The final race of the Winter Warrior Series took place this morning. There was another strong turn out with 37 on the start line. Everyone was looking to put in a good performance, but with the last race being extended to 60km it was always going to be a tough one. The weather was good for racing but a little bit on the nippy side. After a warm-up cycle that took us out to Moneygall and back we were ready for the off at the new start line in Nenagh.
First off were the women and juniors (with a few men mixed in too!). They had a 4 minute head start on the 1st mens group and a 13 minute head start on the scratch group. These handicaps would not be enough to stay away for the whole day but that was the point. The aim was to bring all 3 groups together around Moneygall and to race hard home from there.
There was a change of wind direction for this last race, with a head wind out to Roscrea. The scratch bunch was very large this week with a number of cyclists opting/bullied into moving from the 1st men’s group back to the scratch group. The chase began at a ferocious pace and it wasn’t long before only 5 or 6 were rolling through out of the 16 in the bunch. The pace settled eventually, allowing more people to assist in pulling back the groups ahead. By the time we got to the original start line in Toomevara I am sure most people thought they weren’t going to make it around alive!
The 3 bunches pushed onwards towards Roscrea. There were already 10 or so cyclists out the back of the bunches they started in. Once you get dropped from the bunch and the head wind starts hitting you it becomes a serious hard slog. Coming up to the turn around point in Roscrea it was clear that the 3 bunches would be merging soon enough, although with plenty of lads now sitting on at the back of the scratch group, the chase slowed a little.
On the long straight before Dunkerrin, the two men’s groups came together. Just before Dunkerrin, the first group on the road were caught too. This was 3 mile earlier than hoped for but it would allow for a better and more true race. Just one point of safety to make – when the back bunch catches your bunch, do not try and jump into the line as they pass. Stay in your own line until the group has passed and then jump in at the back – keep your shape and don’t panic.
With 12 miles to go back to Nenagh, the race was now on. After a short stall at the front of the bunch, once all 3 groups came together, it was Derek Bowen and Anthony Gahan (LCC) who made the first break. The bunch behind allowed a gap to build. Once the gap got to 20 seconds cyclists in the bunch tried to break up to the break away. Shane Scully was first to go and he made it up to the 2 lads quickly. They set about working as a team to put some distance into the bunch. Behind, Kenneth Kennedy and Gary Scully both threw in break away efforts but at this stage the bunch were in chase down mode and nobody was being let get away.
After 4 miles and with the break up front down to just Derek and Shane, the bunch caught up. However, the size of the bunch had dwindled considerably with only 12 now remaining. Coming into the hill before Toomevara there was a number of small breaks but it was Shane Scully that managed to break the elastic and get free. It took a while for the chase to get going; in the end it was Brian O’Neill, Eoin Woolley, Derek Bowen and Ian O’Halloran that got their act together the quickest and they set about reeling Shane in.
Bit by bit the lads closed the gap and on the downhill to Knockalton 2.5 miles from town the group reeled in their man. The race was now between just 5 lads with Eoin O’Donoghue stuck in no mans land 15 seconds behind. Coming in to the rise at Lisboney graveyard, Shane put in another break away and split the pack once again. He didn’t have the legs to stay away with Eoin Woolley and Brian O’Neill getting up to him. There was still a gap back to Derek and Ian so Shane pushed on towards the line. In the last 400m Derek and Ian regained contact and now it was down to who had the freshest legs left.
Rounding the final bend Ian O’Halloran was the first to go for it. Brian O’Neill held back his sprint to the very last. As Ian tired, Brian and Derek both went past, with Brian getting up for a fine win. Derek was 2nd and Ian was 3rd.
First female and junior finish
The rest of the field crossed over the line in small bunches with our top girls all finishing together (Rachel Clancy crossing in 1st), alongside our top junior on the day Sean O’Neill. Sorry no prizes this week! The extra distance and the nature of the race meant it was always going to fragment on the way home to Nenagh. Don’t be too disappointed if the race didn’t go as well as you would have liked. It is very, very early days yet. Nobody wants to peak in February.
Next up: Sunday lake spin – we will be heading out at 8:00am tomorrow around the lake. Meet at Tescos.
First race of the season: Next week – Ned Flanagan Memorial, Monasterevin – Sunday, Feb 15th. We hope to have 10 or so at this race. It will act as a good warm-up for the Lacey Cup the following Sunday.
Training next Saturday: will be back to our original routes. For racing cyclists, just because there is a race on Sunday that doesn’t mean you rest up on Saturday. The Sunday race is not important so you need to train through it.