was beginning to get a bit nervous at this stage while trying to figure out who he was away with. It was getting a small bit hairy in the bunch as there was a few lock up's Conor Murphy nearly dumped it on the tarmac at one stage.
I expected the bunch to go into gutter mode but it never happened there was a few attacks but no one team committed, the last 2k were very rapid but there was no bringing Conor back, fortunately he won the gallop and got the Yellow, Green, White and Blue jerseys (well he only actually got the yellow but that's the one that counts). Crossing the line I saw James Lawless watching and he said Conor had got it and I was truely trilled, its great to see a young Irish rider winning and especially one in a Carrick Iverk Produce jersey. Many thanks to everyone behind the scenes in the club and our sponsor Iverk Produce for helping to make this happen. Tomorrow should be fun!
Monday, May 20 Stage 2
The weather man lied to us he said it would be dry today but it was a bit misty in Longford this morning but not too bad thankfully it cleared up as the stage went on. We stayed in Carrick on Shannon last night, I was delighted to be leaving the hotel it was like something out of the 1960's, well the last time it was updated was in the 60's!
It was really cool to have the yellow jersey in the team today its not many county riders can say that they have being in that situation so it was a nice buzz this morning. The plan was obviously enough to hang onto the jersey if possible, it was not as if we could leave a break go and put 4 riders on the front. We just planned to follow as many moves as possible and make sure a big group of 20 or so riders got clear as that would be curtains for Conor. The race was a bit nervous at the start with the mist falling as the roads were a bit damp so would be treacherous if there was a lock up. Mick Fitz was on duty straight away following attacks as they went, so seeing him doing that guilted me into getting involved!! The first few efforts I had to make hurt like hell as I was not 100% warmed up and following attacks in the ras is hard at the best of times. Early enough in the stage a break went, we were happy enough with that as we hoped it would calm the bunch down a bit, they never got a huge lead and were visible on the straight stretches or goal was not to let the bunch stall and for the gap to balloon out to 3 minutes or so, but fortunately this is the Rás and the attacks never really stop!
After an hour or so the break came back and the speedo was edging ever upwards. I was generally keeping a good position in the bunch as it was important to be on hand if anything happened to Conor. I fell asleep at one stage and ended up about half way back in the bunch, there is always a few teams in the Rás that you know you need not to behind I ended up behind one of those teams riders and sure enough as it lined out he left the wheel go so it was a good kick in the ass for me to get back up to the top40.
You can really feel the recession in the state of the roads in Ireland over the last few years the Belgium riders must go home and comment on how lovely and smooth the cobbles feel. There was not a lot of potholes today but one was not called and a few riders milled into it and brought a few other riders down, this happened in the top 40 riders but by in large the bunch was safe today, I think the fact the speed is so fast is keeping riders on there toes. There was not even a chance to chat to other riders today as it was so fast.
Mick and myself were still trying to cover as many moves as possible, if a move went and there was no response from the bunch we would jump half way across the gap to give the bunch something to aim at and ride across. Its taxing work on the legs but it was great the respect we were shown by the other county riders, a few times I would be drifting back the line after an effort and be pushed back in by one of the lads. Even the pros were giving us no problems in moving up as they knew we were trying to do a job as best we could. It was only down to the two of us at this stage as Martin and Mike both had mechanical's and couldn't get back on. Martin was unlucky as he was just back on when the road was blocked by a couple of cars so that was his day done.
Mick yet again saved the day and went on a bottle run I would not have liked the prospect of riding back up the bunch with a few bottles in my pockets. It was nervy all day as we twisted and turned a lot so there was a lot of times we would turn into a crosswind but fortunately it never got too bad.
After about 120k a decent sized group got out and Conor went with a Rapha rider and a Node 4 rider they sat on him as he rode for about 4k, then he saw another group chasing and he sat up and waited for them, they all rode together and got up to the front group which numbered about 40 at this stage. Mick and myself had a chat and said job done and were happy.
Our group rolled easily enough through the last 25k as always at this stage the county riders started racing each other and a few groups got out but most people were happy enough to roll into the finish where we had lost 4 minutes.
