Today was the first day in the hills. The first 60km were up and down, followed by a flatter section. We thought if we could hang on till then things would settle down. However, with a tailwind start the speed was ferocious. Combine that with the narrow, twisty road we were on and it was soon clear that we were all going to have to come up with a new plan. Once again we finished in the grupetto but the keyword in that sentence was finish! We live to fight another day.
Here’s how the day went……
A beautiful morning greeted us in Charleville, where it was warmer outside the house than in. Spirits still remained high even after 2 hard days on the bike. Shane O’Neill’s Training Peaks account was advising him not to race or even train today as he had gone past his stress limits already – TSS score of -34. Sadly that wasn’t an option. Probably going to be a minus 3 figure number after day 8.
Our B&B was located right beside the race start so we had plenty of time to get ready. A warm-up on the turbo and a quick rub each and we were ready to go. The pace of the race yesterday was manageable so that gave us a false sense of security for today. Maybe the rest of the peleton were feeling the pain too? not a chance.
The pace ramped up immediately after the start. It was lined out straight away. Heart rates were through the roof. The tight twisty roads were a little dangerous as the squeeze points were requiring braking, but when you are traveling at over 50km per hour on the flat, slowing yourself down is not easy. The crashes weren’t long coming. Unfortunately for us Mike Browne came down in the first spill. He got a few nasty cuts but luckily for him he was able to continue. He had his work cut out getting back to the main bunch.
Two crashes within 2km was causing splits towards the back. Kenneth was next out the back after getting caught behind a crash. One by one the Nenagh CC were losing touch. Next to go was Michéal, then the two Shanes lost contact around the 20km mark. At this stage there was about 40 cyclists out the back. It was carnage. Anyone who started near the back was gone.
Over the next 30km the small groups that were scattered around the back of the course came together to form the day’s grupetto. Everyone was shell shocked in that group but we couldn’t feel too sorry for ourselves as there was a long way to go and we had to make the time limit. Todays stage was a little short at 145km and with a tail wind it was going to make the finishing time quick. The winner crossed the line in just 3 hours, apparently covering 130k in 47km/hr! That meant we had just over 30 mins to cross the finish line.
Our group rode well within ourselves as everyone just wanted to do as little as possible so as to save energy for the next stage. We still made decent time. The 5 Nenagh CC lads worked well in the group and it was soon obvious that we were going to make the time limit. The pace was kept nice and steady at 39.5km/hr and we finished around 27 minutes behind the main bunch. There were just 80 left in the bunch, which shows just how hot the pace was all day.
Days like today show us how hard the rás can be. It is as tough as people say it is. We are just 3 days into it and already the legs have taken a big hit. Nobody will be looking at GC. We just want to finish it. It’s amazing how quickly things can go wrong. Mike’s crash today could have seen him exit but he got back on his bike, battled through the pain and saved his rás. All that we could say crossing the line today was ‘Thank God that’s another stage over’. 3 down 5 to go.
Fair play to the manic hordes of Kerry supporters cheering on Michéal, Shane and the rest of the Nenagh rdiers today. Ye made it an epic day for us!