Thursday, November 08, 2012

Views from the road today

The weather in Ireland has been pretty mild over the last few days so my 2013 season training has been kicked off with a few longer ones. 

Unfortunately, I was hit by a SUV (Jeep pulled across our lane - cycle lane - and took me out - he was blinded with the sun) three weeks ago but a checkup chest xray yesterday looks like things are going in the right direction. Not many problems on the bike from it now, but tugging on the bars is still a pain.

Photos are from today - weather was nice but the top of Kippure (750m) was a bit cloudy.

This was todays ride

and yesterdays

Saturday, October 06, 2012

2012 Irish Hill Climb Championship Results

The results for the Irish Hill Climb Championships can be found here. There is a tab for the Challenge and the Championships itself. Congratulations to all riders - the climb is a true test, but especially to the Challenge riders giving this a go - we hope you had a great day. I remember a few folks saying that it was a 'flat' climb, I don't think anyone said that afterwards :)

The view form signon
We would just like to thank everyone who made today such a great success – almost 130 riders (in October!) makes this the best attended Hill Climb Championships I have seen.

Outside of Cycleways CC, many thanks to the extra marshals/timers/starters we got on the day, Tommy for Commissar duties and Joanne in timing. Things ran like clockwork.

We were also lucky to have a fantastic race HQ, the Glendalough Hotel, the venue was perfect and gave us a stunning backdrop. Thanks to the ESB for helping us with access to the top of Turlough hill and Fixx Coffee for organizing hampers for the category winners. I performed a few good weather dances lately, whoever else did so, we thank you too!

Again, thank you to all the folks who came out and raced – in the end of the day, you guys made the day.

2nd Anthony Walsh, 1st Ryan Sherlock, 3rd Greg Swinard
Thanks Glendalough Hotel
Thank you Fixx Coffee

There are photos available herehere and here.

Photos here can be used by anyone for websites etc. Taken by Alan Donnelly.


1st Ryan Sherlock
2nd Anthony Walsh
3rd Greg Swinard

Category Winners

1st Ryan Sherlock
2nd Anthony Walsh
3rd Colm Turner

1st Danny Bruton
2nd Mikey Moriarity
3rd Evan Cunningham

1st Greg Swinard
2nd Frank Billings
3rd Mike Jordan

1st Rachel Glendon
2nd Michelle Geoghegan
3rd Amy Brice

1st Paul Coffey
2nd Damien Twohig
3rd Garrett Murphy

On the way to victory

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Announcing the 2012 Irish HC Champs and Challenge

Our club/team, Cycleways CC, are holding the 2012 Irish Hill Climb Championships in Glendalough, County Wicklow. We have selected a great course (10km @ 5.2%), a course that is approachable by any rider from commuter to pro racer.

We are trying to make this as inclusive as possible, so there are two events:

1) The National Championship Hill Climb Time Trial - riders set off individually at 1 minute intervals, first rider off at 10:45am. To be eligible for the National Champion title, you must be Irish (IRL UCI code) and be an A3 rider or higher. A4s and riders that purchase a day-license can race it, but are not eligible to become National Champion. We will have prizes for the fastest three senior, vet, women and junior riders. 

2) The Challenge - this is for all riders, racers and non-racers, commuters or pros, you don't need a racing license. Basically, it is the same course as the National Championship course, but ran as a mass start at 10:00am. If we get big numbers, we will split it into smaller, more manageable groups. Everyone will get their time and we may have a few prizes too. U16 (not U14 or younger) can ride this challenge too.

With both races, there will be a car driving to the top of the course that you can give extra clothing for the descent back down.

The course is Glendalough to the top of Turlough Hill.

Race HQ/Signon: Glendalough Hotel, Glendalough, Wicklow, a great hotel - there are also many amenities in the area (shops, bars, restaurants and of course the world famous Glendalough Monasteries - well worth the trip)

The event is online registration only (€10), and registration closes on Thursday 4th of October. Online registation is available here.

Here is the poster - please repost - hopefully the event will be a success and we can build on it next year - it would be great to run a series (always has been a dream of mine)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2012 Belgian Kermis Racing Trip 1 - Part 2

After an easy rest day, Michael and I were right back at the racing. For the remainder of the trip, we would be based out of Waterloo.

Lessines – 2nd

Some days you wake up and just know you'll have good legs. This was one of them. We arrived at the venue with lots of time to get a spin around the 10km lap. There were a few drags, a fast descent, and the weather wasn't too hot – I loved it. The race started with the usual frantic pace. Groups would get a couple of seconds, and then be pulled back – over and over. About 30 minutes in, I noticed a group of seven get a few seconds – it looked like a good group. I bridged across to it and tried to get us working well together – it wasn't jelling so I attacked from it solo – I rode hard for 10 minutes getting a good gap. I was caught, but this time by the seven that were prepared to ride together. Another 30 minutes later a chase group made it's way across to us making us 18 up front. On one of the long drags a few of us would attack hard reducing the front group. Coming into the bell lap I attacked with another rider, we built a gap on the chasers and over the long drag another two riders came across to leave us with four out front, with ten riders chasing hard. I had been showing a few too many cards earlier in the race and us four out front were not working well together – attack, counter, attack, the kilometers ticked down. Exciting.