Up front Conor was isolated and tried to cover as many moves as possible eventually a group of ten got out but he got very limited help from his group despite the likes of Rapha and Node 4 having no one up front. Eventually he lost the jersey by 15 seconds and is now 12th overall which is by no means a disaster, there is a lot of racing ahead of us.
Tuesday, May 21 Stage 3
Day 4 kicked off with a 6k climb after 6k so plenty of riders were warming up before the stage as it would be a long day if you went south that early. As we rolled out of Nenagh something strange happened we were not reaching for the 11 sprocket straight away it was very steady and controlled. I was badly positioned as normally when its lined out I can catch a lift to the front but today it was very easy so hard to move up as the world and its mother was ahead of me. As we started the climb it was still relatively ok but the screw was turned more and more as we wet further up the climb. Into the last 2k or so I could see it splitting about 20 riders ahead of me but the gap to the first 50 or so was not huge. Over the top we were properly lined out and a few hard turns were done on the descent and we got back on quickly enough. As we got back on Conor broke a spoke and had to get a wheel change. Mick and myself set up camp on the back of the group to get him back up once he got back on through the cars. At this stage the group had basically stopped racing as 3 riders had gone clear I said to Fraiser Duncan that I hate this part as the riders who didnt train as hard as us(and the sprinters) over the winter are now going to get back on and sure enough many of them did.
Martin had had about his 50th mechanical of the last few days and was fighting a loosing battle to get back on and would spend the day with the gruppetto. The racing was very handy at this stage as we were into a headwind and sitting on the wheels it was nice and easy. Just before Caherconlish I went back for bottles and had just deposited the last one to Conor when it appeared that a hand grenade went off in the bunch. Peter Hawkins had a dream start to his day by wearing the yellow jersey but now he was on the tarmac. There was a touch of wheels and he was the first one down and the chain reaction in the bunch saw over 20 riders hit the deck. It happened on a small descent so we were flying, I was really lucky to avoid it as it was happening just in front of me but I managed to take evasvive action, others such as Timmy Barry and Olan Barrett were not as lucky as they had simply no where to go. Cycling is a cruel sport for the likes of Peter to go from the yellow jersey to the ambulance but also for the likes of Timmy who has being doing 18 hour weeks consistently and then to see the chances of a good G.C. wiped out like that.
After the crash there was only a group of 40 of us left at the head of the race but the shout quickly went out that the yellow jersey was down so one of the unwritten rules of cycling was put into place and a stall was called. As a result of this the gap to the leading 3 riders went out to over 6 minutes. Through Adare a number of teams started to ride on the front and the gap started to come down rapidly enough. There was a lot of tension in the bunch after the previous crash it was like we were going to hit the last 3km as riders kept racing to the front. It got a little bit lined out in the left hand gutter and next thing there was another crash there was a traffic island in the middle of the road but there was another traffic island on the left for a cycle lane and a few riders milled into that. Arron Buggle got a bad slap he finished the stage despite have a nasty cut on his chin.
