Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2012 Des Hanlon Memorial RR

The Des Hanlon Memorial is one of the biggest one day races in Ireland – a few years ago, it was actually my first ever road race (glutton for punishment) – that day I thought all Irish road races were like that (well, my N=1 experience told me that).

At almost 160km it is one of the longest races in the Irish calendar and has a bit of everything – I would describe the course as hilly but nothing too selective – the steepest climb is about 7 minutes at 4.4%. The race wears you down with the constant ups and downs and draggy roads. Its place in Irish cycling means that everyone turns up for it so the winner is always very well deserved - there is no armchair ride to the finish here.

Most years, the winning break goes about 20-30 minutes into the race – 10-15 strong riders leave and that is that – this year was different. After the first lap, the peleton of (around?) 200 had been wittled down to about 60. Still a large number of riders on the testing course. The great weather these last few months has left us with a very strong Irish peleton.

For me, I felt yesterdays race in my legs for the first hour – after that though I came around and felt good for the rest of the race. I stayed attentive and remained at the front for the race, probably riding more than I should have. My brain kept telling my legs to attack, my legs, well, they mostly did what my brain said.

The climbs of the final lap came around and the front group was down to about to about 20 riders. With some strong sprinters still in the mix, my plan was to hit the final climb full gas. It worked mostly to plan but I took Mark Dowling (2011 National Hill Climb Champ) with me – at the top of the climb we had 20 seconds on a chase group of Thomas Martin and in form Peter Hawkins. Unfortunately, by the base of the main descent (it was into a headwind so not very fast), two become four. We rode steady for the next eight kilometers. With one kilometer to go we started playing around a lot only to see chasers riding through public traffic that stretched behind us (getting a lot of shelter no doubt), that scuttled my plans for what I wanted to try coming into the finish – Peter and I seeing the chasers get closer started out our sprints with 250 meters to go. Peter claimed the prestigious win, I finished second with Paudi O'Brien claiming third from the chase group which almost caught us.

Peter was "ecstatic" - me on the huds - Photo Tony Quinn

Weather was fantastic, it was a great race and I think I rode a reasonably smart race - I could have been more conservative at times. I missed out on the win which I am disappointed about but I did have a great weekend of racing.

Many thanks to Carlow CC for running such a great event year in year out – why can't we have hard races like this every Sunday – it would surely get everyone in great race shape for the Ras in a few months! One of the things I have noticed while riding the Ras in 2010 and 2011 is that a huge number of the county riders (amateurs) keep up with the full time Pros (and even kick their butts) until around 100km - then most die off - is it a coincidence that most Irish races are 100km or less?

Looking through some data afterwards – the 7 minute climb I mentioned, when I attacked on the final lap (after 3.5 hours of very hard racing in the legs) I covered the climb 30 seconds faster then I did in the Ras as part of the front group – glad to see things coming along well after the disappointments from last year.

I'll also answer something I'm asked about a lot - what did I eat/drink in the four hour warm race – well, I had no team support so no bottles from cars (although Team DID and Eurocycles did have bottles in the car to give me if I really needed them - thanks guys).

Zipvit Sport ZV7c Caffeine Gels (usually only one during a race)
1 500ml bottle of water I got from a random dude on the climb/feedzone – THANK YOU – I drank it in seconds

Report on Sticky Bottle and Irish Cycling

So the million dollar question - did racing (and winning) the day before hurt my chances at claiming the Des Hanlon Memorial - possibly - I love to race and back to back hard race days prepares me well for my goals later in the year. I would do the weekend the same again.

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