There was a lot of pressure on the Nenagh Boys today as the race passed through our hometown. The amount of support in the town and especially on the Col de Shallee was exceptional. After 100km of cycling, it gave everyone of the team a big lift. The main aim today was to make sure we were still in the main bunch passing through town. Nobody wanted to be out the back and thankfully nobody was. Everyone finished the stage today too so mission accomplished.
Here’s how the day went…..
The weather was perfect today. A light tailwind and sunny skies made for good cycling conditions. Even simple things like packing the van were made easier as you weren’t getting soaked doing it. After the seriously fast start yesterday we decided to get the turbos out for a better warm-up. We were expecting another tough start today so we needed to be ready. Thankfully todays stage wasn’t overly brutal. The length of it (185km) seemed to calm the whole thing down.
The road from Mullingar to Birr was good quality. The speeds were high but it was easier today to manage the lineouts. All 5 of us were still in the bunch in Birr. We knew that the road quality would deteriorate greatly from there until Nenagh. There was a big surge once we turned onto the Old Birr road after Riverstown. Everyone was clinging on for a mile or so and then all of a sudden the bunch decided to slow up and take a collective toilet break.
The speed slowed right down and this lasted all the way to the top of the hill at Rathnaleen. I am sure we were all delighted that we were going to be going through the town in the main pack. Then disaster struck as there was a crash on the hill. The two Shane’s and Michéal were caught on the wrong side of the crash, with Michéal coming down for the 2nd day in a row. It took forever to get through the crash and there was a long chase ahead.
Coming into Nenagh the two Shane’s got back onto the back of the bunch. Meanwhile, Mike Browne got himself to the very front of affairs. A lad from the Australian team told Mike to come up and lead the bunch through town, which he was delighted to do! Thanks to the big crowds that cheered us on in Nenagh!
Shortly after Nenagh, the pace slowed a little and this allowed Michéal to catch the bunch. The pace over the Shallee was pretty slow so the bunch was jammed from hedge to hedge. Turning onto the climb it looked like the bunch were going to take it handy. However, it all kicked off after 500m and the peleton got strung out.
Mike was best placed of the team on the climb but was slipping gradually back. Coming up from the back was Shane but he left himself with too much to do. By the time he got to Nenagh CC Corner a gap had formed up ahead. Shane tried to close the gap but was isolated and couldn’t quite make it. At the top the gap started to increase and Shane was forced to slow and wait for the bunch of 80 or so behind.
It felt like the Tour de France on Shallee with all the Nenagh CC team members out in force. Thanks for the great support!
Not getting anyone into the top bunch for 2nd day in a row is a little disappointing but we are not overly concerned by that. It is only day 2 of an 8 day race and our overriding concern is not to overdo it in the early stages. The last thing we want is to wake up the following day with our legs in bits. Things can quickly go bad in a race like this.
There was 60km still to go and the Nenagh CC team were all together. The pace slowed and we were allowed to save our legs for the next day of racing. We lost about 13 minutes on GC but that isn’t important. Shane O’Neill found himself in a small break a few mins ahead of our bunch; it’s good to see him having a luckier day than yesterday.
Tomorrow is a much shorter day. We head from Charleville to Dingle. It is a much hillier day with the category 1 climb of Connor Pass to negotiate right at the end. That should be fun. The rás gets much tougher from here on. Hopefully the energy saved on the first two days will stand to us.