Once we swung off the main road we were onto the back roads again and hit the 1st third cat climb of the day, this was handy enough as it was into a headwind and there was a couple of teams riding on the front. Over the top I checked in with Conor to make sure he didnt need anything he was looking for a gel but of course I had none left Joe Fenlon was riding beside us and kindly obliged. I was chatting to Sean Lacey and asked him about the last climb he said he has rode those roads in training and didnt even know the climb so it couldn't be much. I relaxed a bit and was riding near the back when we hit the climb, next thing all hell broke loose and riders were blowing up left right and center, riders who had being chasing all day were sitting up and some riders just cracked I litterlay had to shove a few out of the way and make a big effort with Thomas Martin, Ryan Sherlock and a few others to hang onto the back of the bunch. Unfortunately this was all in vain as all the riders who were dropped got back on but better to be safe than sorry! Into Listowel the speed was ramped up I was just content to sit at the back and stay out of trouble I was delighted to hear that Carrick On Suir man and honoury club member Sam Bennett won the stage, its great to see that three young Irish riders in Conor, Peter and Sam have dominated the headlines so far, long may it continue
Wednesday May 22 Stage 4
Stage 4 was always going to be a biggie and it certainly lived up to expectations. I started at the back due to chatting to Adam Armstrong on the line and not paying attention to everyone else getting ahead of us! I was in the back 20 starting the first climb and saw lots of lads getting shelled they were going to be in for a long day. The first climb was lively enough but not too bad, turning onto the main Castleisland road i was still lurking too close to the back it lined out but didn't split so I took this as my warning to get out of dodge and move up to the front. At this stage Mick Fitz punctured I thought we might never see him again as the bunch was not hanging around but he did a good ride to get back on. On the climb to Castleisland I was having a look at slipping into something I was on Rodger Akins wheel when he jumped to go across a gap I pretended to look the other direction so I could pretend I didn't see it go, to say he is trucking in an understatement. Near the top of the climb Conor got out and made the front group of 20 or so riders.
I thought that could be the move of the day, heading towards Killarney the gap was heading for 3 minutes I sent Mike Lucey back for bottles as Paul was soon going to be going up to Conor and we could have being stranded without bottles for the day. It was handy enough when Mike went back but two minutes later it lined out I felt really bad for him as we were going to be going through his home town and he could be out the back but its a team sport and we all have to give up a bit for each other. Fortunately he didn't go south and did a great job to get bottles to us. The linout around Killarney was immense we were constantly doing 55kph plus, going down the Muckross road county riders started to crack and leave the wheels go, a castlebar rider cracked in front of me I was on the ragged edge if this was a pro he would have put the hand back and gave me a handsling but i took liberty of taking a swing out of him (apologies for that) but in that situation its do or die and i would understand if someone did it to me.
Into the bottom of Ladys view it was simply madness in the bunch it was like we were riding into the finish of the world champs, its a technical road and we were trucking, the cars behind the break had being pulled out as the gap was tumbling. I felt okish once we started climbing proper but that didn't last long, the first 40 or so riders rode away as I was dropped in a group of about 15. Going over the top of Molls Gap we were in the cars only about 20 seconds down on the back of the bunch I was confident we would get back on on the descent to Kenmare. We rode the descent full gas but unfortunately the cars had being stopped at the top of Molls, they overtook us on the descent and we were gaining but unfortunately the commissare called a barrage and the cars were pulled so our chances of getting back on plummeted, after Kenmare on the way to the second cat climb the cars again over took us and we came close but never made it. A number of riders joined us from behind so we had a group of 25 or so and that was our tour group set up for the day. On the second cat we could see the front group but there was no way back, Con Collis decided to attack us (gained 4 min at the finish I hope the sore legs are worth it!!!). Onto the Healy Pass the tempo was a bit too rapid at the start and a few F*&k's were thrown into a few riders and it slowed down a bit. One rider persisted in acting the &^(%£ and kept turning the screw a bit too much he got a bollicking off a number of riders but kept ignoring it even when his own teammate said it to him. His team has yellow tomorrow so I hope he is up to the task of defending the jersey and wont regret not listening to the more experienced riders today. Personally I hope he goes south early.
Over the top of the Healy Pass we saw the aftermath of a big crash as is pretty standard on that descent. We then cruised in the last 20k as best we could despite my new favourite rider riding a bit too fast all the time; why not loose 15 min instead of 12???
We were taking bets coming in the road about how much time we could loose, I guessed 15min Joe Fenlon guessed 17-18 but Andrew Meehan was the winner by guessing 12-13.
That was not the drama finished for the day, dinner at the hotel was a disgrace, we were waiting more than an hour for our main course. It got so bad some teams got up and left without eating and went into town. One manager went into the kitchen to give the chef a piece of his mind, he got a round of applause when he came out. The Wexford team had left and there dinners were left on there table so we robbed them so in the end we had two dinners but both were tiny. We were there for two hours in total to get our three courses, we left just before nine and the British team still had not got there starter.....so much for marginal gains!
