Stage 2 Race report by Sinnead Oakes
So after a disappointing stage for me last night (I’m sure you have all heard about my ‘really bad puncture’) we didn’t really know what to expect today. The winds on the way out to Loop Head were looking strong and the roads very narrow. We knew we had a climb (Cat 3) at 13km and we were all pretty confident we would hang in on this, the big one being the Cat 1, cliffs of Moher at 71Km with another cat 3 at 83km.
For anyone who has done Hell Of the West, the first climb brought us up eventually to the run course. The pace up the climb was ferocious and while we stayed with them til the QOH finish, the road just continued to roll and the pace didn’t ease off at all. This was where all the damage was done and I went well into the red and found myself losing contact with the bunch. I also knew we were coming straight out of Kilkee up the bike route (that pull out of Kilkee which it isn’t even marked in as a climb) and I hadn’t recovered at all so the little demon in my head kept telling me there was no way I was going to regain contact. Rachel was with me here as were one or two others but for a finish we ended up as just 3 with the rest falling away from us. Things were very very tough for the next 25km with exposed roads, massive head/cross wind (think M2M day 3) and just the 3 of us (Oh how I wished now that I had Gary’s butt in front of me!). We could still see the bunch but they were disappearing. Existential crises aplenty!
One of the cars came along side us and told us there were a few other riders up the road… the new aim became to catch onto them as 70km into that wind alone was going to slaughter us.
Eventually we managed to catch onto the group of 4 riders who had obviously hung on a bit longer than we had and hoped to sit in for a bit of recovery, they had different ideas however and we were all quickly called on to work and keep the time gaps to a minimum. Most did their bit when they could and we kept the pace reasonably high. The next challenge was the cliffs and I was feeling pretty daunted as we approached. I was really glad to have Rachel there with me, we knew we would look out for each other. We actually climbed the cliffs surprisingly well with myself and Rachel doing plenty of pulls on the front but in doing so we managed to lose a few and so ended as a group of four.
The next 30km were probably the best I felt all day, the last climb we scooted up too and after that only 25km to go – again though we were right out on the coast and took a massive battering by the wind, we caught 2 riders who had broken away from us just before the cliff, one broke again at 2km to go and so we came in as a bunch of 5, with Rachel and I immediately collapsing on the grass, with Pa quickly pouring protein into us. Only a few short minutes after we were joined by Sinead and Monica who both had a storming day!
Unfortunately we soon got news that Majella had crashed just out the road and is still in Limerick hospital as I write, waiting to find out if she has a fractured collar bone…. At least she is in good spirits and in even better company, being minded by our manager extraordinaire Kenneth!
Well done to all the girls today and massive Kudos to our support crew Kenneth, Bertie and Pa who have us spoilt rotten!!