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.

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