As expected, the first stage of this year’s rás proved to be a very tough one. Nothing quite prepares you for the speed the bunch hits for the first hour. Those that think the rás is surely not as hard as people make out quickly snap out of that delusion as line out after line out have you clinging on for dear life. The good news is that all 5 of us made it through the day. None finished in the main bunch but at least we live to fight another day.
Here’s how the day went…..
It was an 8:00 start for us this morning. We had a great breakfast and spirits were high. Pulling into Dublin Castle – we felt like the fraud squad on tour. Pro teams were psyching us out. All we could do was laugh. We had plenty of time to get ready and to let the nerves build. None of us had finished the rás before so we were understandably anxious. Sign on for the event was done on a stage in front of a sizable crowd. Our names were called out but as the MC didn’t know who the hell we were, he settled for saying we had very stylish gear.
At 12:00 we lined up at the gates of Dublin Castle and we were soon on our way. There was a 15km neutralised section through Dublin out to Dunboyne. This was the only easy part of the cycle and allowed our collective nerves to settle. After a quick stop in Dunboyne, the starting flag dropped and we were racing.
The weather today was a mix of excellent and awful. The hail showers were very heavy and made conditions very dangerous at times. Once the big clouds had past we had plenty of sunshine too. The first 20k were seriously fast and a lot of people were under pressure. Things got worse with a nasty crash in the middle of the bunch after 22km. All 5 Nenagh CC members got stuck behind the crash with Michéal coming down in the crash but not hurting himself badly.
Kenneth, Mike and Shane got back to the main bunch after a long chase. Around the 30km mark, Shane O’Neill got back to the bunch but Michéal was left in a bunch of 12 battered and bruised cyclists about 1 minute down and would have to work with his small group to beat the time limit. Disaster struck for Shane again as he punctured after a few more miles in the bunch. This time he had too much work to do to get back in the bunch.
The average speed for the first two hours was 47km per hour and that was into a slight head wind. Crazy stuff. After 90km of the 140km cycled, Kenneth was caught out when a group of water bottle hunters at the back of the bunch caused a split to come. Shane was out the back with them too, however Shane was able to get himself back to the bunch while Kenneth couldn’t make it. There were plenty of others out the back at this stage so Kenneth got himself into a nice group and eased back the pace so as to save his legs for another day.
Shane and Mike were still left in the bunch. At the 105km mark, there was a left turn of a roundabout and the bunch now had a tail wind. The speed went very high. Both Shane and Mike were both pedaling out and both lost tough with the group. Shane past Mike on the road as he went in chase of the bunch ahead with 7 others. The chase was in vain though as the bunch were closing in on the finish and the lulls in the bunch weren’t coming.
Mike eventually ended up in Kenneths bunch, while Shane was in a group of four a few minutes ahead. Being out the back gave all our lads a chance to take it easy. Our mission is not to perform well on every stage; it is quite simply to finish and that means we need to conserve energy when possible so we are a little fresher for the next day.
The finish today was in Multyfarnham near Mullingar. Shane finished 14 mins down on the winner. Kenneth and Mike were 17 mins down. Shane was 25 mins down and Michéal did really well to finish only 27 mins down after falling behind after the crash with 120km still to go.
That stage was a real shock to the system. We are glad to have finished but it was a shame none of us finished in the main bunch. Today was a tough stage with a large amount of top class cyclists out the back so we can still be proud of our efforts.
Tomorrow we head for Nenagh on what will be a long day in the saddle. The stage goes from Mullingar to Charleville, a distance of 185km. If the speed is anything like it was today, expect to see multiple separate bunches passing through Nenagh. You might have to wait a little longer for the Nenagh CC lads to pass through! A lot depends on how the legs feel in the morning. If they are bad we might be ok but if they are brutal we could be in trouble. Nobody will have good legs.
Thanks in advance for the support in town and on Shallee tomorrow!