Monday, May 10, 2010

2010 Tour of Ulster

After the Ras Mumhan, I wanted to take part in another 3 or 4 day stage race before I tackled the much bigger, longer and faster 8 day FBD RAS. The Tour of Ulster has long been the final testing ground before the RAS so on the May bank holiday weekend I made my way up to Dungannon (staying with my sister and her family who live locally – thank you!) for the 3 days and 4 stages.

The first stage was billed as the most difficult, lots of going up and down hills but unfortunately nothing long or particularly steep. I and a few other lead riders missed the break and ended up putting a large amount of work in trying to chase. I was in multiple chase groups as the day went on but none stuck until on one of the longer climbs between Paul Griffin and myself blew the peleton apart (there was a big split, about 25 of us now in the chase). Not many riders wanted (or were capable) of working and I even made a go myself on a solo effort. As we hit 40km to go, heavy rain came down and as we were on small twisty roads so the pace dropped significantly. The final 5 km where dry and a mad dash to the finish line ensued. I finished towards the front of the chase.

The second stage was another long enough one – about 150km around Lough Neagh. The roads were mainly flat but there was a nice kicker towards the end. Breaks came and went during the day and I had to make a few big efforts to make sure I stayed towards the front. There were a few riders out front but in the final few km there were a few nice climbs. 4 other riders and myself broke from the group with a few km to go and on the final kicks, I myself kicked to get a gap. Unfortunately, some of the course marking was not so great (I believe Philip Lavery lost his yellow jersey on this stage for a similar reason) and I made a wrong turn which sent me from off the front of our group to off the back. I chased back and caught some of the riders by the line. A really nice finish – just wish I was directed better.

Stage 3 was a very short time trial. I have not taken part in a (flat) time trial before and unlike a bunch of riders I would be rocking no aero gear or TT bikes. I warmed up fine and felt pretty good. During the 2 minutes 50 seconds (yes, I said it was short), I was careful not to go too hard at the start but ended up having way too much left in the tank at the finish. It was undulating and I don't think I kept in a hard enough gear (cadence average was 110). Power was pretty low too – only 470W...

The final stage was a circuit race with a few sharp corners and a few short climbs. 10 laps in all. I tried to get myself into a few moves and a few things looked promising but groups were getting away and being pulled back all day – I had to choose my battles alternating between attacking and then getting some recovery. On the final lap, 5 of us got off the front and were making good progress to get across to a break – we were off the front for a lap and got within 25 seconds of the break, but with the yellow jerseys team driving the peleton, we were caught with a couple of kilometers to go. I was sitting in 11th (would have been 7th only for the wrong turn) but dropped to 15th overall after the final stage. I had a big week of training leading up to the race and didn't ride particularly smartly during the race as I was simply using it for training – I didn't mind doing big efforts etc...

Guess the efforts - power data is heavily smoothed

I enjoyed the racing, and felt stronger as the days and stages progressed. It was also nice being up north for a change. I could really get into this stage racing thing... Now – less than two weeks until I start the RAS – after that, focus goes back to mountain biking – my MTB racing has really suffered lately as I have focused on the road these last 2 months.

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