With about a kilometer to go, another six riders made it across to us – it would be a small group sprint. Tommy Baeyens who had been away with me lead out the sprint and held it to the line, I finished up in second.

Perbais - 4th

Today was HOT – on the start line at 35C and pretty humid. I didn't get my usual warmup in (slight bike mechanical I had to fix) so the first part of the race hurt more than usual. About 30 minutes in, with strong winds and a lineout the peloton split to bits – fortunately, I was in the front group of 12 and that was mostly it (some riders would make it across but then get shelled again). With about 40km to go, I attacked with a strong rider (Julies Jade – cool name!), we rode well together but never really got away from the chase. It was back together with 30km to go. Attack, counter, attack, counter – the average speed dropped, but the aggression rose dramatically. With about eight kilometers to go, I made a massive effort to escape but was eventually clawed back – it would be another sprint from a group of 12. The technical final kilometer had us lined out and I sprinted to 4th place.

Lessines – 3rd, 2 primes, 3rd overall in the series (raced 2 of 3 races)

Looking around at the starting peloton I knew today would be fast, all the big teams were present. The course had a couple of drags on it, and again I liked it a lot. The first hour was very quick, nothing was getting away. About midway through the race there was a little lull and I found myself off the front with another 3 riders. We combined well but I knew it was never going to be a race winning move – I hoped another group would bridge – it didn't happen but I got some primes before the peloton brought us back. At this point, the main peloton was significantly smaller than what started – maybe 50 riders. (Only 30 would complete the full distance – it was a tough day). With 2.5 laps to go, 4 riders got off the front and built up a small margin – the remnants of the peloton spluttered and stalled a little – I tried to get some chase groups away but it wasn't working. Just after we entered the final lap, as we hit the first drag on the lap I attacked from the peloton. I rode through 2 of the riders that were in the initial four off the front, but there legs were gone. I spent the last lap in solo chase mode – I got with ten seconds of the front two but never caught them – the peloton finished another 45 seconds back from me. So another podium – 3rd. This result also meant I finished 3rd in an omnium series they were running – happy days.

Must resist - so many nice pastries in Belgium

No need to resist - recovery day coffee shop ride
So that was the end of my first trip – including the Suir Valley, I raced 10 hard races in 13 days – I loved it. When I got home, it was much needed rest I craved!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

2012 Belgian Kermis Racing Trip 1 - Part 1

This was my second trip to Belgium for some Kermis racing – last September I travelled over for six days (five races) and had a ball – this year, being healthy, stronger and a hell of a lot more experienced I was looking forward to seeing how I would fair in what is probably the hardest racing that I can do (without being on a big team).

Logistics were simple – the day after the Suir Valley 3 Day finishes, I fly to Belgium and then start racing. I would race 4 days in a row, take an easy day and then race another 3 days. Within that though, I would allow myself to pull the plug early on a race if it wasn't going to plan or if the course and peloton allowed it, simply sit in and see how things panned out for the crucial final 30 minutes.

Race 1: Halen

A big peloton, fast roads and a not so technical course meant this would be a quick one – almost 46kmph for the 127km. I felt like I had 'travel legs' at the start so sat in for the first hour or so – it still isn't easy sitting in, but a lot easier than going off the front all the time. The second hour the peloton started to split up – a few big efforts were made and I was in the front split of about 50 riders. We were doing 16 laps of the course and with a few to go, it was looking like it would be a sprint from this large group. With 3 laps to go I attacked and got clear with another strong rider from one of the stronger teams. We rode hard but only ever got around 30 seconds on the chasing group. Just before the bell lap we were brought back – I still felt pretty good and got away in another few small groups but with a kilometer to go, we were brought back and swallowed up by the front group and a bunch sprint settled the race. Fun.

Race 2: Merelbeke – 7th, 3 primes

Must remember the primes - other laps were €10
28 laps of a 4 kilometer course – man, I was dizzy! One slow corner per lap so I spent the first half of the race sitting in the middle of the bunch. Eventually, boredom got to me – on the descent off a fly over I attacked – 4 riders came with me but they didn't look like they were committed – I attacked them and went off solo – I rode around for 3 laps (getting primes, €60 for my little escape) but as the peloton got close I sat up and went back into rest mode. With 3 laps to go a group of 15 escaped (groups were going and being brought back throughout the race) – with one lap to go I seen a bunch of riders being brought back – I wasn't sure it was the whole group though. With 2.5km to go I attacked from the peloton and held them off to the line – unfortunately, there were still 6 riders up the road and I finished 7th. I was happy how I rode, every bit of energy that I used resulted in something useful.

Race 3: Overijse - 15th

I raced a race here last September and loved it so I was back. The course was different this time around, we climbed a steep short paved climb, another less steep climb with a cobbled top section and then a fast cobbled descent. Unlike last time, it was not raining, but it was HOT! The two bottles on my bike were never going to be enough. 100+ starters and within 30 minutes the front group was around 60 riders – the pace was ballistic! After the fast start, things settled into a more tactical race – guys were still being dropped all the time (indeed, only 30 finished the complete race distance) but I was feeling pretty good. As the kilometers ticked by, dehydration became a bit of an issue – nothing I could do about it so I didn't dwell on it. The final lap came around and our front group was splitting and reforming and splitting again. I missed what turned out to be the winning break of 14. With about 10km to go, I attempted to bridge from the remnants of the peloton – I got close (within 5 seconds) before their sprint opened up – I held on to 15th.

