Monday, June 24, 2013

National Championships Carlingford

My day at the national champs started with my alarm clock going off at stupid o clock, Gerry Hawkins was playing DS for the day and picked me up at twenty past six with the “green machine” Eoin Green already in the car. We played a bit of tetris at first trying to get two bikes, two gear bags, two sets of spare wheels and two riders into a relatively small Renault but we managed it and off we went.

Two and a half hours later coming into Carlingford we were greeted by skys that looked like they wanted to dump at lot of rain on us straight away and a howling wind, brilliant I though conditions that really suit the 58kg riders; especially those who have done next to nothing since the ras. I met pre-race favourite Philip Deignan on my warm up and congratulated him on his recent success. He told me he was reading the blog and was a huge fan and would be delighted if I gave him a mention so I hope he is happy now (all of the above may not technically be true).

Before the start I was advised to be in the front coming through the town for the first few laps as the previous day it was taking 30 seconds between the first riders in the vets race passing through and the last riders and splits were occurring on the drags leaving town. We started off with a parade lap of town and then it was straight down to business as we rocketed out the road with attacks going from the gun. I had very modest goals from the start of just finishing the race as I have had very little time on the bike since the ras due to a combination of being knackered, helping to run our sportive, getting the first orders in for Lucca Sports, my real job and being knackered. So I planned to go against my natural instincts of getting into moves on the first two laps and just sit tight and hope that my legs would come around. The champs is a very hard race to finish many times I have gone mental for the first hour and ended up blowing myself up and standing on the side of the road after two hours.

So out the back road we went on the first lap and before I knew it we were turning left onto the main road, once onto this road we were hit by a massive crosswind and everyone was guttered in the right hand gutter, this is always dangerous as you are racing flat out and when lads get tired they drop their head when there parked and oncoming cars. The organisers did a great job but one thing I would have changed was I would have stopped all cars on the main road or implemented a one way system for safety especially during the first few laps. After the main road we swung left onto the finish straight and came to a crawl as we hit the head wind. This proved to be a welcome relief but it was important to stay switched on to ensure a good position going through Carlingford. The second and third laps followed a similar pattern of flat out racing. The pros were obviously enough getting stuck in but the working lads were not afraid of having a go as well. The Aqua blue's of Robin Kelly, Keith Gator, Sean Lacey and Damien Shaw were particularly active and had obviously gotten a bit of a team talk off Timmy earlier. Conor Murphy and Thomas Martin of Eurobabies were also very active along with the DID boys and Mick Fitzgerald of Fermoy. The locals Dermot Finnegan and Brian Mcristal were also very active every lap it was noticeable that they would attack coming into the finish, cant beat putting on a show for the locals but fair play to them they had the legs for it.

I on the other hand was engaged in a game of keeping a decent position without sticking my nose in the wind, not the way I like to race but when you have a limited box of matches to use they have to be used wisely. I had a really rough lap on the 5th lap and was feeling the pinch a bit, I worked out I was riding too far up in the bunch and was following the surges a bit too much which was taking it out of the legs. So I settled a bit further back in the bunch and made sure I ate and drank. At this stage there was a group of sixteen up the road including most of the pro's but the bunch did not stall as it was still active with lots of riders trying to get up the road, the team prize is very important for Irish clubs and riders were marking each other at this stage. The Sigma Sport pairing of Mullen and Hawkins with Felix English and an An Post or two were the only names to have missed the move but most county riders knew that these riders could be there ticket to the front of the race so it was very hard for them to get out.

The racing continued like this for the next few laps with riders going out the back door of the bunch more so than the front door. After about 120k we were less than 2 minutes off the front of the bunch which shows the benefit of having a relatively handy circuit, there is nothing worse than a mega hard circuit where there are only small groups touring around after an hour of racing, its the riders that make the race and not the course. As the race progressed the crowds on the side of the road were increasing there was a great buzz going through Carlingford each lap. There was a good few Carrick Wheelers up for the weekend to support the club, they had a great start to the weekend with Hugh winning the vets the chances of me and Eoin repeating that were non existent but they provided an invaluable service by cheering us on and more importantly handing up bottles from the side of the road, this was a lot easier than heading back to the car as the bunch was constantly splitting and reforming. Its hard to quit when you have your club mates standing on the side of the road cheering you on so thanks to all. Unfortunately when I threw away one empty bottle it hit Les and Tara's brand new car and made a bit of a dent, luckily Tara did not kill me straight after the race, I saw Fr Ted try to get a dent out a car once so I might have to give that a go!

With about 5 laps to go there was about 50 riders left in the bunch, we were picking up a few riders that were coming back from the front of the race some in better condition than others. We passed Arron Buggle standing on the side of the road staring at his bike in disgust with a broken seatpost, we passed Peter Hawkins on the tarmac but he looked ok, we passed Anthony Walsh who looked in worse condition. Simon Ryan provided a bit of excitement in the bunch by decking himself, every second lap riders seemed to be going off on the left hand corner onto the finishing straight, the most entertaining was provided by Tim O Regan who attacked about a kilometer before the corner but when we came around he was running across the grass with his bike luckily he rides cross in the winter so he was good at remounting. I might mention at this stage that it was flogging rain so falling off was nearly excused. It was raining so hard I had to take my glasses off as they were steaming up, they were in my rear pocket but seeing everyone come off I did not want to do the same and land on them, I saw MOL junior and senior out for a spin with Sean Hassey so I tested Michaels reflexes by throwing my glasses at him fortunately he caught them.

