Friday, April 20, 2012

2012 Ras Mumhan Part 3

The week after Ras Mumhan I stayed at my parents house which was half way to a race I was racing in Northern Ireland. I usually sleep very well in my family home – no noise, no ambient street lights, anyway...

4am, I wake up in a sweat – I have just had a nightmare, I'm traumatized. Usually, when you have a nightmare and wake up you slowly you realize what is happening, it was all just a dream and you calm down... My nightmare was that I lost the Ras Mumhan yellow jersey on the final day of the race – but there was no waking up from this nightmare...

Stage 4 – 110km 3 large loops, 10 small laps

On the night before the final stage, rain woke me, and as we settled down for breakfast it hadn't eased. I actually like racing in the rain, I like racing in poor conditions in general. After many years spent in muddy forests with horizontal rain in your face, racing on the road like that almost seems nice. If I can avoid training in the rain, I will, but racing – no bother.

With pretty extreme conditions outside I checked with the commissars what the rules were in relation to rain capes/over coats. I was told, as a jersey wearer, that I had to wear the jersey on top – okay, rain cape under jersey – with the look of the weather out there, I wasn't going to overheat!

Until this point in the race, I have not needed to call on the help of my teammates – today would change that. Almost from the start, my team rode on the front keeping the pace high and discouraging attacks against me, the yellow jersey wearer. There were still a couple of dangerous moves but with the pressure the guys laid on, (and one or two things I chased down) all was under control with 70km raced. Indeed, my teammates (mostly Cat 2 level riders) rode so hard they had the peloton lined out and even strong Irish "cycling royalty" falling off the back into the calvacade. If there was ever any doubt in my mind about the “power of the yellow jersey”, these guys dispelled it – each guy rode like three guys!

We reached the small circuit as a peloton. From there on, other than John O'Shea (who rode like a motorbike), my team was gassed from keeping the pressure on the peloton all day. The rest would now be up to the two of us. Obviously, there were attacks from the other GC riders, I saw them, closed them down and was even away in a few moves that I hoped would stick. Eventually, a small move got away, two dutch guys and an Irish guy. No jerseys, none of the guys close to me, or so I thought. The number of every rider up to three minutes down on me was on my bikes toptube.

It would work well for me to have a small move just a little up the road, hoping it would keep the bunch more controlled. I wanted to keep the break close enough so that with a few laps to go, the other sprinter teams could take over, keep the speed high, reel it in and get their stage win. But even if the break stayed away it would have been OK (so I thought), because 2nd on GC was only 2 seconds behind me and with time bonuses given to the first 3 riders over the line, that would be still surmountable if it came down to a bunch sprint.

Photo - Pat Doherty
I kept a good tempo on the front with a few other riders but with a couple of laps remaining, I found out that the white jersey (who conveniently was wearing his normal team kit covering his race numbers) was part of the three person break. F**K. They had 1:08 – Dennis only needed 39 seconds with a win bonus of five seconds. I looked for some allies to help me bring them back, but I guess three hard days racing and cold rain had sapped most riders will to race/win. Even the teams I expected to ride for a sprint gave up. I was left to ride it back myself with a one hundred strong peloton watching. (There were a few riders who came through and helped – I'll remember that!).

Photo - Pat Doherty
Final lap, the gap had come down but it was going to be very tight. I was riding as hard as I could in full TT mode, coming down to the penultimate corner I just drew off the front and a few other riders came through. This corner was tricky, actually a little dangerous with standing water. All weekend, I have been very confident with my bike setup and was coming into the corner at full speed – unfortunately, my full speed was faster than the guys in front, they braked a lot, I tried to, but the carbon brake pads didn't work as quickly as I hoped. It was them or me, I tried to make a maneuver around the outside using a wall as a berm but it didn't work – I hit the wall, heard buzzing, saw stars, but was back on my bike sprinting back up through the peloton before it even passed. My stomach was sick.

I crossed the line – looked down, blood covered the top tube of my bike. I knew it would be tight – did I keep the jersey? I walked over to the start line, the commissaires worked through the results but eventually turned to me – they didn't have to say anything, I was dejected. 2nd.


Ras Mumhan was my first goal of the season – I wanted the GC win – didn't care about stages, didn't care about mountain jerseys, I had one single goal and I almost made it. I had ridden an almost perfect race. There are some many ifs and buts with the finish and it has taken me a week to get over it. If I had known who was in the break earlier (we were given excellent time splits throughout, but not one breakdown of who was there), if the guy hadn't covered his numbers/jersey (is that even allowed?), if if if... It is over, done, and I move on. It was my first goal of the year but I have many – bigger goals – and I have a hell of a lot of motivation for training/racing when I think I'm already at my limit.

Just a few thank yous, thanks to my team for the weekend – Iverk Produce/Carrick Wheelers – you guys rode your legs off for me and you were a great bunch to spend time with – thanks and I'm sorry I didn't finish it off. To the riders for making a great race (especially the riders that committed in breaks etc... with me over the weekend). To the race committee, moto riders, marshals, commissaires, spectators, sponsors etc... like every year, we enjoyed the experience and I hope you guys got to see some thrilling racing. Finally to my/my teams sponsors that helped me over the weekend – Cycleways and Zipvit – best bikes, best nutrition – thanks.

As I said, I was dejected from it all – it is one thing when you don't win due to tactics/strength etc... but I did feel pretty unlucky for various reasons.

Anyway, as I said, I have other goals, onwards and upwards.

Link to Sticky Bottle article here, Irish Cycling here, results here and some great photos here.

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