Monday, February 20, 2012

2012 Ned Flanagan Memorial

The Ned Flannagan Memorial is a new race on the Irish calendar one week earlier than the usual start of the Irish road racing season. Fortunately, bright blue skies welcomed us as we lined up for the 70km race around one of Ireland's flattest counties.

After a winter of training without racing you wonder how the legs are doing. For me, training has been going really well, I feel happy, healthy and the problems that plagued me last year are gone. This is all good to know when you are out training – but still, we train to race... How will I feel racing?

Several weeks ago I spent a week training with the AnPost Sean Kelly team in Calpe, Spain – they had a great setup and spending many hours on the road training with the team (a very highly regarded UCI Continental team) – I was confident that the season would start well – still, you need to race.

The Ned Flannagan was been run as a handicap race with the lower categories getting a head start – the A1/A2 category would start last and (hopefully) chase down the rabbits before the finish.

The race started without much collective urgency to catch the leading groups – we were a large group (about 50 riders) with about 70 already ahead of us – but the long straight road and slight headwind blunted the groups appetite to ride hard.

I knew after about 18km we would make a turn that would send us up a slight drag and give us a cross wind. I waited until that point to make my move – after several attempts, a break of 8 of us got away from the peleton – we worked well together and quickly caught the lower categories. Once there, we all moved to the front and continued pushing the pace.

Another few kilometers down the road, a small group of us now forged the lead break. Unfortunately, coming into the town of Athy – a wrong turn was made. I reacted first and got back on the correct road quickly but the damage to our break was done. They were swallowed by the now 100 strong peleton – I was still off the front and I saw a rider bridging. With almost 40km to go, I decided to wait for him. As he got on my wheel, I realized who it was, Robin Kelly – one of Ireland's strongest sprinters.

We worked well together in the road and built up a good gap on the peleton. I felt good the whole way in and could see that Robin was tiring. Not wanting a sprint finish, I made several attempts to get away heading into the finish but unfortunately, without a huge distance or any drags/climbs, it was hard for me to drop the strong sprinter.

We sprinted into Monasterevin, he won, I came second with the peleton coming in a minute later. I picked up the prime in Kildangan, but unfortunately no win.

A well run event, in sunny conditions raising money for the charity Rehab – sure what else would I be doing on a Sunday morning in February?