Thursday, April 30, 2009

2009 Shay Elliot Memorial Road Race

I had heard about the Shay Elliot Memorial road race for quite some time. Every other year (well, since I started cycling) it clashed with a K-Capital race so this year was the first time I was going to get a run at it. The race is seen as the biggest one day race in Ireland outside the National Champs and includes one of the toughest courses with the ascent of the Shay Elliot climb towards the end – a climb, I know pretty well and was looking forward to hitting at race pace.

The 140km course

A heavy week of training (I still only do the road races as a bit of a fun training exercise) meant that I woke on Sunday morning feeling a bit tired. My plan of attack was to start the race, stay around the front and see how I feel for the first 15-20 minutes. 10 minutes in, I wasn't feeling great so drifted back and just sat in doing as little as possible. Bizzarely (and luckily for me), the race held together for the first 1.5 hours without a strong break getting away – the speed was quick, but by no means fast. I was having a very relaxing ride sitting in and my legs started to come around and feel good. Poor positioning meant that I missed the break but 2 hours in, when the race started to get hilly I somehow found myself bridging up to a chase group. I had started bridging on a climb, forgetting that I planned on taking the rest of the race easy, and eventually caught the second chase group – about 8 of us. We rode pretty well together for the next 15 minutes or so. As we approached the Shay Elliot climb (3.5km at 8%) the pace slowed a little in apprehension of the climb – was sorta cool. Once we hit the climb, it quickly became apparent that I was a mountain biker (emphasis on mountain) and not an Irish road racer (most Irish road races are pretty flat). I zipped up the climb and almost made it to the lead group (or at least, I think it was the lead group) – the climb was fun, no drafting, no wind, just you versus the hill. By the bottom of the fast descent a group of us formed and chased down another small group (about 14 of us then I think) a little ahead. A few went off the front but that was basically us until we got back to the finish. I was not concerned about placing so I went to the front and drove us along for 10 minutes – I think I could do domestique duties pretty well... “Ryan, go to the front and put out for 400W for the next 30 minutes – em, okay...”. We were the group that came in for 9th place (again, I think – these road race placing are hard to figure out!) and when I seen the 1km to go sign I though of going for it and attacking - I felt pretty good, unfortunately, I did not know the finish and I heard it was dangerous (downhill, around some roundabouts and on a corner), so I thought better and just cruised in.

I enjoyed the race a lot – I felt it was a bit easier (this year) than the Des Hanlon, but needless to say, I was tired all evening afterwards. The event was really well run and great value at €10 entry! I have been getting pretty close on a few road races this year - maybe I should take a couple more seriously and see how I do... Need to do more work on riding fast on the flats though.

Results and some photos are available here and here.

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