Race 4: Bottelare - 20th

I had not planned on racing today – an easy day was on the cards for me but Michael Lucey (who was traveling with me) was racing so I decided I would start, but if I felt I had to go too hard I would pull out. The course was flat and not very technical so I thought there was a good chance that things would be together towards the end – if so, I'll come out and play then. Like yesterday, it was very hot again.

I spent the first 107km of the 113km doing as I planned – as little as possible – average wattage was around 230W (In Overjise, the Normalized power for the first 45 minutes was closer to 400W). A group of 16 riders had been off the front for around a third of the race but never more than 30 second ahead (starting peloton was around 150 riders). With a few km to go, another group of 15 left the front of the peloton – I quickly bridged across to those guys. We worked together for a couple of kilometers but the cooperation ended as we closed in to the front group. I attacked from this chase group in pursuit of the front – unfortunately, I had 4 passengers from our group. I guess they felt we wouldn't make it across to the front so they were saving themselves for the sprint. I was having fun and the difference between 16th and 20th isn't much to me so I continued. 3 of the guys passed me by the line so I finished 20th. My easiest Kermis to date (I hadn't planed on racing it – it would not have been so easy for the guys out front!) - 125TSS point for the 2:40 long race for the data geeks.

So that was the first batch of races – I was happy enough but my final batch of three races on this trip were much more successful. More on those soon.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2012 Suir Valley 3 Day

This was my fourth time heading down to the Suir Valley 3 day. Each year, Clonmel CC put on a great show. A strong peloton, a testing course and safe, fast roads – I love this race. This year was no different.

Stage 1 – 125km rolling with one long drag/climb - 1st

The stage started on a long straight road into a block headwind that we used for the National TT Championships earlier in the year – attack after attack went but no one was making any headway. It wasn't until midway through the stage that a strong break got rid of the peloton. I wasn't there but wasn't overly panicked as there was a long climb coming up that would wreck havok on both the break and the peloton. For the weekend I had two teammates, Michael Lucey and Charles Pendergast – we made sure that the peloton didn't stall and the plan was that I would bridge to the break (15 riders initially) over the long climb.

We hit the climb and but it was more a long drag – I ended up towing the peloton along for a few kilometers until the elastic finally broke and I was off solo. 30 minutes of hard climbing and descending later and I got to the break. My final few kilometers as I chased the break down from being just 15 seconds ahead I averaged 46kmph – once I caught on, the speed dropped to 38kmph for the next chunk and the peloton almost came back on us...

Things finally got moving and on the final short KOM there was a sprint for the mountain points – I followed wheels (had no interest in the points) and as we crested the riders sat up – I didn't and suddenly I was away with two passengers, Sean Lacey and the Isle of Man's Darren Bell. I rode hard and as we hit the final drag with 250m to go Darren opened the sprint, Sean then passed him and I had enough left to pass them before the line and claim both the stage and yellow jersey.

Sprint Finish - Photo: Jonathan Ryan

Stage 2 – 93km rolling

Wearing yellow, todays stage was mostly about keeping the other GC favorites in check. Midway through the stage a small break escaped with a few guys lower down on GC. My team and I kept that in check and brought it back close with about 20km remaining. From there on, the peloton that smelled a sprint finish kept things together and a sprint finish we got.

In the final few hundred meters I was sitting in around 10th place as we entered the technical finish. Unfortunately, there was some traffic on a bridge and a guy in front of me misjudged a roundabout crashing – suddenly I found myself move from around 10th to 30th. On the line, there was a split and I lost a few seconds to second placed rider Sean Lacey – he was now in yellow by a second. With a TT later in the day I didn't worry much about it (the stress of worrying about it would cause my TT more damage than a couple of seconds) – but still, not so nice to lose out on something silly.

Stage 3 – 1.2km hill climb TT - 1st

This time trial was a real feature of the race this year again (last year was the first time running on it) – something different from every other Irish race I have done, and if it was 8 times longer, would be a focal point of the Giro d'Italia!

It started off with 250 meters of good quality tarmac and then two steep tight switchbacks followed by 700 meters of what could be described as an 'unfinished' road surface. There were holes, rocks, and cracks everywhere - it was cool!

I went through my usual warmup on the rollers and got to the startline with lots of time – I was ready.

3, 2, 1, go. With such a short time trial, it is mostly just flat out – not much pacing – the only pacing is that I try to hold back for the first 30-45 seconds. As I reached the finish, I felt that I pretty much left everything out on the tarmac, I had no regrets about how I rode it – as it turned out, I really nailed the stage with a time of 3:20, putting 13 seconds into 2nd place and 36 seconds into the yellow jersey. Another stage win, a trophy - the Joe Kelly Memorial Trophy (this stage now has a perpetual trophy) and back in yellow.

Photo - Jonathon Gibson
Another highlight of the evening was to chat to Sean Kelly after the TT. Sean is from the area and is often out to watch this race - amazing to chat and get advice from such a legend of the sport and I was happy to introduce him to Mel too.

