Wednesday, April 18, 2012

2012 Ras Mumhan Part 2

When it takes me a week to write a simple blog post about a race – you know it was tough. In this case, not physically tough, just mentally. Before I get to that, I'll talk about the 3rd stage. Then I'll get around to the final stage...

Stage 3 – Waterville – 142km rolling

I always knew that the Waterville stage would be tough – rolling, heavy, windswept roads – every year the peloton breaks into small groups by the end. The first and second stages were unusual for this race in that they were basically bunch sprints – well, the first day was a standard bunch sprint while the Connor Pass stage had an almost full peloton hit the base of the final climb. With constant cross winds and roads that continually rise and fall, the tired legs from hanging on from two days of tough racing would give up and gaps would appear – going into the race, I looked forward to this stage the most.

With Mark Dowling in control of GC (and him having 2.5 teams present to help defend that!) - it was always going to be tough. I had thought about attacking early to put his team under pressure and as we summited the first climb, the time seemed right – I attacked on the descent and quickly got a good gap. Irish Paralympic rider, Damien Shaw, had already attacked on the climb and we quickly started working towards catching an early strong break (if we caught them, I think we would have had the firepower there to have stayed away all day - the GC would have been very different). We didn't get there, but we were told the peloton was splitting and that we had a chase group just behind us. When the small chase caught us, we were about 12 riders – unfortunately, only a few were committed and after 30km away, the peloton reeled us in – job done for now.

Everyone knew the race would split when we hit Valentia Island – strong crosswinds and a steep narrow climb on a country lane would break things apart.

As we got to the island, teammate John O'Shea protected me from the wind and lined me up for the climb. I hit the climb first and rode hard – I didn't think I was going full out, but looking at Strava, I still covered the 4 minute climb 30 seconds faster than the previous two years (when I was going full out!) - as we crested, the pressure continued as I and a few other riders felt the race was being made. As I looked around once things settled – there was no yellow jersey – happy days, now I'm committed.

The group was still pretty big – about 20 riders, some where dropping wheels so I and a few other committed riders (the foreign guys) forged ahead attacking out of the group. Those strong enough, eventually caught back on and a strong group of 10-12 was formed. Over the final 50km, I did the lion's share of riding, but I was second on GC – it was to be expected and I felt great. With 20km remaining, we mopped up the final break remnants, Adam Armstrong who had been out almost all day in the break was the last. Almost immediately, Conor Murphy, Adam's teammate, attacked – I was riding tempo on the front – I was happy to see him go. He has a really aggressive, never say die, riding style, is a fellow “Monaghan man” (we went to the same school), and more importantly, he was a great carrot for the other riders in the group wanting to win the stage.

Sprinting for 2nd - Photo Pat Doherty
Our group remained riding steady, 4-5 guys riding, but hearing the yellow jersey was 2:30 back with 10km to go – things looked pretty good. Colin Parry, 3rd on GC was with me and hadn't touched the wind in the last 20km. He was only 4 seconds back on me so I waited for his attack. With 6km to go, Dennis Bakker (hadn't rode in the last 50km!) attacked hard with Colin on his wheel, I just about got on taking another two break riders with us, Damien Shaw and Andy Betts. Dennis kept the speed high. As we arrived into Waterville, Conor Murphy just stayed clear for the stage, Colin took me in the sprint and I finished 3rd. With Mark finishing a few minutes later I was now the yellow jersey by two seconds over Colin and Dennis in 3rd.

Happy in yellow - Photo Pat Doherty
So far, everything to plan.

Sticky bottle piece is here and the Irish Cycling piece here. Full results here.

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