With 3 laps to go the bunch split in two I was fortunately on the right side of it in a group of about 20, at this stage we also lapped a group of riders fair play to them for riding on when most went for an early shower. I was hoping that we would be nice and sensible and ride up and over into the finish but this didn't happen as the team prize was still being fought for, Sean Lacey was jumping out of his skin as he had Damien and Keith up the road and wanted to ensure the team prize by being third man home. DID were also being very active word was coming back that Keith had cracked and was on the way back so that gave them hope Phoenix also had a number of riders that were going very well. With a lap and a half to go the riders that wanted to get out got out and those left behind settled down and rode steadily into the finish we lost 4 minutes in the last 2 laps but we were happy in the knowledge that we would finish. We rode nice and steadily until 500meters to go when of course there was a gallop for 31st, Eoin and myself crossed the line in this group, this was a good ride out of Eoin considering he was an A4 little over a year ago which shows how far you can progress in this sport with hard work and dedication. There was a huge crowd at the finish which reminded me of races in Belgium or France which was great to see cycling is certainly on the up, long may it continue. Congrats to Cuchulainn on a great event and to the medal winners. Thanks to Gerry for driving the team car and all at Carrick Wheelers for their support.....anyone know a panel beater?????

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bobby Power Sportive

Bright summers sun greeted us for the 3rd annual Bobby Power Sportive, this was a welcome change from last year where ducks would have stayed indoors the weather was so bad. I was down in Carrick at 7:30 for the sign on; the first person to sign on had travelled from the UK especially to ride the event and was going to spend the rest of the week travelling around Ireland. Great to have an international element to the sportive! We had 79 riders pre entered so we hoped that we would have the 21+ required to break the 100 barrier as we had said if we couldn’t draw 100 riders there would be no point in the running the event in future. It was great doing sign on as it gave a chance to meet a lot of new faces. There were also a few mechanicals to look after for a few riders and Gerry Hawkins had to pop home for a helmet for one of the riders who forgot his own. Fortunately we had 50 riders sign in on the day and we had a few no shows from the pre entered list so it was 123 riders that rolled out of Carrick with the flag being dropped by Mags Power wife of the late Bobby.
After tidying up at sign on Mr President Wyley and myself headed off to our first marshaling point of the day, I had planned ahead and brought a couple of camping chairs as cyclists are no good at standing! Rory already had a busy morning at sign on dealing with one day licences, looks like cycling Ireland will be gaining a lot of new members after Rory’s sales pitch but it makes sense to get a touring licence for €25 instead of forking out €10 for a 1 day licence if you are riding a few sportives during the year.

While waiting for the first riders we caught up on all the goss from the Ras. The first riders were soon upon us it was obvious that the standard of rider this year was better than previous years as the riders were more bunched together after the first two climbs than they were previous years and there was no one miles behind. There was a few men of the ras from previous years riding such as Robin Kelly and Keith Gator from Aqua Blue Enda Donnely from Dungarvan and Martin Cullinane from Comeragh. Some of the lads said they were using today event as the first step in there preparation for the national championships as it’s not every day you can get 100 miles in the legs especially a 100 miles with a “few” bumps.
After our first stop Rory and I headed to our next spot in the village of Grangemockler home “town” of our Ras massuse Theo English. This was a busy enough junction as it was onto the main Clonmel Kilkenny road and mass was finishing at the same time but not too bad in general. After this my next appointment was at the tea stop in Rathgormac, unfortunately on the way I came upon the ambulance treating a rider. The rider was Seamus Furlong from South East Road Club, Seamus had come down on the main road hitting a pothole and suffering a puncture for the front wheel which meant he lost control and came down. Fortunately the ambulance was on the scene quickly and took Seamus to hospital where he had to receive a number of stitches to a cut on his leg. His teammates from SERC had waiting for Seamus and we loaded his bike into the support van we had following the spin so the lads could resume there day out.

Onto the tea stop in Rathgormac where Tara and Les had laid on a great spread as always, I should really say Tara as Les spent most of his time talking to cyclists and getting dirty looks off Tara! A few riders had mechanicals at this stage that needed looking at so the track pump was out again and a rear wheel that I had brought was offered up to replace one that had seen better days. I also got a chance to admire a couple of wooden frames at the stop, real works of art and I would imagine very comfortable over rough roads. After I loaded up on sambos it was off to my last station of the day in Comeragh after the descent of the Mahon Falls, from previous experiences I knew I would be here for a good while so I brought the Sunday Times along for company. In total it took 1hr 45 min from the first rider to pass till the last riders, the first riders were putting the marshals under pressure as they were flying along, we also had to knock a few miles off the route due to bad road surface's so the lead riders were a good few minutes up on previous years schedules but we managed to get to all the junctions in time, just by the skin of out teeth in a few cases as Cian Power the chief organiser had to jump out of the lead car a few times to cover junctions but he made sure everyone got safely through.

The last group of riders to pass me was a group from wexford wheelers which struck me as odd as they were a strong group but I found out later that they had being beset with punctures. Once the ambulance passed that was my day of duty done, I popped down to Mahon Bridge for a chat with a few of the other marshals before heading back to Carrick to sample more of Tara and Les's sambos. I think I consumed more than some riders riding the event but marshaling is hard work!!! Back at HQ we sorted out some riders who had punctured during the day by returning there wheels to them. I spent some time chatting to riders about the event and I know I am biased but the response was very positive as it has being from the previous two years, everyone that rides the event seems to love it we just need more to come back next year!

Many thanks to everyone for riding the event and many thanks to all in the club that helped on the day, I don't think there was a junction that we didn't have a marshal on which is quiet a feet for an 100mile route, please spread the word and come back next year.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ras Stg 8