Stage 4 – 120km rolling with one short climb

I have seen the yellow jersey change so many times in this race on the final day even with big strong teams that I knew we would have our work cut out for us. I had to choose a tactic, Isle of Man and Speedy Spokes, in addition to having 2nd and 3rd on GC were also by far the strongest teams in the race and were very experienced (both had A and B teams in the race). My main challenge had to lie with them. Me, well, our team had two other riders, Charles and Michael.

Attacks, and more attacks – eventually a big group got away with 4th, 5th and 6th on GC. 2nd and 3rd on GC were with me. The gap to the break quickly ballooned and my team and I were forced to start riding. 30km into the race we lost Michael Lucey and at the base of the main climb 70km in (about a 7 minute affair), I lost Charles who pretty literally rode himself into the ground all weekend – sitting behind him was like motor pacing!

As I crested the climb, only 4 of us remained (1st, 2nd, 3rd on GC with a Speedy Spokes teammate). As we got to the base, we worked together to chase the break but as a couple of groups caught on (well, the peloton was simply sitting in all day), the collaboration ended and it was basically just me chasing the break for the rest of the day – of course I was attacked the whole way in (with the break 3 minutes up the road, I don't really understand that tactic). I pulled back a few minutes but didn't catch them all – I lost out on GC by about a minute in the end finishing in 4th.

Over the weekend, I had a great time, nailed two stages, but didn't hold onto yellow. The way I rode (or had to ride) the stages really set me up for my next goal though – Kermis racing in Belgium... More on that in the next posts.

Many thanks to Charles, Michael, Stewart Carr and my wife Mel over the weekend – we had a great time – a roller coaster of a race and definitely an experience I'll remember.

Also, thanks again to Clonmel CC - you guys really do put on a fantastic show. Thanks!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

2012 Tour of Connacht

Wow – I have had more races than I can remember over the last few weeks and it has been great. After a couple of weeks of a 'break' from racing (well, I did the National XC Champs and a TT the day before, but that was very different mentally from on the road), I got right back at it with the Tour of Connacht.

The Tour of Connacht ran for many years – it was however retired for a while but in 2012, it was back on the cards. Going there, I was using it as training to get the legs going again for the following big block of racing.

Stage 1 – 95km flat

Unfortunately a small peloton started the race (50 riders maybe), but as always, attacks aplenty. Three riders got away and shortly afterwards a small chase of seven formed, I was in the chase. We worked well together but as the kilometers ticked by, we slowly lost the numbers. In the end, I rode the last 30k on the front pulling back the break to under a minute. I came in fourth while Charles Pendergast won the stage.

Stage 2 – 9km TT

Warmup, almost miss my start, pedal pedal pedal, done and I won. Unfortunately Charles, who was in yellow going into the TT and 55 seconds up on me had mechanical issues which meant I was now in yellow. I didn't really want the yellow jersey yet as without teammates and such a small peloton it would be hard to control. The evening stage also had an uphill finish which would have been perfect for me.

Stage 3 – 85km – uphill finish

Lots of attacking, some GC guys got away, rode on the front for 70ish km. Ended 4th on GC and Charles had a great ride to claim back the overall despite the mechanical gremlins in the TT.

Horrible weather (it's Ireland, that happens) but a good weekend of training – this event should grow further next year.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dublin Cyclists Car Boot Sale - July 23rd

Many of us have biking bits and bobs that have been sitting around for way to long - or are looking for a few good deals. An Ultegra rear derailleur you bought just when you switched to a SRAM drivetrain... spare MTB mud tires, stems, posts, the list goes on.

On July 23rd from 7pm to 9pm at Lamb Doyles car park close to the Dublin Mountains we are going to have a car boot sale. Turn up and you never know what space you will create in your garage for your new bike bits - or what deals you'll find. Afterwards, have a beer or two with us in Lamb Doyles - what more can you ask?

View Lamb Doyles in a larger map

Me, I'll have lots of bits for sale - pretty much all high end and mostly new. Stems, bars, tires, forks, saddles and more.

And here are a few of the things I'll have up for sale:
2012 For Sale

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

2012 Mullingar 2 Day

I had a great experience last year at the Mullingar 2 day, this year I was back to defend my title with my now National Road Race Champion wife tagged along for company (and to try and win the women's race – she did!).

The course looked great – two relatively long road stages and one timetrial (short and sweet). My first thank you to the race organization – thank you for giving us stages of a decent length. 142km and 114km for the two road stages – it is annoying seeing races advertised as 140k and then finding them much much shorter on the day. You need long races to progress, to get stronger, to be able to compete against the Pros when the Ras is on... Watch out for the guys who rode this tough race in two weeks – they'll be flying!

Stage 1 – 142km – lumpy

Aggressive peloton from the start – it took a long time for the main break of the day to escape, six guys forged ahead without me (how could they! :P), but I quickly followed in a group of five creating a lead of eleven about 60 kilometers into the race. For those interested – my normalized power for the first 1.5 hours was 345W.