23 riders were eliminated from the race today, you would feel sorry for them to have put so much into it especially those that missed the limit by only a couple of minutes but the limit is the limit riders have got tossed out of the tour of being less than a minute outside of the limit. Hopefully the riders will take motivation from it and come back better prepared next year.
Thursday May 23 Stage 5
Today was a relatively flat stage on the ras but was to be treated with fear as a similar stage two years ago split the race to bits, so I went against my normal pre race routine and warmed up. The bunch was a lot smaller this morning and lads were worried about going south on the first KOH and missing the time limit. I tried to sneak into the first move of the day but simply did not have the legs to make it across. I woke up with a head cold yesterday that had not affected me on the bike but it was a bit worse today and I was feeling not quite 100%
Fortunatley for the mear mortals in the bunch the first climb was tackled easily with the Sparta team riding on the front. The second climb was a different affair as it got lined out half way up it, about a kilometer from the top it was splitting in front of me but there was nothing I could do about it. I had being chatting to Sam Bennett earlier and he said he was feeling rubbish and had gone backwards on the climb but near the top he obviously found his legs as he sped across the gap I actually looked back to see had he got a tow off a car but no he hadn't he is just a talented fecker(i hate those lads!!!) Going over the top we were only a small bit off the back and got on by doing a few turns. Typically after getting back on it stalled and we could have rode back on at 20mph!!!
The next part of the stage was very handy as there was a number of teams riding on the front and we were into a headwind for a bit so I was actually riding in the small ring trying to spare the legs. Coming into Mallow we were flying but it was easy enough sitting in the wheels, it would line out in the crosswinds ocassionally but never bad enough to split it. After Mallow we turned left and a few miles later we hung a right from there on the racing was really on as we knew there was one third cat left and a few other small climbs as the road was constantly up and down we knew that we would have a cross wind for the last 15k or so. I knew myself the climb out of Donnerail was a dirty little one but thankfully it was took handy enough as the teams riding on the front were allowing the breakaways to fry. Thomas Lavery was obviously feeling fresh as he took off with another lad. Good to see lads having a go the odds are against them but nothing ventured nothing gained.
Onto the last climb in kildorrey and it was starting to get very grippy. Over the top there was a smash and unfortunetley Conor Dunne our stage 1 winner was brought down. Unfortunatley for Conor he had to go to Mallow General this evening where they diagnosed a fracture to his arm so he is out.
Mick Fitz also punctured at this stage so that was him gone to add to his bad luck the wheel he got off neutral had a buckel and 25mm tyre so would not turn in his Cervelo S5 frame, thanks to Herbi Monks of Eurocycles for sorting him out as Paul was dealing with Conor.
The run into Mitchelstown was very very grim it was constantly lined out in the right hand gutter, I was starting to swing in a major way and was counting down the kilometer markers. Into the last 2 k and I finally popped and swung out of the line, thankfully I was able to grab onto the last wheel in the bunch and finish in the same time as the bunch. 5 down 3 to go.
Friday May 24 Stage 6
Stage 6 on paper looked like something that could have being a very easy first 100k on main roads or a really stress full one where we were subjected to crosswinds. In the end it turned out to be something in between. It was chilly enough this morning but dry more worryingly it was windy enough, it looked like we would be subjected to a cross/head wind for most of the day that would have us pinned in the right hand gutter. This is not an ideal day out as riding in the right hand gutter means dodging parked cars and as its day 6 lots of guys are tired and drop the head when the hammer goes down so its important to be near the front at all times.
The stage did not start with an attack straight away but was marked by the Danish and Sparta teams going straight to the front to ride tempo. A number of riders tried to clip away but nothing was sticking I tried to go away with a Derry rider but we were not given the day pass. Passing Kilcoran Lodge John Lynch from UCD was joined by one of the American riders a south Dublin rider and Stephen Halpin and Olan Barrett, that was the break of the day. They were not left go straight away the teams on the front only gradually left the gap go out and they were careful not to let anyone else get across.
