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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome effort, 2nd overall by a few seconds.