The final stage had a more relaxed feel to it than the previous stages as if you had got through Saturday’s stage in the Wicklow mountains the odds were fairly good of making the finish in Skerries. The stage started at 12 which was an hour later than normal, grand for the Jackinees but not so good for those with long journeys home. We were blessed for the 8th day with beautiful weather, the Ras is obviously the ideal event to ride in May the Tour of California is too warm the Giro is too wet and the Tour of Belgium …..well it’s in Belgium.
We were warned before the start that some village idiot had thrown lots of stones on the corners around the Naul; as if we didn’t have enough to worry about. From the start in Nass we were on a dual carriageway for a few miles when a number attempts were made to get the day pass from the bunch, Mick Fitz was in the first one but no joy Sean Lacey followed suit and looked like they would stick but no joy, Colin Robinson and myself tried but barely got off the front of the bunch. Eventually two guys got away and a pee pee stop was called (the first of the week) hence an out breaking of joy in the bunch a nice day a stall and a tailwind suddenly the world was a nice place again. Of course this didn’t last long and we were backing doing 55kph before long. I was floating around the back of the bunch the riders left in the race obviously had a decent set of legs on them so there was little chance of someone letting a wheel go and the bunch splitting. There is always a chance of getting caught up behind a crash but I was willing to take the chance.
Olan Barrett was unfortunately taken down and did a bit of damage to himself cutting a nice lump out of his knee and elbow but as he said himself it looked worse than it was. The roads were constantly changing direction so we couldn’t relax much but fortunately as we were near the capital the road surfaces were getting a bit better. I was chatting to Sam at this stage I told him that he was going to win (call me a genius) he said he hoped so and that he was feeling better as he had being sick the previous few days. At this stage Simon Ryan was doing the county riders proud by being in the break of the day.
A short while later Sam punctured and I saw Ronan McLoughlian going back for him I knew that this would be a taxi back to the front of the bunch when they came past a few minutes later. People underestimate how good a rider Ronan is he really does a heap of work for his teammates and has become a really good pro over the years. After availing of the An Post taxi back towards the front of the bunch I started to switch on a bit more, the legs were feeling good and I was hopeful of sticking into the front group over the finish circuit. The speed was starting to ramp up as we hit Skerries, through the finish line for the first time we were greeted by a large crowd as always in Skerries. I had lost a good few positions on the descent into town as lads were flying down the descent and I was eager to finish the race with all my skin intact. Along the coast heading for the climb the bunch was in one long line, I was getting worried as I was behind a few lads who were visibly suffering in the lineout and were sure to pop once we hit the climb. I made a big effort as we approached the bridge at the bottom to move up. Once onto the climb the familiar feeling of lactic acid spread up to my ears but I knew it was a two minute effort and I would be safe for another lap. Riders were going pop left right and centre, we debated before the start would Fitzy get over the climb if he did the finish would really suit him as it suits those who have no regard for their own personal safety!! Three quarters of the way up we got our answer when he blew, over the top we were in one long line but having made the split. The front group was down to about 60 riders, the hammer stayed down but a good group of lads managed to get back onto the descent into town including Fitzy; perhaps it was still on for a county rider to contest the gallop? Over the line for the last time with the bell ringing we knew that there was only one big effort left and the ras was over. Along the coast and it was lined out again but I was better positioned this time hitting the climb, unfortunately the first thing I hit on the climb was hitting John McCarthy a shoulder as there was a crash going under the bridge. About 5 or 6 lads came down, I didn’t come down but came to a standstill, this crash of course split the group, and the effort to get going again killed the legs. Up the steepest part of the climb I was going around riders and telling myself to stay in the big ring or it was game over. Once the climb flattened out I was in a group of about 12 dangling off the back of another 30 riders or so, we had to do a few huge turns across the top to get back up to this group. The hammer was also going down in this group as it had split ahead and we were chasing the first 20 or so riders. Down the descent into Skerries it looked like we were going to catch the front group, I at this stage was just happy to be where I was, through the last few corners and the last few efforts were made and before I knew it we had crossed the line and Ras 2013 was over.
I was delighted to hear Sam had won the stage (but it was no surprise as I told him two hours previously it would happen!!!) Martin for once rode a stage with no mechanicals (he has had more mechanicals than hot dinners this week) and finished in the same group as me, Mick after his failed breakaway attempt early in the stage rode at the back of the bunch for the day and came in in a group a couple of minutes down.
Its strange finishing as it’s a mixture of relief and a bit of disappointment that it’s all over. I got a nice surprise as Mrs Dempsey showed up unexpectedly. I was also delighted to meet Brian McMahon and Deirdre McMahon father and sister to the late great Kieran McMahon who the point’s jersey in the Ras is named after. As I said previously I rode my first ras with Kieran and I always looked up to him over the years it’s hard to believe its nine years since his passing. Aqua Blue took the team prize, great to see the lads wearing Verge socks on the podium it’s great to have the brand launched with only a couple of days and already be on the Ras podium! Rodger Aiken was surely the man of the week from an Irish perspective we must all be glad he does not ride more Sunday races!
I would like to say thanks to An Post for sponsoring the event and for all the volunteers for running the race it’s a huge undertaking and we the cyclist feel truly grateful that we are allowed to compete in this great event that would not be possible without the volunteers running it. Thanks to everyone for coming out to watch as well, it was great to see large crowds on some of the climbs this week.
We finished with only 3 men but we had a great week with Conor’s stage win being the obvious highlight. Many thanks to the club for backing us again this year it’s a huge under taking for a club to have a team in the ras year after year. It would not be possible with the support of our chief sponsor Iverk Produce but more importantly it would not be possible without the people behind the team and the club, namely this week Paul Lonergan our manager, Theo English our massure and Tommy McGowan our mechanic. I would like to thank everyone for reading the blog, it was an effort some nights but to see up to 500 hits a night was very encouraging. Finally I would like to thank my better half Brid for all her support over the years we have our first baby on the way in August so this will probably be my last ras for a while but I may be back in the future for number 10. Vive le Ras

