Stage 6 Race Report by Sinead Kennedy
It’s over…. A whole year spent training and talking about the RAS and it has come and gone. I volunteered to write the last report as I knew if I made it this far it would be a great achievement for me in my first year of cycling.
The mood was sombre in the team house this morning as we learnt the news that Sinnead was too sore to complete the 6th and final stage with us. She was too badly bruised after getting handlebars into her back as a result of the crash on the crit stage the evening before.
So from a team of 5 we were now 3 and we just wanted to get the stage done and dusted and get home safe. We knew we were going to get lots of rain and that always makes for extra nerves. We were in Dromoland for 10.30 sign on and all the ladies were looking tired and ready to get the race started.
My legs were feeling pretty good this morning and as usual the plan was to start as near to the front as possible so that I could position myself well going into the first climb at 17km. Off we went and within two minutes I found myself out at the back of the bunch in a poor position as per usual (the plan to start at the front and hold this position always works out better in my head and not in reality!!) The team manager (aka the big bro) seemed to give up trying to advise me on this by the last stage as I always ended up at the back even with my best intentions! Today I was very comfortable for the first 17km at the back of the bunch until of course we hit the first climb which was a little over 2km I believe. I struggled but managed to hang on the back for the majority of it until slowly I started to lose touch and the bunch started stringing out bit by bit as we approached the top. I felt confident enough that I had done enough to chase back on once the hill was finished but the road was fairly undulating after the summit and I realized after a few km that the chase back on was pretty futile. At this stage it was decided by another girl I was with we should form a group with the riders nearby us and just work our way home safely and together. We quickly became a group of 20 or so riders – Irish, English, French and US. This was the usual agreement after getting dropped by the main bunch – just regroup with the girls nearby and settle into a steady pace that suited everyone and work our way to the finish line. On a couple of earlier stages I was in groups where working was trying to stay on at the back but today I was in a group where I could work my fair share in getting us home. We knew once we had got over the 10km Cat 1 climb at the 65k point that it was pretty much plain sailing back to Ennis and it was.
Rachel and Monica did great today and stayed with the main bunch until about 62km in. When they were dropped they worked within their group and arrived into Ennis pretty soon after the main bunch. The 3 of us were hugely relieved to have survived the final stage in such wet weather and without any spills.
So now that Ras na mBan has drawn to a close it is time to eat, rest, relax and reflect on the few days that have just passed. It has been awesome and brutal and a whole range of other emotions in between but it is fair to say we cannot all wait to do it again!!!
We did not fair out too badly overall given our newness to racing and mixed in with a quality field of 112 riders where only 96 finished all stages. Overall on the GC Rachel came 51st, Monica came 72nd and I came 82nd. Rachel was also 8th Irish rider. Nenagh CC managed to stay off the bottom of the team GC which I think is a good achievement for our first year at the RAS and also after losing Majella and Sinnead.
We had great moments and hard moments as a team. Our house was full of team bonding and laughs and lots of tea, food and much more. Monica fitted into the team like a glove and is currently checking out Daft.ie for houses in the Nenagh area so she can relocate. J Kenneth, Bertie and Pa (Anthony) all did an amazing job and went well above their job descriptions each and every day without complaining and we are very grateful for all that they did for us – chefs, dishwasher stackers, physio, drivers, counsellors, motivational speakers, comedians, bike cleaners, hospital visitors, pizza getters and much more!!!
Thanks to everyone who came and supported us on each stage and special mention to Donnacha Floyd who was out in the rain today on both climbs cheering us on –thanks Donnacha!
Nothing left for the ladies to do …. Time for the boys now to step up for RAS 2016….