Once the group of eleven came together, for the next 50 kilometers the pace dropped dramatically. Everyone worked (so there was no attacking/shedding of 'deadwood') and we made good progress distancing the peloton – the overall and stage would be between the eleven of us. With 35 kilometers remaining, the fireworks resumed – after a lot of attacks and counter attacks, I found myself off the front with DID Teammates Fiachra O Muire and Timmy O'Regan – two guys on form lately with Fiachra having had a great ride the week before in the National RR Champs – they would be very tough opposition. We combined well until we hit five kilometers to go – the teammates attacked me one after the other hoping for me to crack, but honestly, as the kilometers ticked by I felt better and better – I was enjoying this. Knowing that there was a strong group of eight riders still chasing us I didn't want to stall too much and somehow we did keep moving to the finish. More attacks but with about 300 meters to go, I launched my own sprint and just held off Fiachra with Timmy coming in a few seconds behind. Both Timmy and Fiachra are strong sprinters in that situation and I was very happy to hold the teammates off.

Edging out Fiachra on Stage 1
Stage 2 – 3.3km TT – hill/drag

Despite having a horrific TT Nationals (every year or two I have a very very bad day – TT Nationals was one of those days – my wattage for the TT was MUCH less than normal training on the TT bike... I still finished fifth in Elite Men but it unfortunately is a day I'll try to forget) I really enjoy TTs. Thanks to my coach, I have a warmup that is perfect for me and this one went to plan. I arrived down at the start on my Shiv for the mostly uphill challenge, warmed up and ready to go. I pretty much nailed it – 4:34 later I was finished and won by 22 seconds. Like the day before I had great legs.

Stage 3 – 114km – lumpy

Yellow jersey on my back, peloton wanting to follow it, no teammates and a strong team with two guys close to me on GC against me - I knew this was going to be a tough one! Instantly, the attacks and counters went against me – I had gone into it prepared to throw it away – I couldn't ride 114km chasing everything. A dangerous move with Timmy (who was 33 seconds back from me) got away. Another group got away too and with 45 kilometers traveled the peloton with me in it found itself 3:30 back. Don't panic. There are other individuals in the race, other teams and soon a small group of us started to ride on the front – guys would come and go from it, but things kept going. We kept things steady – and we started to eat into their advantage. I guess the guys knew that if we could get things close I would do the rest and they would still be in the running for a stage. As the kilometers ticked by, minutes were been chopped off the groups lead and with 45 kilometers to go, we caught onto what we thought was the lead group. As we joined up with the 10 riders, I had a look around to find the danger men were not there, another four up the road I was told. With the race mostly together at this point, there was much less help given my way (I remember all the guys who were riding with me – don't worry about that!) so it was a yellow jersey followed by a peloton for much of the rest of the race. A long solo timetrial at the end of a tough race – I actually really enjoyed it. There were a few strong riders up the road, but I could optimize my pacing – and I wasn't going to start playing games... This would be interesting. As we got closer to the finish, the lead groups advantage edged away – with 5 kilometers to go it was 1:08. Timmy had 33 seconds on me but he had been riding a long time and the last few kilometers was on a drag – I dug in and rode as hard as I could to the line pulling back all but seven seconds – I had done enough to retain the yellow jersey (and still get eleventh on the stage!).

It was a hard stage – but I was happy that I had the strength and determination to finish it off. So many times in cycling it is easy to give up, throw the race in – be content with riding along in the peloton. But one of the big lessons I have learned is never give up – I have won races this year were at the midway point I was minutes behind a front group – anything can happen – and if you have a few strong riders coming together and being determined, almost any deficit can be pulled back.

Husband and wife claiming the wins - Photo Joe Duffy
Thanks again to Lakeside Wheelers for putting on an amazing weekend of stage racing – four concurrent races on great courses with challenging distances. If we had more regular stage races like this (long tough stages) before the AnPost Ras, county riders would be so much better prepared to show the UCI Pro riders who is boss. Thanks.

Marshaling, food, prizes, everything – top notch.

Irish Cycling report, Irish Examiner report, Sticky Bottle report.

Friday, June 01, 2012

2012 Specialized S-Works Epic 29er

Bandwagon... People have been raving about 29ers over the last few year - "just like cheating" they say... Well, we held off for a long time until the geometries were perfected, spare parts common and boy am I glad I have gotten the chance to switch.

Mel and I are racing off-road on nearly identical (size, saddle and color of the grips are the only differences) Epics. Basically, it is the European stock Specialized S-Works Epic 29er fitted out with NoTubes 29er Race Gold Wheels, KCNC bar, stem, rotors, grips and seatpost, Schwalbe Tires (Rocket Ron on the front, Racing Ralph on the rear) and Crank Brothers Egg Beater pedals.

My bike, as a fully race ready size large (with proper tires) tips the scales at 9.8kg - incredible for a 29er full suspension!

Coming from what I believed to already be the best bike out there, the 26er Epic - it has had a lot to live up to. Well, only 2 hours of twisty man-made and natural trails under the tires so far but first impressions are that it is even smoother/faster than the original. Tight switchbacks were a thing that I thought it would falter at, but so far, I couldn't tell the difference between a 26er and this 29er both descending and climbing switchbacks. When you have the bike to speed, it really does roll - like my old 6 inch travel Enduro MTB... I found myself chanting "stay off the brakes, stay off the brakes", amazing what it then floats over. I'll be spending a lot more time on it over the next few weeks.

Garmin 800 and SRAM Brakes

Again, many thanks to our sponsors I mentioned and a big thanks to Specialized and Cycleways - we feel so fortunate to be always using the best equipment available on the road, TT and off-road - THANKS!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

2012 AnPost Ras Stage 8

The final video blog from the eight days of racing.