It was relatively handy in the bunch passing through Cahir and New Inn as a nature break was called. The gap to the break did not grow too much during the nature break so it showed the lads up front were in for a hard day. I was disappointed to have not made the break originally but seeing the gap grow that slowly made me happy to be in the bunch!
Just after Cashel I was behind a few of the An Post riders one rider wanted to go to the front to try and split the bunch but another rider was saying "do you really want to ride the county riders down", I didn't wait to find out the result of the conversation and quickly plonked myself in the top twenty thankfully an post decided not to go on the attack at that stage but it was a waring that something could happen at any stage. Shortly afterwards there was a crash near the front which served as another warning that it could split at any moment, Mick Fitz had picked this moment to have his third puncture in the three days, shortly afterwards himself and Mike would be caught out in a split down the back. Up front there was still a lot of tension in the bunch I was feeling very good and was enjoying the constant jostling for position to stay in the top 30 and more importantly stay on the right hand side of the bunch and out of the wind.
There was very few county riders lurking around the front, lots of the pros were not taking kindly to me trying to crash there party and I had to endure a few guys trying to literally push me out of the line, I was not getting too stressed about it as the legs were good and we were not riding full gas. Timmy Barry saw this happening once and offered the following words of wisdom "hit him a box Johnny" I will bear that in mind the next time!!!
At one stage the Belgiums charged to the front of the bunch en mass to try and split it but did not have the legs to do it, An Post also tried the same coming into Urlingford but with the same result. If the wind had being only a little bit stronger it would have split but it was just on the manageable side.
We turned off the main road in Urlingford an headed for Freshford and Ballyraggart. We were really moving on these roads as we had a tailwind I continued to annoy the "pros" by lurking around the front I can understand why some would be stressed by dealing with a county rider that they don't know but some of these lads really believe they belong in the tour the way they carry on.
Turning right in Ballyraggart we hit the first climb of the day that was tackled easily enough, down to Castlecomer through great crowds we started the next cat 3 which was very handy and was more about getting into a good position for the 1st cat climb. I had done these climbs only last week in training and knew that this was not a real first cat, it was 1.7k in the book but i knew it flattened after 1k so i said to myself i have to stay in the big ring and just horse the gear as much as possible over the climb, it would not be pretty but i knew if i got over this climb in the front I would finish in Carlow in the front group this was the stage I had targeted as regards getting the county prize, i have never being on the podium in the ras so i was running out of chances.
Onto the climb and a few attacks were launched I was just focused on the wheel in front and managed to stay glued into the front group, objective no1 achieved. The next 2nd cat was also very short and was another one I knew would require a big effort in the big ring and i was over it. We flew down the descent to it over a small bridge and next thing a crash, it happened about 10 riders in front of me, I didn't come off but came to a complete standstill and my legs exploded trying to get the 53X17 going again. Fortunately I managed to get going again with Ryan Sherlock, Damien Shaw, Chris O'Reilly, Thomas Martin and eventual stage winner Rico Rodgers and one of his team mates we worked together and managed to get back on. Rodgers was one of the riders getting up my nose earlier on (and vice versa i am sure) but he was glad of the county riders at this stage!
Unfortunately we only got back on just as we started the last 2nd cat, I was feeling the effects of the chase back on at this stage and was second last man starting the climb, it was steep early on and very draggy and exposed at the top. I was starting to crack the further up it we went I was still second last man but the last man saw what was coming and moved around me which gave a bit of relief into the last 200meters I blew and the wheel went, the gap was only small but it would be enough to say goodbye to me, thankfully it didn't grow and over the top i was able to get going again and knew i would get back on as the group had spread across the road on the descent.
Unfortunately as I was just about to swing out onto the road that the Des Hanlon goes up I hit a hole in the road and the chain hopped off the big ring and got jammed between the frame. I couldn't pedal and there was no car for service so i had to hop off the bike to put the chain back on, it had managed to loop around its self twice so took a few seconds to sort but if it took 1 second or 10 it was one too many as I knew that the road was dragging up now with no cavalcade there was no way back.