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ras Stg 7

Stage 7 started badly for us with Mike Lucey being a DNS. He was suffering with a cold over the last few day but woke up this morning with a full scale flu. There is a lot of riders sick in the bunch, Mick Fitz and myself both have head colds and a number of other riders are complaining of the same. I also have an Ivan Basso situation going on as does everyone else on the team so all general signs of wear and tear which is to be expected after 6 days racing around the rough roads of Ireland.
So the team that was 5 two days previously was reduced to Mick, Martin and myself. There was a relaxed feel in the bunch this morning as the sun was out it was not too windy and we had a 5k neutralised zone so there was not even a need to warm up...happy days. I had a good chat to Decky Byrne the organiser of the Suir Valley Cycling festival before the start, he has some exciting things planned for this years race including a mountain top finish, hopefully the Irish riders will be recovered enough from the ras to put up a good showing in it over the August bank holiday weekend.
The plan today was the same as all other days; get in the break. A lot easier said than done, straight away from the start the Danish and Sparta Prague teams went straight to the front and started riding. A number of Irish riders including myself tried to slip into moves but nothing was going. After my one effort I had to bid a farewell to the front of the bunch as I was seeing stars, it was not a fast road but we were trucking. I was feeling very empty, after an hour or so we hit the first climbs, fortunately a break had gone and a number of teams were riding tempo at the front of the bunch so the climbs were tackled in an easy enough fashion. To add to my woes yesterday I had lost my bike computer (if anyone wants to sponsor me a cycleops joule 2.0 get in touch:-) ) so I was riding a small bit blind as regards when the next climbs were coming up. In the end it would have made no difference as every time we turned left or right we passed a sign saying "start of KOH" it seemed like the climbs were never ending and the road surface as it has being all week was appalling so we had to concentrate 100% all the time. Passing Arklow we for once were on a good road and away from the climbs. I was riding about halfway down in the bunch but I was feeling really empty I had obviously dug really deep to stay in the front yesterday and was paying the price now. We went over another 3rd cat at a reasonable enough pace I was still sailing a bit too close to the wind my staying half way down the bunch I was feeling so rough I was actually loosing interest in the race, onto the 2nd cat before the Shay Elliott climb and the hammer finally went down and I got hit squarely over the head with it, no offence to Fitzy but you know when you get dropped at the same time as him on a climb your having a bad day!!!
Over the top of the climb and I was in a group of about 20, there was not even an attempt to chase back on as everyone was obviously on there knees after a week of hard racing. On the road to the Shay Elliott climb we rode really easily and about another 20 or so got back up to us so that was the happy group sorted for the day.
We did the Shay Elliott climb at a snails pace as riders concentrated on getting food and drink off the passing team cars, I am sure we put a few clutches under pressure. Con Collis did what seems to be normal for him and rode away from our group on the climb to spend the next 40kilometers battering himself into the wind to finish a few minutes ahead of us, maybe he just does not like riding in a group?
Timmy Barry led down the Elliott descent we had a small scare when we met a car coming against us on one of the corners but other than that it was very civilised. Onto the Wicklow gap and common sense prevailed again as we rode at a very steady tempo no point in putting lads out the back on a Saturday in the ras. It was great to see big crowds at the top of the line a sure sign that cycling is growing in popularity, An Post must be very happy to see signs like this and its a nice moral boost for the riders.Once over the top we started to roll through at a brisk training speed pace as there was no point spending too much time in the garden county despite the weather being so nice. At the finish we had lost 20minutes, I had lost only 19 minutes all week and then to ship 20 min in one day is disappointing but the way I felt today I was just happy to see the finish line.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Ras stg 6

Stage 6 on paper looked like something that could have being a very easy first 100k on main roads or a really stress full one where we were subjected to crosswinds. In the end it turned out to be something in between. It was chilly enough this morning but dry more worryingly it was windy enough, it looked like we would be subjected to a cross/head wind for most of the day that would have us pinned in the right hand gutter. This is not an ideal day out as riding in the right hand gutter means dodging parked cars and as its day 6 lots of guys are tired and drop the head when the hammer goes down so its important to be near the front at all times.
The stage did not start with an attack straight away but was marked by the Danish and Sparta teams going straight to the front to ride tempo. A number of riders tried to clip away but nothing was sticking I tried to go away with a Derry rider but we were not given the day pass. Passing Kilcoran Lodge John Lynch from UCD was joined by one of the American riders a south Dublin rider and Stephen Halpin and Olan Barrett, that was the break of the day. They were not left go straight away the teams on the front only gradually left the gap go out and they were careful not to let anyone else get across.
It was relatively handy in the bunch  passing through Cahir and New Inn as a nature break was called. The gap to the break did not grow too much during the nature break so it showed the lads up front were in for a hard day. I was disappointed to have not made the break originally but seeing the gap grow that slowly made me happy to be in the bunch!
Just after Cashel I was behind a few of the An Post riders one rider wanted to go to the front to try and split the bunch but another rider was saying "do you really want to ride the county riders down", I didn't wait to find out the result of the conversation and quickly plonked myself in the top twenty thankfully an post decided not to go on the attack at that stage but it was a waring that something could happen at any stage. Shortly afterwards there was a crash near the front which served as another warning that it could split at any moment, Mick Fitz had picked this moment to have his third puncture in the three days, shortly afterwards himself and Mike would be caught out in a split down the back. Up front there was still a lot of tension in the bunch I was feeling very good and was enjoying the constant jostling for position to stay in the top 30 and more importantly stay on the right hand side of the bunch and out of the wind.
There was very few county riders lurking around the front, lots of the pros were not taking kindly to me trying to crash there party and I had to endure a few guys trying to literally push me out of the line, I was not getting too stressed about it as the legs were good and we were not riding full gas. Timmy Barry saw this happening once and offered the following words of wisdom "hit him a box Johnny" I will bear that in mind the next time!!!
At one stage the Belgiums charged to the front of the bunch en mass to try and split it but did not have the legs to do it, An Post also tried the same coming into Urlingford but with the same result. If the wind had being only a little bit stronger it would have split but it was just on the manageable side.
We turned off the main road in Urlingford an headed for Freshford and Ballyraggart. We were really moving on these roads as we had a tailwind I continued to annoy the "pros" by lurking around the front I can understand why some would be stressed by dealing with a county rider that they don't know but some of these lads really believe they belong in the tour the way they carry on.
Turning right in Ballyraggart we hit the first climb of the day that was tackled easily enough, down to Castlecomer through great crowds we started the next cat 3 which was very handy and was more about getting into a good position for the 1st cat climb. I had done these climbs only last week in training and knew that this was not a real first cat, it was 1.7k in the book but i knew it flattened after 1k so i said to myself i have to stay in the big ring and just horse the gear as much as possible over the climb, it would not be pretty but i knew if i got over this climb in the front I would finish in Carlow in the front group this was the stage I had targeted as regards getting the county prize, i have never being on the podium in the ras so i was running out of chances.
Onto the climb and a few attacks were launched I was just focused on the wheel in front and managed to stay glued into the front group, objective no1 achieved. The next 2nd cat was also very short and was another one I knew would require a big effort in the big ring and i was over it. We flew down the descent to it over a small bridge and next thing a crash, it happened about 10 riders in front of me, I didn't come off but came to a complete standstill and my legs exploded trying to get the 53X17 going again. Fortunately I managed to get going again with Ryan Sherlock, Damien Shaw, Chris O'Reilly, Thomas Martin and eventual stage winner Rico Rodgers and one of his team mates we worked together and managed to get back on. Rodgers was one of the riders getting up my nose earlier on (and vice versa i am sure) but he was glad of the county riders at this stage!
Unfortunately we only got back on just as we started the last 2nd cat, I was feeling the effects of the chase back on at this stage and was second last man starting the climb, it was steep early on and very draggy and exposed at the top. I was starting to crack the further up it we went I was still second last man but the last man saw what was coming and moved around me which gave a bit of relief into the last 200meters I blew and the wheel went, the gap was only small but it would be enough to say goodbye to me, thankfully it didn't grow and over the top i was able to get going again and knew i would get back on as the group had spread across the road on the descent.
Unfortunately as I was just about to swing out onto the road that the Des Hanlon goes up I hit a hole in the road and the chain hopped off the big ring and got jammed between the frame. I couldn't pedal and there was no car for service so i had to hop off the bike to put the chain back on, it had managed to loop around its self twice so took a few seconds to sort but if it took 1 second or 10 it was one too many as I knew that the road was dragging up now with no cavalcade there was no way back.
I just sat up and waited for the second group and rode a very sulky last 15k into Carlow, but that's cycling you have to take the good with the bad but its sickening when a mechanical gets in the way of a result.
On a more positive note I have spent the last few months setting up a cycling clothing business please check it out on I am delighted to be exclusively distributing Verge clothing in Ireland. Verge is an American brand that was established in 1996 so if your Club, Company or Sportive is looking for custom clothing please drop me a line.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ras Stg 5