Many thanks to the Iverk Produce/Carrick Wheelers team and management for taking me on over the week. A great bunch of guys on and off the bike and I had a fabulous time - THANKS!

Also, thank you to all involved in putting together and running the race - I would guess that for the complete peloton this will be a highlight of the year. Thanks to all the spectators and supporters on the route for making us feel like stars and finally to all the riders for making the race.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

2012 AnPost Ras Stage 7

A day in the sunshine with some not so nice crashes at the end.

Friday, May 25, 2012

2012 AnPost Ras Stage 6

Hot hot hot!!! Came close to a great result, but fell 150m short. Don't think there were many riders anywhere in the peloton that were feeling good by the end - a hard hard day.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

2012 AnPost Race Stage 5

Mountains, yeah - well, small ones (longest climb was 7:36 - what I would give for some 20 minute+ climbs), but mountains all the same!

Thanks a million to the whole team for keeping me fed and watered during the day.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

2012 AnPost Ras Stage 4

Stage from Westport to Bundoran. Fast, lineouts and cross winds.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

2012 AnPost Ras Stage 3

Speed, nerves and crashes - finished in the front group of 55.

46kmph, mostly on small roads!

Monday, May 21, 2012

2012 AnPost Ras Stage 2 report

Safely in today in the front group. 44.5kmph on rough Irish rolling roads, so pretty quick!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

2012 AnPost Ras Stage 1

Stage 1 of the 2012 AnPost Ras - fast fast fast!

46.1 kmph on Irish rough roads! Finished safely in the peloton.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

2012 Tour of Ulster

This was the third year I have ridden the Tour of Ulster – each year I go into it with no expectations, no goals other then get great pre Ras training in a super well organized and safe race. Usually there are three long tough stages with a short time trial on the second day – this year was similar although the second stage was shorter than usual.

With family in the area, it is also an opportunity to spend time with them – racing all over the world, almost every weekend of the year for the last few years, the amount of family get-togethers I have had to miss is huge – this is always a chance to rectify that a little.

Stage 1 – 142km rolling roads

The race started pretty fast (actually, I attacked at the drop of the flag – sometimes that works) but was still together after the first 20 kilometers. We had been riding fast for a while though and coming up to a town where the race split last year, I knew it was a good time to make things happen. Coming up through the town's main street drag, I rode full out, 40 seconds at about 700W splitting 25 riders off the front of the peloton – as my legs started to clog up, some Node 4 guys (UK UCI team) came through and kept it going. We all rode well together to establish the break and that was it for the day.

The rolling roads and pace made our break's numbers drop from around 25 to eleven with eight kilometers to go. Three teams with three riders and then myself, Greg Swinard and Anthony Walsh. It was going to be tough for us individuals – attack, attack, attack – all of us tried – eventually a rider from each of the teams got clear and the others looked at the 3 individuals to chase. We did, but only got within seven seconds of the leaders, who fought it out for the stage victory. I finished 7th @ 10 seconds. 

Stage 2 – 110km flat

With Eurocycle's Adam Armstrong in yellow, his team rode to control the race. There were obviously attacks but the team rode well and with 15km to go it was still together. Then a dangerous move with three (of the ten) guys high on GC in it got away. Adam rode his legs off chasing and in the last ten kilometers, I was up there too. The gap was kept to a minute – not great, but not an end to the GC.

Stage 3 – 3.3km Time Trial

Unfortunately my new Time Trial bike hadn't arrived in time so it was the road bike with clip-ons for this one (It is a Venge though – so pretty fast anyway). Basically, straight down a main road into a headwind, a fast corner onto a parallel sheltered road back up to the start. It was a cool little course for such a short TT. My warmup was good and my race reasonably well paced – I finished 6th @ 6 seconds. First guy on a road bike – I'm thinking the Shiv (my new TT bike) would have been worth 6-10 seconds – next time.

Stage 4 – 124km rolling circuit

4 celcius, pouring rain, grim – but from when I woke up in the morning I felt great. I mentioned in the Ras Mumhan report that I like racing in terrible conditions – as long as I have the right clothing (I'm not so happy about training in it though).

Enjoying the crap weather - Photo from Cycling Ulster
With the yellow jersey, Matt Higgins of the UK team Node 4 Giordana, having only 3 riders left on his team (Philip Lavery had to pull out midway through the first stage due to sickness) – it was always going to be a struggle for their team. Other GC hopefuls started the attacks from the gun but Node 4 looked to have things under control. 20 kilometers in, on a twisty stretch of road a big group rolled off the front – crap – I was midway in the peloton. Do or die, I had to be there – I made a big effort and bridged solo across. Soon afterwards, Conor Murphy and Greg Swindard attacked out of the break - 2nd and 3rd on GC. I attacked and dangled solo off the back of them. Soon I was joined by Conor Mc Allister and Javan Nulty. We were sitting around 20-40 seconds off the lead duo but continued riding tempo. Eventually, four others joined up with us including Adam Armstrong, the yellow jersey and John O'Shea. Matt Higgins had no teammates with him – didn't look good for him. The group of 8 rode tempo with Matt doing most of the work – I had teammate John O'Shea for company, which was great. With 30 kilometers to go, Conor and Greg, who were off from the guts of 80 kilometers, were brought back – within a few seconds of that, I attacked and instantly got a gap – quickly I was joined by Adam Armstrong. He was sitting 15 seconds further up in GC than me and riding strong all weekend. We rode hard and within seven kilometers had a minute gap on the yellow jersey group. When I was in Adams draft, I say he was either in the 11 or 12 cog - trucking! We continued to ride and the gap quickly grew. Adam rode all of the climbs full gas (only very short climbs 30-45 seconds on the course) to show me that he wasn't going to be dropped.