I just sat up and waited for the second group and rode a very sulky last 15k into Carlow, but that's cycling you have to take the good with the bad but its sickening when a mechanical gets in the way of a result.
On a more positive note I have spent the last few months setting up a cycling clothing business please check it out on www.luccasports.com I am delighted to be exclusively distributing Verge clothing in Ireland. Verge is an American brand that was established in 1996 so if your Club, Company or Sportive is looking for custom clothing please drop me a line.
Saturday May 25 Stage 7
Stage 7 started badly for us with Mike Lucey being a DNS. He was suffering with a cold over the last few day but woke up this morning with a full scale flu. There is a lot of riders sick in the bunch, Mick Fitz and myself both have head colds and a number of other riders are complaining of the same. I also have an Ivan Basso situation going on as does everyone else on the team so all general signs of wear and tear which is to be expected after 6 days racing around the rough roads of Ireland.
So the team that was 5 two days previously was reduced to Mick, Martin and myself. There was a relaxed feel in the bunch this morning as the sun was out it was not too windy and we had a 5k neutralised zone so there was not even a need to warm up...happy days. I had a good chat to Decky Byrne the organiser of the Suir Valley Cycling festival before the start, he has some exciting things planned for this years race including a mountain top finish, hopefully the Irish riders will be recovered enough from the ras to put up a good showing in it over the August bank holiday weekend.
The plan today was the same as all other days; get in the break. A lot easier said than done, straight away from the start the Danish and Sparta Prague teams went straight to the front and started riding. A number of Irish riders including myself tried to slip into moves but nothing was going. After my one effort I had to bid a farewell to the front of the bunch as I was seeing stars, it was not a fast road but we were trucking. I was feeling very empty, after an hour or so we hit the first climbs, fortunately a break had gone and a number of teams were riding tempo at the front of the bunch so the climbs were tackled in an easy enough fashion. To add to my woes yesterday I had lost my bike computer (if anyone wants to sponsor me a cycleops joule 2.0 get in touch:-) ) so I was riding a small bit blind as regards when the next climbs were coming up. In the end it would have made no difference as every time we turned left or right we passed a sign saying "start of KOH" it seemed like the climbs were never ending and the road surface as it has being all week was appalling so we had to concentrate 100% all the time. Passing Arklow we for once were on a good road and away from the climbs. I was riding about halfway down in the bunch but I was feeling really empty I had obviously dug really deep to stay in the front yesterday and was paying the price now. We went over another 3rd cat at a reasonable enough pace I was still sailing a bit too close to the wind my staying half way down the bunch I was feeling so rough I was actually loosing interest in the race, onto the 2nd cat before the Shay Elliott climb and the hammer finally went down and I got hit squarely over the head with it, no offence to Fitzy but you know when you get dropped at the same time as him on a climb your having a bad day!!!
Over the top of the climb and I was in a group of about 20, there was not even an attempt to chase back on as everyone was obviously on there knees after a week of hard racing. On the road to the Shay Elliott climb we rode really easily and about another 20 or so got back up to us so that was the happy group sorted for the day.
We did the Shay Elliott climb at a snails pace as riders concentrated on getting food and drink off the passing team cars, I am sure we put a few clutches under pressure. Con Collis did what seems to be normal for him and rode away from our group on the climb to spend the next 40kilometers battering himself into the wind to finish a few minutes ahead of us, maybe he just does not like riding in a group?
Timmy Barry led down the Elliott descent we had a small scare when we met a car coming against us on one of the corners but other than that it was very civilised. Onto the Wicklow gap and common sense prevailed again as we rode at a very steady tempo no point in putting lads out the back on a Saturday in the Rás. It was great to see big crowds at the top of the line a sure sign that cycling is growing in popularity, An Post must be very happy to see signs like this and its a nice moral boost for the riders.Once over the top we started to roll through at a brisk training speed pace as there was no point spending too much time in the garden county despite the weather being so nice. At the finish we had lost 20minutes, I had lost only 19 minutes all week and then to ship 20 min in one day is disappointing but the way I felt today I was just happy to see the finish line.