Nobody felt like getting out of the team van at today’s start down in Waterville. Memories of the brutal previous day were still fresh on our minds. Our motivation wasn’t helped by an even worse forecast for today. With 20 minutes to go the hail stones were pelting down, the winds were gale force and it was miserable. We were all hoping for a late stage call off. Plenty of riders had opted out of the stage already but there were still a lot getting ready and warming up. Peer pressure and the fear of looking soft forced us out of the van.
All 5 of us were geared up for a day in the grupetto. Winter jackets, overshoes, hats, gloves were on display. Nobody was thinking about doing well; it was all about getting around safely and without hypothermia. This actually turned out to be a terrible decision but after yesterday we didn’t care too much.
The first 15km of this stage were into a crosswind with very open roads. The wind decided to up its intensity even more at the start. We all knew what was coming. There would be splits all over the place. Where you started would be where you finished. All 5 of us started at the back and within 3km of the start line the bunch had been split to bits. Wheels were dropped all over the place and the lads all found themselves in the grupetto with about 60 other riders. Gary wasn’t feeling the love today so he dropped out.
Mike, Kenneth, Dan and Shane had an easy day in the back bunch. The average speed was very low but that was to be expected. There is no point wasting energy back there. Save it for the next day. You just accept that you are going to lose a chunk of time to the front group but at least you get to save the legs to fight for a better result the next day.
After over 4 hours in the saddle the boys rolled over the finish line in Waterville. The toughest part of today’s race was the weather but not for the reasons explained earlier. After the brutal start the weather started to clear a little. It was still windy but the cold temps didn’t hold. Now the sun decided to appear and with 1500m of climbing to do, the biggest problem became overheating. Too cold yesterday, too hot today – we are never happy.
There is just 1 more stage left. Energy levels are decreasing quickly but the mood is still good. We should hopefully be congratulating 3 new club members for completing Ireland’s second toughest stage race tomorrow. Fingers crossed things go well.