Friday, April 29, 2011

2011 Ras Mumhan Part 1

Like last year, Mel and I took part in the Kerry Group Ras Mumhan. A spectacular stage race held in Kerry of the Easter Holiday weekend ran across 4 stages on tough roads. I rode the race for the Carrick Wheelers cycling team.

Stage 1 - 103km

I have been feeling very up and down recently, some days I go out training and the legs feel amazing. I set power records (for me) and cover climbs in the fastest time I ever have. Then the next day I'm empty – nothing to give. I'm looking into possible causes but it all started back in March.

Anyway, most of stage 1 was one of those days. My HR was pegged from the start despite my power meter saying the effort was normal (I look at these things afterwards, not during the race). I knew that it was critical to be part of the main break on the first stage to remain high on GC overall. I missed it, there was nothing I could do, the legs would not respond - I knew what I had to do, but I couldn't. Towards the end of the stage I came around a little and pushed the peletons pace to close down the break – we got it to under 2 minutes but apathy in the group meant it went out to 2:48 by the time I crossed the line in 30th.

Riders coming into the finish

Stage 2 - 126 km

This stage was going to be a tough one. Small rolling roads hugging the coast, long drags and finally, my favorite bit – a mountain top finish.

A large crash at the front of the peleton 15km in split the bunch to pieces. A chunk of chasing and after another 15-20km, the bunch was mostly back together. The dutch team that held the yellow jersey were keeping a close guard on any moves with everything being chased down. I conserved my energy.

The days route
With about 50km to go, a dangerous move got off the front with a few of the favorites (but no yellow jersey). The peleton repeatedly stalled and their lead shot up. With 30km to go, a chase group of a few riders (4 or 5) rolled off the front, they were let go. Another 2 riders made a move, let go again. At this point, I knew it was now or never for the stage. I left the comfort of the peleton on the long descent and rode full gas to catch the other chasers. Fortunately for me, one of the dutch riders was on my tail so we worked together and I knew that the dutch lead peleton would be less likely to chase us. We soon formed a good chase group that worked together reasonably well. First we were 2:30 back from the break, then 2 minutes, the 90 seconds, then 60 seconds with about 5 or 6 km before the start of the cat 1 climb. At this point, most of the group turned into 'sandbaggers'. We were close to catching the break but all of a sudden, everyone lost interest – maybe it was the thought of the 5.5km climb at the end... Some South County Dublin riders and I kept the pace going but it was choppy (a few others would lend a hand from time to time, but the guys way up on GC just sat in!). We hit the base of the climb 2 minutes behind the lead group of 8 riders. From talking to others before hand I knew that the base was the steepest part, so as soon as we hit it, I lifted the pace and my chasing companions were gone. After a while, the break was in sight and with a few km to go I caught them. Unfortunately, one rider had attacked at the start and was 1:20 up the road from me. I accelerated again, taking a few riders with me and with a few hundred meters to go, upped the pace again to claim second 1:05 behind the winner (but the fastest man up the mountain on the day). Damn, I'm a brides maid again...

Final few meters
A stunning finish!
There are another 2 stages to come, which I'll get to another day.
Full results and photos can be found here. There are also more reports and photos on the Irish Cycling Website.