Today was a relatively flat stage on the ras but was to be treated with fear as a similar stage two years ago split the race to bits, so I went against my normal pre race routine and warmed up. The bunch was a lot smaller this morning and lads were worried about going south on the first KOH and missing the time limit. I tried to sneak into the first move of the day but simply did not have the legs to make it across. I woke up with a head cold yesterday that had not affected me on the bike but it was a bit worse today and I was feeling not quite 100%
Fortunatley for the mear mortals in the bunch the first climb was tackled easily with the Sparta team riding on the front. The second climb was a different affair as it got lined out half way up it, about a kilometer from the top it was splitting in front of me but there was nothing I could do about it. I had being chatting to Sam Bennett earlier and he said he was feeling rubbish and had gone backwards on the climb but near the top he obviously found his legs as he sped across the gap I actually looked back to see had he got a tow off a car but no he hadn't he is just a talented fecker(i hate those lads!!!) Going over the top we were only a small bit off the back and got on by doing a few turns. Typically after getting back on it stalled and we could have rode back on at 20mph!!!
The next part of the stage was very handy as there was a number of teams riding on the front and we were into a headwind for a bit so I was actually riding in the small ring trying to spare the legs. Coming into Mallow we were flying but it was easy enough sitting in the wheels, it would line out in the crosswinds ocassionally but never bad enough to split it. After Mallow we turned left and a few miles later we hung a right from there on the racing was really on as we knew there was one third cat left and a few other small climbs as the road was constantly up and down we knew that we would have a cross wind for the last 15k or so. I knew myself the climb out of Donnerail was a dirty little one but thankfully it was took handy enough as the teams riding on the front were allowing the breakaways to fry. Thomas Lavery was obviously feeling fresh as he took off with another lad. Good to see lads having a go the odds are against them but nothing ventured nothing gained.
Onto the last climb in kildorrey and it was starting to get very grippy. Over the top there was a smash and unfortunetley Conor Dunne our stage 1 winner was brought down. Unfortunatley for Conor he had to go to Mallow General this evening where they diagnosed a fracture to his arm so he is out.
Mick Fitz also punctured at this stage so that was him gone to add to his bad luck the wheel he got off neutral had a buckel and 25mm tyre so would not turn in his Cervelo S5 frame, thanks to Herbi Monks of Eurocycles for sorting him out as Paul was dealing with Conor.
The run into Mitchelstown was very very grim it was constantly lined out in the right hand gutter, I was starting to swing in a major way and was counting down the kilometer markers. Into the last 2 k and I finally popped and swung out of the line, thankfully I was able to grab onto the last wheel in the bunch and finish in the same time as the bunch. 5 down 3 to go.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ras Stg 4

