Monday, May 30, 2011

2011 AnPost Ras Stage 4 - Irish Examiner Blog Article

(A report from Stage 4 of the Ras)

Having finished today's 142 kilometers from Castleisland to Castletownbere, we are officially at the midway point of this years Ras and I'm glad to say that I'm feeling better as the kilometers tick by.

Today's stage was mostly flat for the first 70 kilometers but the final 70 went over some of Kerry's finest mountain passes. As we left Castleisland, the sunburn that many riders acquired the previous day was a distant memory as high winds and rain battered the peleton. From time to time during the day we would have a brief respite, but wet roads were a common theme – to some riders detriment later on in the stage.

A small group escaped pretty early in the stage but it wasn't significant for the general classification so it was mostly ignored while group after group tried to make their own escape on the roads to and out of Killarney. I was in a few such groups but everything was pulled back by a very attentive AnPost team (AnPost are the current yellow jersey leaders).

After 70 kilometers we hit the first climb of the day – it is more a long drag, and again, the race was controlled over both Ladies View, Molls Gap and the resultant descent. Even the next climb, The Tourist, was handled at a pretty pedestrian pace.

As we hit the category 2 climb of Knockanoughanish I realized that I had mistaken it for another climb and suddenly the race, and peleton, started to blow apart – my position wasn't the best, but I used my climbing legs to make sure I was in the front split as we crested the climb. A slippery descent made everyone nervous but I think everyone in the front part of the race made it down safely.

The final climb of the day, the Healy Pass, was where the final culling of the front group took place. A reasonable tempo was set at the front – I was comfortable (this is my terrain afterall), but riders where dropping off quickly – it was only when I got to the top of the climb that I realized I was still in the big chainring on my bike – I guess the ascent was fast enough!

The climb caused people bother, but the descent was much worse. Small, windy, well travelled roads were lethal in the wet. I expected it to be dangerous so I made sure I was in the front couple of riders as we crested the climb – only to see rider after rider fall on the descent – it made me nervous too so I was pretty cautious.

After a few kilometers on the flat roads towards Castletownbere the front group formed of 35 riders. There were attempts from riders to get off the front but it all came back together for current yellow jersey holder, , to win another stage. I finished 16th in the sprint and lost out on the county rider prize by a tire width.

I enjoyed today's racing – my legs are starting to feel good, I think I'm at about 90%, but that is a lot better than a few days ago and I'm super motivated to have another strong day tomorrow.

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