Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Seasons first races - K-Capital Cup Round 1 and Des Hanlon Memorial Road Race

Last weekend saw me take part in my first race of the new season, the first round of the K-Capital Cup which was being held in the beautiful Kilruddery Estate. It is actually still really early in the season – it was a bit funny to have my first race of the new year, first race as an Elite and for it to be a UCI C2 event! Ahh well, nothing like jumping into the deep end :) I had been expecting the weather to be raining by the time my race started but luckily the rain looked like it was going to hold off. The course was a long 8km loop with two climbs (about 300m climb per lap), one very technical descent and lots and lots of amazing single track. The Elites had 5 laps to complete.

At 2pm our race got under way – a suboptimal warm up (will have to fix that for the next race) and a poor grid position meant that I was last into the single track (I made lots of novice mistakes). I followed along behind a few riders in the single track until we got out to the first clearing leading to the first climb. From there I started to go at the climb to catch up with the rest of the group. I caught and passed another couple of people by the end of the first technical descent but from that point on I was racing by myself (apart from when I was lapping people).

The Elites lineup for the start

Coming out of a little valley

Overall, the race was hard and left me more tired than any race I've done before... I was not over the moon with the way I rode (didn't feel very strong and was not very smooth on the single track) but I was happy with the way I finished in relation to the people around me. I really enjoyed meeting up and chatting to all the racers too – a lot of them I had not seen since the Marathon Championships last year... Photos and reports can be found here, here and here. The next MTB race will be held in Rostrevor on March 24th. But first...

Sunday seen me take part in my first ever road race. I took part in a Time Trial and a Hill Climb when I was in the US but this was going to be my first proper road race... The Des Hanlon Memorial was a 140km, 1800m climb race that was being held around Carlow. I didn't really do anything special preparing for it apart from cleaning up the bike and putting on my lighter race wheels as I was treating it mostly as just a hard training ride. The weather looked pretty nice for the race until about 2 minutes into the 4+ hour event. Riding in the peleton at 40km an hour a very heavy hail storm hit us. I thought it was a bit funny, my first road race and I get crazy conditions. I was very very glad to be wearing my Oakleys, every part of my body was being bombarded with little balls of pain – but at least I could see. The main brake in the field occurred about 40 minutes into the race at the first set of hills. The hail had cleared about 10 minutes and I thought the worst was over when Christmas Card snow reared it's head! Turning into the climb, I raised off the saddle and realised that my whole upper body was frozen – I could barely feel my arms and my legs felt num. The pace was increasing so I pushed hard (50kmph up a hill is cool) and I thought I stayed with the lead group but found out a little while later that there was another group of 20 or so riders a little further up. I didn't see it happen as, at the time, I was more worried about staying on the road and could hardly see 10meters in front of me with the snow! After that, the rest of the race played out as a hard enough paced training ride. The guys I was riding with didn't really want to make a go of trying to catch up and it was simply way to windy for me to try anything solo. Also, there was not much climbing for me to try and make time up myself. So I followed through for the next 3 hours and finished somewhere in 12-18 position. About 100 people started (rough guess) and around 20 something finished – lots dropped out due to the conditions. I look forward to trying a road race that's a bit shorter (maybe 3 hours or so...) and in nicer conditions later in the year.

Me sitting in second in our chase group about 84km in

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