St 4 was always going to be a biggie and it certainly lived up to expectations. I started at the back due to chatting to Adam Armstrong on the line and not paying attention to everyone else getting ahead of us! I was in the back 20 starting the first climb and saw lots of lads getting shelled they were going to be in for a long day. The first climb was lively enough but not too bad, turning onto the main Castleisland road i was still lurking too close to the back it lined out but didn't split so I took this as my warning to get out of dodge and move up to the front. At this stage Mick Fitz punctured I thought we might never see him again as the bunch was not hanging around but he did a good ride to get back on. On the climb to Castleisland I was having a look at slipping into something I was on Rodger Akins wheel when he jumped to go across a gap I pretended to look the other direction so I could pretend I didn't see it go, to say he is trucking in an understatement. Near the top of the climb Conor got out and made the front group of 20 or so riders.
I thought that could be the move of the day, heading towards Killarney the gap was heading for 3 minutes I sent Mike Lucey back for bottles as Paul was soon going to be going up to Conor and we could have being stranded without bottles for the day. It was handy enough when Mike went back but two minutes later it lined out I felt really bad for him as we were going to be going through his home town and he could be out the back but its a team sport and we all have to give up a bit for each other. Fortunately he didn't go south and did a great job to get bottles to us. The linout around Killarney was immense we were constantly doing 55kph plus, going down the Muckross road county riders started to crack and leave the wheels go, a castlebar rider cracked in front of me I was on the ragged edge if this was a pro he would have put the hand back and gave me a handsling but i took liberty of taking a swing out of him (apologies for that) but in that situation its do or die and i would understand if someone did it to me.
Into the bottom of Ladys view it was simply madness in the bunch it was like we were riding into the finish of the world champs, its a technical road and we were trucking, the cars behind the break had being pulled out as the gap was tumbling. I felt okish once we started climbing proper but that didn't last long, the first 40 or so riders rode away as I was dropped in a group of about 15. Going over the top of Molls Gap we were in the cars only about 20 seconds down on the back of the bunch I was confident we would get back on on the descent to Kenmare. We rode the descent full gas but unfortunately the cars had being stopped at the top of Molls, they overtook us on the descent and we were gaining but unfortunately the commissare called a barrage and the cars were pulled so our chances of getting back on plummeted, after Kenmare on the way to the second cat climb the cars again over took us and we came close but never made it. A number of riders joined us from behind so we had a group of 25 or so and that was our tour group set up for the day. On the second cat we could see the front group but there was no way back, Con Collis decided to attack us (gained 4 min at the finish I hope the sore legs are worth it!!!). Onto the Healy Pass the tempo was a bit too rapid at the start and a few F*&k's were thrown into a few riders and it slowed down a bit. One rider persisted in acting the &^(%£ and kept turning the screw a bit too much he got a bollicking off a number of riders but kept ignoring it even when his own teammate said it to him. His team has yellow tomorrow so I hope he is up to the task of defending the jersey and wont regret not listening to the more experienced riders today. Personally I hope he goes south early.
Over the top of the healy pass we saw the aftermath of a big crash as is pretty standard on that descent. We then cruised in the last 20k as best we could despite my new favourite rider riding a bit too fast all the time; why not loose 15 min instead of 12???
We were taking bets coming in the road about how much time we could loose, I guessed 15min Joe Fenlon guessed  17-18 but Andrew Meehan was the winner by guessing 12-13.
That was not the drama finished for the day, dinner at the hotel was a disgrace, we were waiting more than an hour for our main course. It got so bad some teams got up and left without eating and went into town. One manager went into the kitchen to give the chef a piece of his mind, he got a round of applause when he came out. The wexford team had left and there dinners were left on there table so we robbed them so in the end we had two dinners but both were tiny. We were there for two hours in total to get our three courses, we left just before nine and the British team still had not got there much for marginal gains!
23 riders were eliminated from the race today, you would feel sorry for them to have put so much into it especially those that missed the limit by only a couple of minutes but the limit is the limit riders have got tossed out of the tour of being less than a minute outside of the limit. Hopefully the riders will take motivation from it and come back better prepared next year

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ras stg3

Day 4 kicked off with a 6k climb after 6k so plenty of riders were warming up before the stage as it would be a long day if you went south that early. As we rolled out of Nenagh something strange happened we were not reaching for the 11 sprocket straight away it was very steady and controlled. I was badly positioned as normally when its lined out I can catch a lift to the front but today it was very easy so hard to move up as the world and its mother was ahead of me. As we started the climb it was still relatively ok but the screw was turned more and more as we wet further up the climb. Into the last 2k or so I could see it splitting about 20 riders ahead of me but the gap to the first 50 or so was not huge. Over the top we were properly lined out and a few hard turns were done on the descent and we got back on quickly enough. As we got back on Conor broke a spoke and had to get a wheel change. Mick and myself set up camp on the back of the group to get him back up once he got back on through the cars. At this stage the group had basically stopped racing as 3 riders had gone clear I said to Fraiser Duncan that I hate this part as the riders who didnt train as hard as us(and the sprinters) over the winter are now going to get back on and sure enough many of them did.
Martin had had about his 50th mechanical of the last few days and was fighting a loosing battle to get back on and would spend the day with the gruppetto. The racing was very handy at this stage as we were into a headwind and sitting on the wheels it was nice and easy. Just before Caherconlish I went back for bottles and had just deposited the last one to Conor when it appeared that a hand grenade went off in the bunch. Peter Hawkins had a dream start to his day by wearing the yellow jersey but now he was on the tarmac. There was a touch of wheels and he was the first one down and the chain reaction in the bunch saw over 20 riders hit the deck. It happened on a small descent so we were flying, I was really lucky to avoid it as it was happening just in front of me but I managed to take evasvive action, others such as Timmy Barry and Olan Barrett were not as lucky as they had simply no where to go. Cycling is a cruel sport for the likes of Peter to go from the yellow jersey to the ambulance but also for the likes of Timmy who has being doing 18 hour weeks consistently and then to see the chances of a good gc wiped out like that.
After the crash there was only a group of 40 of us left at the head of the race but the shout quickly went out that the yellow jersey was down so one of the unwritten rules of cycling was put into place and a stall was called. As a result of this the gap to the leading 3 riders went out to over 6 minutes. Through Adare a number of teams started to ride on the front and the gap started to come down rapidly enough. There was a lot of tension in the bunch after the previous crash it was like we were going to hit the last 3km as riders kept racing to the front. It got a little bit lined out in the left hand gutter and next thing there was another crash there was a traffic island in the middle of the road but there was another traffic island on the left for a cycle lane and a few riders milled into that. Arron Buggle got a bad slap he finished the stage despite have a nasty cut on his chin.
Once we swung off the main road we were onto the back roads again and hit the 1st third cat climb of the day, this was handy enough as it was into a headwind and there was a couple of teams riding on the front. Over the top I checked in with Conor to make sure he didnt need anything he was looking for a gel but of course I had none left Joe Fenlon was riding beside us and kindly obliged. I was chatting to Sean Lacey and asked him about the last climb he said he has rode those roads in training and didnt even know the climb so it couldn't be much. I relaxed a bit and was riding near the back when we hit the climb, next thing all hell broke loose and riders were blowing up left right and center, riders who had being chasing all day were sitting up and some riders just cracked I litterlay had to shove a few out of the way and make a big effort with Thomas Martin, Ryan Sherlock and a few others to hang onto the back of the bunch. Unfortunately this was all in vain as all the riders who were dropped got back on but better to be safe than sorry! Into Listowel the speed was ramped up I was just content to sit at the back and stay out of trouble I was delighted to hear that Carrick On Suir man and honoury club member Sam Bennett won the stage, its great to see that three young Irish riders in Conor, Peter and Sam have dominated the headlines so far, long may it continue