Winning the stage - 2nd overall
As we raced into the center of Dungannon, I claimed the sprint and second overall with Adam winning GC. We pulled out 5:30 on the yellow jersey group – crazy. Teammate, John O'Shea claimed 4th and 1st A2 rider overall.

5 wins, 2nd, 6th and a 7th in 9 days – form is coming along well.

I would just like to thank the race committee, moto riders, marshals, commissaires, spectators, sponsors etc... Thanks for putting together and being part of such a great event. To the racers for making the race. As always, to my and my team's road related sponsors – Cycleways and Zipvit (and Lightweight too) – best equipment, best nutrition – thanks. Finally, a huge thanks to Stewart Carr for working with the Iverk Produce team over the weekend – you were a godsend – everything ran smoothly when you were involved – thanks!

Report available on Sticky Bottle and Cycling Ulster.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

2012 Connemara Bogweek 2 Day

I was looking through the racing calendar and the Bog Week 2 day popped out at me. There were two (more) local tough races (both under 100km though) available but three stages over two days, including a time trial in an area of Ireland that I did not know had me sold. All my focus is on the AnPost Ras in a few weeks so I wanted hard racing – the closer races would have had a more competitive field but going to a stage race, as a marked man and with no teammates – I knew the racing would be very tough for me in Connemara – it didn't disappoint.

Stage 1 – 80km rolling

The first stage started at 2pm so shortly after 8am I left Dublin for the 3.5 hour drive over to Tullycross, Galway. As I got closer to the venue, driving became more difficult – not due to the quality of the roads or traffic but due to the stunning nature around me - I had to stop to admire. As I mentioned, I had not been here before so everything was new to me. Ireland really does have a LOT to offer.

The unusual thing about the Bog Week 2 day stage race is that is ran as a handicapped race. Basically, the A1, A2 and A3 riders race together but the A3 riders get a large handicap to give them a fighting chance. So at 2pm, the A3 riders set off while the A1/A2 folks waited for 3.5 minutes.
Our course for the day was 2.5 laps of a rolling circuit, with a total distance of 80km. There were no real climbs but lots of wind and some heavy bumpy roads (and even some bulls on the road that we very carefully had to navigate around). Our group combined well for the first lap, but the second lap was attack after attack – at times I wasn't so sure we would actually catch the A3 group at all. With about 9km left to race, I finally escaped the A1/A2 group and rode solo across to a freshly splintered A3 group. When I caught them I rode straight through them and continued to the line to claim my first win of the weekend. I was glad to see a few of the A3 riders stayed ahead of the combined A1/A2 field.

Stage 2 – 5km TT – rolling/bumpy/windy

Again, the location for the TT was stunning, a rolling course, bumpy roads and a huge headwind made it tough going for everyone but I have had a good focus on my TT skills these last few months and I was able to claim the win by 30 seconds. It had been a long long time since I last raced my TT bike – I missed it, I really do like time trials...

Stage 3 – 85km rollling

As I mentioned earlier, the A3 riders get a handicap over the A1/A2 group. What makes it peculiar is I'm now in the leaders yellow jersey, but I started 3.5 minutes behind the person who is sitting 3rd on GC, just 1 minute behind me. He is now the virtual yellow by 2.5 minutes and I have not even pushed my pedals! I have no teammates so I had a few choices... Before I started the stage, I was prepared to throw it away if no one would ride, I would not pull a peloton around for 85 windy kilometers... Over the first 10km our work rate was patchy, so the A3 group actually extended their lead to 4 minutes. So I decided to go into attack mode – basically, the last 70km I was mostly off the front, either by myself or with one or two others. With 25km to go, a move stuck - Padraig Marrey and I made it across to the A3 group. They rode with us for a few kilometers but on the final KOM, they dropped off the pace and we rode a two man TT to the finish. I had a little more left in the legs at the end and claimed my third win of the weekend.
Winning the final stage in the yellow jersey - photo Michelle McCarron
The weekend of racing was fun. The race was through some of Ireland's most beautiful landscapes, the organization was spot on and the people in the area (restaurants/accommodation  etc...) were incredibly friendly. This is a relatively new race and I would really like to see it grow over the next few years.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Where I get to race - Connemara

I'll write a report from my successful weekend of racing at the Connemara Bog Week 2 day soon - but first, I wanted to share some photos. These were the roads we raced on.

I have been lucky enough to have seen many beautiful locations around the world, but I honestly have to say I was blown away by how beautiful Connemara was. Driving was a pain - I had to keep stopping to take photos!

I wish I had my nice camera rather than simply my phones one...

This was part of the TT course 
Tullycross - finish for each of the stages
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Friday, April 20, 2012

2012 Ras Mumhan Part 3

The week after Ras Mumhan I stayed at my parents house which was half way to a race I was racing in Northern Ireland. I usually sleep very well in my family home – no noise, no ambient street lights, anyway...

