Looks like my Rás might be over before it has even really begun. A disaster of a day for me personally, where my body met wall at speed, means that day 3 will probably be a step too far. The good news is that nothing is broken but the ribs are in a bad way and breathing is hard. Bad bruising to my knees makes pedalling hard. Bruises to my hand and wrist mean I find it hard to change the gears and there is some lovely road rash to deal with. I will line up tomorrow with plenty of pain killers but will probably be dropped in the first few mile and miss the time limit.
Today’s stage started in a very wet Roscommon and the roads were very slippery as we made our way down to Lisdoonvara. The pace was very lively from the gun but unlike yesterday there was no real lull after the 50km mark. To make matters worse the stage was a crash fest with 5 big crashes in those first 100km (I came down in the 6th crash!). It made for a tough day but thankfully I was feeling good and managed to cope with all the line outs. Alan Loftus wasn’t as lucky as he came down in the first crash of the day and spent the day chasing at the back. Damian Roche had slipped out the back around half way around the course as the pace ramped up. Simon and Gary were positioned well in the bunch and had managed to avoid all of the crashes too.
My downfall came just before the feedstop in Kinvara around the 100km mark. This feedstop usually means the bunch slows down and you can catch your breath, but as we entered the town there was a crash at the back of the bunch on a corner and I had nowhere to go bar into a low wall. The bike hit the wall and I went over the handle bars and landed chest first on top of the jagged wall. Needless to say I was quite dazed after this but the natural reaction is to grab your bike and jump back on as quick as possible. I knew things weren’t right as I was winded and found it hard to breathe. The first mile on the bike was a bit dangerous as I was all over the place, but I eventually recovered enough to start cycling in a straight line.
I knew the bunch would be slowing down at the feed stop so I kept going, hoping that our team car might come up and give me some shelter for a while. I chased the bunch hard for 10km with Padraig Marrey (punctured earlier – he managed to get back to the peloton) but a combination of injury, brakes rubbing badly from a buckled wheel (should have checked this before getting back on and then changed the wheel – only noticed at the end of the cycle) and a growing fatigue meant I had to give up the chase with 40km to go in the race. I was now by myself and the bunch were gone.
The one good thing about where I got distanced was the stunning scenery. Even though the pain was bad there was plenty to keep the brain occupied. I spent the next 20km by myself waiting for the back group to catch me. It was great to see them with 20km to go as I wasn’t in a good way then, but they dragged me home. Well, actually they dragged me to the 2.5km mark and then disaster struck again – my back wheel punctured – this is something Gary and I have feared for a while as we have 650c wheels and you won’t get that size wheel in a neutral service car. The only spares we have are in the team car and that was long gone up the road. This meant I had to rim it home at a snail’s pace on my own. When you have lost a load of time due to a crash, losing another few mins to a puncture at the end is no big deal. In the end I lost 16 mins on the main peloton which I was happy enough with. It could have been much worse.
The team story from the finish line was that Simon and Gary performed very well. Simon got in a breakaway that was hampered by two stray horses on the road! Both Gary and Simon finished in the main bunch for the 2nd day in a row and are doing well in the county rider competition. Gary has also moved up to 3rd in the A2 competition and is on the same time as the first place rider. That is very solid cycling from the two boys. Alan and Damian were in the back bunch with me and live to fight another day.
Days like today show you just how tough and dangerous the sport of cycling is. It’s still a fantastic sport though! Tomorrow sees the bunch going from Lisdoonvara to Charleville and we pass through O’Briens Bridge and Birdhill on route. It is the one stage that I don’t want to be out the back as many people we know are coming to watch but sure nothing can be done now. Sleeping won’t be easy tonight.
That’s it till tomorrow………