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ras Stg2

The weather man lied to us he said it would be dry today but it was a bit misty in Longford this morning but not too bad thankfully it cleared up as the stage went on. We stayed in Carrick on Shannon last night, I was delighted to be leaving the hotel it was like something out of the 1960's, well the last time it was updated was in the 60's!
It was really cool to have the yellow jersey in the team today its not many county riders can say that they have being in that situation so it was a nice buzz this morning. The plan was obviously enough to hang onto the jersey if possible, it was not as if we could leave a break go and put 4 riders on the front. We just planned to follow as many moves as possible and make sure a big group of 20 or so riders got clear as that would be curtains for Conor. The race was a bit nervous at the start with the mist falling as the roads were a bit damp so would be treacherous if there was a lock up. Mick Fitz was on duty straight away following attacks as they went, so seeing him doing that guilted me into getting involved!! The first few efforts I had to make hurt like hell as I was not 100% warmed up and following attacks in the ras is hard at the best of times. Early enough in the stage a break went, we were happy enough with that as we hoped it would calm the bunch down a bit, they never got a huge lead and were visible on the straight stretches or goal was not to let the bunch stall and for the gap to balloon out to 3 minutes or so, but fortunately this is the ras and the attacks never really stop!
After an hour or so the break came back and the speedo was edging ever upwards. I was generally keeping a good position in the bunch as it was important to be on hand if anything happened to Conor. I fell asleep at one stage and ended up about half way back in the bunch, there is always a few teams in the ras that you know you need not to behind I ended up behind one of those teams riders and sure enough as it lined out he left the wheel go so it was a good kick in the ass for me to get back up to the top40.
You can really feel the recession in the state of the roads in Ireland over the last few years the Belgium riders must go home and comment on how lovely and smooth the cobbles feel. There was not a lot of potholes today but one was not called and a few riders milled into it and brought a few other riders down, this happened in the top 40 riders but by in large the bunch was safe today, I think the fact the speed is so fast is keeping riders on there toes. There was not even a chance to chat to other riders today as it was so fast.
Mick and myself were still trying to cover as many moves as possible, if a move went and there was no response from the bunch we would jump half way across the gap to give the bunch something to aim at and ride across. Its taxing work on the legs but it was great the respect we were shown by the other county riders, a few times I would be drifting back the line after an effort and be pushed back in by one of the lads. Even the pros were giving us no problems in moving up as they knew we were trying to do a job as best we could. It was only down to the two of us at this stage as Martin and Mike both had mechanical's and couldn't get back on. Martin was unlucky as he was just back on when the road was blocked by a couple of cars so that was his day done.
Mick yet again saved the day and went on a bottle run I would not have liked the prospect of riding back up the bunch with a few bottles in my pockets. It was nervy all day as we twisted and turned a lot so there was a lot of times we would turn into a crosswind but fortunately it never got too bad.
After about 120k a decent sized group got out and Conor went with a Rapha rider and a Node 4 rider they sat on him as he rode for about 4k, then he saw another group chasing and he sat up and waited for them, they all rode together and got up to the front group which numbered about 40 at this stage. Mick and myself had a chat and said job done and were happy.
Our group rolled easily enough through the last 25k as always at this stage the county riders started racing each other and a few groups got out but most people were happy enough to roll into the finish where we had lost 4 minutes.
Up front Conor was isolated and tried to cover as many moves as possible eventually a group of ten got out but he got very limited help from his group despite the likes of Rapha and Node 4 having no one up front. Eventually he lost the jersey by 15 seconds and is now 12th overall which is by no means a disaster, there is a lot of racing ahead of us.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ras stg 1

I sharing a room with the stage winner and yellow jersey of the ras tonight, no I haven't sneaked into some pro's room its my teammate Conor Dunne. I still cant get my head around it, its unreal really great news as i write this he has just said "fuck" shook his head and smiled this one will take a while to sink in.
Ok back to before all of this happened.
We arrived in the Green Isle last night to get the show on the road, I said to the lads I always hate this part as you pull into the car park see all the pros fancy team cars and bike's then you see the riders they all look 12 years of age and have 5% body fat, it could be a bit intimidating if you were so inclined!!! Some of the guests of the hotel provided a bit of entertainment when three women started fighting with each other then a classy gent decided to punch one of the them in the face, I didn't see it all but it ended up with one guy out cold on the road in front of the hotel. Turns out he was caught stealing money out of his nephews communion cards, it really is a classy joint.
The evening was spent getting a bite to eat and having a quick team meeting. we actually joked during the chat about how the pros view the county riders and how the county riders can start racing late in the stage for the county rider prize we also said how funny it would be if a county rider had the jersey and the pros expected his team to defend it........little did we know

