None of the lads got much sleep the night before the big day. The hotel rooms were way to warm and it was hard to nod off. Going through race permutations in your head keeps the mind buzzing too so it was very much a restless night. Divine intervention was needed to get some kip. Nothing better than the Bible for falling asleep! (Dont worry I haven’t been converted to the dark side)
Waking up this morning we knew we would have a wet day ahead of us. I am a fair weather cyclist myself so that was bad news. The crash possibility factor had just increased a lot. Before the race got underway each team had to sign on at the podium and be presented to the crowd. Imposters was the only word that sprung to mind standing on the stage. I never feel comfortable being shown off like that without having done anything to deserve it.
The race was starting from Dunboyne and we were warned that it would be a fast start. Dig in and hold on was the aim. Once on the road it wasn’t long before I was mentioned on Twitter as going on the first break of the day. Me? not a chance! I was clinging on down the back for dear life. They had mixed myself and Simon up in the tweet. I would get a nose bleed if ever I moved that far up the bunch.
The 5 Nenagh CC riders were all spread out in the bunch with Alan and Simon up near the top, Gary and Damian in the middle and me down the back. The first 50km was lightning quick with regular line outs putting us all under pressure. We all survived. Holding on at the back at this event is a little easier than in Rás Mumhan as the quality of rider is better and they are far less likely to let a wheel go. This was reassuring but not all stage are going to be flat like this one so once the hills kick in I will likely be going backwards.
After 50km a breakaway of 10 were down the road and things settled down a lot in the bunch. The pace dropped and we had time to relax. There was still 100km to go so it was great to be able to catch my breath and recover. Up to the 100km nothing much happened. With the rain falling heavily at times the cycle got quite miserable and cold. From the 100km mark onwards things livened up considerably. It wasn’t that the speed ramped up much; it was more the crashes that caused the damage.
There were two major crashes in the bunch and I came down in the first one. Luckily I had enough time to brake and fall into the grass verge on the left hand side. I got up quickly but the bunch were now moving on and I was in no mans land. I thought that was it but kept plugging away as hard as I could. When the cars got around the crash I was able to work my way through them and made contact again with the bunch after about 1km of frantic cycling. That was too close for comfort. However, it wasn’t long before the next crash went down.
Luckily the crash happened further up the bunch and I was able to spot a gap to go through without losing much speed. Unfortunately Simon came down in this crash and that made it near on impossible to do well in the stage. Damian Roche also got held up here. As I passed through the crash I ended up beside Gary but we still had a big chase ahead of us as the bunch had split due to the crash. It took a big effort once again to get back to the main bunch but with 30k to go things had all come together again. Simon regained contact soon after but Damian was still just hanging out the back.
The final few kms went by quickly and safely. The bunch was still quite big with 130 riders in it. Coming into the finish myself and Gary were quite content to stay at the back and we duly did. We had just finished out first Rás stage and thankfully had lost no time. Alan Loftus just missed out on winning the category 2 jersey finishing as 2nd A2 rider in the bunch. Simon was very lucky not to lose time as hs punctured in the last 1km but was able to rim it home in the bunch. Damian finished just 1 minute further back.
It’s great to have the 1st stage over and done with. It will get tougher after this so expect big time losses soon. Tomorrow is a flat-ish stage until the last 20km or so where there are two big hills. The race will also go down by the coast so there will no doubt be crosswinds to deal with. I might need to get the Bible out again tonight!
Sorry about the lateness of this post – there isn’t much time in the day to get things done. It could be worse though, I could be doing Kevin Sherlock’s job!
That’s it till tomorrow….
another stupid photo with me in it, feck sake. Need to hire a decent photographer!