4am, I wake up in a sweat – I have just had a nightmare, I'm traumatized. Usually, when you have a nightmare and wake up you slowly you realize what is happening, it was all just a dream and you calm down... My nightmare was that I lost the Ras Mumhan yellow jersey on the final day of the race – but there was no waking up from this nightmare...

Stage 4 – 110km 3 large loops, 10 small laps

On the night before the final stage, rain woke me, and as we settled down for breakfast it hadn't eased. I actually like racing in the rain, I like racing in poor conditions in general. After many years spent in muddy forests with horizontal rain in your face, racing on the road like that almost seems nice. If I can avoid training in the rain, I will, but racing – no bother.

With pretty extreme conditions outside I checked with the commissars what the rules were in relation to rain capes/over coats. I was told, as a jersey wearer, that I had to wear the jersey on top – okay, rain cape under jersey – with the look of the weather out there, I wasn't going to overheat!

Until this point in the race, I have not needed to call on the help of my teammates – today would change that. Almost from the start, my team rode on the front keeping the pace high and discouraging attacks against me, the yellow jersey wearer. There were still a couple of dangerous moves but with the pressure the guys laid on, (and one or two things I chased down) all was under control with 70km raced. Indeed, my teammates (mostly Cat 2 level riders) rode so hard they had the peloton lined out and even strong Irish "cycling royalty" falling off the back into the calvacade. If there was ever any doubt in my mind about the “power of the yellow jersey”, these guys dispelled it – each guy rode like three guys!

We reached the small circuit as a peloton. From there on, other than John O'Shea (who rode like a motorbike), my team was gassed from keeping the pressure on the peloton all day. The rest would now be up to the two of us. Obviously, there were attacks from the other GC riders, I saw them, closed them down and was even away in a few moves that I hoped would stick. Eventually, a small move got away, two dutch guys and an Irish guy. No jerseys, none of the guys close to me, or so I thought. The number of every rider up to three minutes down on me was on my bikes toptube.

It would work well for me to have a small move just a little up the road, hoping it would keep the bunch more controlled. I wanted to keep the break close enough so that with a few laps to go, the other sprinter teams could take over, keep the speed high, reel it in and get their stage win. But even if the break stayed away it would have been OK (so I thought), because 2nd on GC was only 2 seconds behind me and with time bonuses given to the first 3 riders over the line, that would be still surmountable if it came down to a bunch sprint.

Photo - Pat Doherty
I kept a good tempo on the front with a few other riders but with a couple of laps remaining, I found out that the white jersey (who conveniently was wearing his normal team kit covering his race numbers) was part of the three person break. F**K. They had 1:08 – Dennis only needed 39 seconds with a win bonus of five seconds. I looked for some allies to help me bring them back, but I guess three hard days racing and cold rain had sapped most riders will to race/win. Even the teams I expected to ride for a sprint gave up. I was left to ride it back myself with a one hundred strong peloton watching. (There were a few riders who came through and helped – I'll remember that!).

Photo - Pat Doherty
Final lap, the gap had come down but it was going to be very tight. I was riding as hard as I could in full TT mode, coming down to the penultimate corner I just drew off the front and a few other riders came through. This corner was tricky, actually a little dangerous with standing water. All weekend, I have been very confident with my bike setup and was coming into the corner at full speed – unfortunately, my full speed was faster than the guys in front, they braked a lot, I tried to, but the carbon brake pads didn't work as quickly as I hoped. It was them or me, I tried to make a maneuver around the outside using a wall as a berm but it didn't work – I hit the wall, heard buzzing, saw stars, but was back on my bike sprinting back up through the peloton before it even passed. My stomach was sick.

I crossed the line – looked down, blood covered the top tube of my bike. I knew it would be tight – did I keep the jersey? I walked over to the start line, the commissaires worked through the results but eventually turned to me – they didn't have to say anything, I was dejected. 2nd.


Ras Mumhan was my first goal of the season – I wanted the GC win – didn't care about stages, didn't care about mountain jerseys, I had one single goal and I almost made it. I had ridden an almost perfect race. There are some many ifs and buts with the finish and it has taken me a week to get over it. If I had known who was in the break earlier (we were given excellent time splits throughout, but not one breakdown of who was there), if the guy hadn't covered his numbers/jersey (is that even allowed?), if if if... It is over, done, and I move on. It was my first goal of the year but I have many – bigger goals – and I have a hell of a lot of motivation for training/racing when I think I'm already at my limit.

Just a few thank yous, thanks to my team for the weekend – Iverk Produce/Carrick Wheelers – you guys rode your legs off for me and you were a great bunch to spend time with – thanks and I'm sorry I didn't finish it off. To the riders for making a great race (especially the riders that committed in breaks etc... with me over the weekend). To the race committee, moto riders, marshals, commissaires, spectators, sponsors etc... like every year, we enjoyed the experience and I hope you guys got to see some thrilling racing. Finally to my/my teams sponsors that helped me over the weekend – Cycleways and Zipvit – best bikes, best nutrition – thanks.

As I said, I was dejected from it all – it is one thing when you don't win due to tactics/strength etc... but I did feel pretty unlucky for various reasons.

Anyway, as I said, I have other goals, onwards and upwards.

Link to Sticky Bottle article here, Irish Cycling here, results here and some great photos here.