As always there was a great atmosphere in Dunboye and we set off under bright sunshine. Timmy Barry Sam Bennett and myself bagged the dream spots behind the race directors car on the neutralised lap so we could stay out of trouble. Our neutralised section was extended as a rider had a mechanical before the flag was dropped so we crawled along waiting for him to get back on. Once the flag was dropped there was no more hanging around as we were up to over 50kph straight away. I was nicely positioned at the front but was not feeling great I didn't have the legs for the jumping around and quickly retreated back into the safety of the bunch. Our main aim for today was not to loose time or skin, but mostly not to loose skin. The first day can always be a crashfest as guys are fresh and eager to get stuck in. I think the fact that we were regularly touching 60kph on the flat kept the county riders from getting stuck in so it was a safe enough stage.
I took a gamble and retreated to the second half of the bunch as I felt it would be safer there and a bit easier there is always the risk of getting held up behind a crash but i was willing to take it. I moved up after 50k as the KOH was at 60k at this stage Conor was in an 18 rider move Rapha and Sigma Sport were riding on the front and it looked like the group would come back as we hit the KOH we were nearly on them. The KOH was harder than expected Stephen O Sullivan told me before the start that it was handy, I wouldn't have described it that way!! There was a great crowd on the climb which was great to see.
After the climb the race continued as normal i.e. 50-55kph all the time it took until about 100k had passed for the race to settle down a bit, we were still enjoying the sunshine I was starting to feel the heat a bit I always suffer on the first hot race day of the year. With the stage destined to last a little over two and a half hour I could have got away with two bottles but in the heat that didn't look likely but due to the speed of the bunch the prospect of going back for bottle did not seem appealing but fortunately Mick Fitz obliged and appeared with a bottle which was a life saver.
At this stage another break had gone and come back and a bit of calm descended on the bunch two of the Baku riders were riding on the front I decided to have a crack but I would say I hardly got my name on race radio before I got pulled back. I was getting twinges of cramp at this stage so had to use the head to ensure i got through it without going out the back door. At this stage Conor decided he was bored in the bunch and took off again. I was at the back and made my way back up the bunch when Sam told me that Conor was away. The lads had a minute with 10k to go, Stephen O Sullivan said they would stay away as the last 10k were relatively downhill. I was beginning to get a bit nervous at this stage while trying to figure out who he was away with. It was getting a small bit hairy in the bunch as there was a few lock up's Conor Murphy nearly dumped it on the tarmac at one stage.
I expected the bunch to go into gutter mode but it never happened there was a few attacks but no one team committed, the last 2k were very rapid but there was no bringing Conor back, fortunately he won the gallop and got the Yellow, Green, White and Blue jerseys (well he only actually got the yellow but that's the one that counts). Crossing the line I saw James Lawless watching and he said Conor had got it and I was truely trilled, its great to see a young Irish rider winning and especially one in a Carrick Iverk Produce jersey. Many thanks to everyone behind the scenes in the club and our sponsor Iverk Produce for helping to make this happen. Tomorrow should be fun!

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Team

The Tipperary Iverk Produce team that is going to tackle this years An Post Ras is a mixed bag of youth and promise to old fellas who perhaps should know a bit better (that’s me). The aim of the club originally was to have five club riders making up the team but when only five riders stuck there hand up last winter to do the ras the odds against this happening increased as the real world had a habit of getting in the way of riding the ras. Andrew Aherne and John O’Shea could not combine the demands of work and the training required to ride a good ras so both pulled themselves out of the team. We were then forced to go into the “transfer market” we quickly got Irish International Conor Dunne signed up soon after followed Irish under 23 champion Philip Lavery. Philip then unfortunately had to pull out as he had a clash of races in France. We then discussed riding the ras with only 4 riders unless a top quality rider became available and upon hearing that Mick Fitzgerald was available we had him signed up within 30 minutes.

Conor Dunne will hold our general classification hopes as he is a full time rider based in Belgium for the past 2 seasons riding for an Elite/U23 Amateur team called 'Vl Technics Abutriek'. Conor is 21 and has previously rode the ras on the Irish team in 2011, he is just back from a stage race in Italy so hopefully his form is good. Conor grew up in England so in his own words he unfortunately has a posh voice but we will knock that out of him over the week. He has always been patriotic and proud of his Irish roots, his granny was from Charlestown in Mayo and he still has family over there, his grandad grew up in the Dublin area but moved to Wembley in London just before his dad was born. Conor started cycling as a young fella and started racing at 16 and immediately caught the bug. He raced a lot in Belgium as a junior and knew he wanted to give it a good shot over here. He seems to be progressing well in Belgium at the moment as he is on a good team that rides many 2.2 and 1.2 races he will surely be attracting the attention of An Post soon.

Mike Lucey is riding his second ras for the club and his third in total, he is 27 years of age and is from Killarney so will surely be motivated as we race through his home town, he may be less motivated by the thoughts of Molls Gap and the Healey pass later in the stage but as a sprinter that’s understandable. Mike started racing as a 13 year old on mountain bikes will Killarney cycling club and switched to the road when he was 15 two years later he was crowned national junior champion. Obviously life then got in the way or college and student bars did and Mike disappeared from the scene for a few years but he didn’t completely waste his time as he is now working as a Quality Assurance specialist for the Astellas Pharmaceutical Company. He will be cheered on from the side lines by his girlfriend Cindy.

Mick Fitzgerald is from Cobh in Co Cork and is a former member of Carrick Wheelers he currently rides for Fermoy CC but we are delighted to welcome the 35 year old back. This will be Micks 9th ras he started out as a junior with Midelton Wheelers then took a “break” for 8 years and came back with Ballymore before changing to Carrick Wheelers the Edge team and now to Fermoy. Mick has being one of the strongest riders in the domestic peleton over the last 5+years and is a great Ras rider frequently getting into breaks and getting a bit of TV time for his teams. Mick works as a maintenance technician in Cork Plastics and has two kids and a girlfriend to keep him busy when he is not training and racing
Martin Mizgajski adds a bit of international flair to our team as recently documented on stickybottle Martin is in his second year with the club and is riding his second ras, Martin had a quieter start to the season than he normally has but is coming into form just at the right time as his 5th place in the Shay Elliot demonstrates. Martin is one of the best climbers in the country he found the speed of the ras peleton on the flat a shock last year but has adapted his training to become a more all-round rider and could well prove to be a surprise package in this year’s race. Martin works as a fitness instructor in a local hotel and will be supported by his wife and his daughter Zara

For me like Mick Fitz this will be my 9th Ras, I remember riding my first ras with Paul Griffen and Kieran McMahon on the team and I think Paul was doing his 9th and Kieran his 10th ras at the time, I remember thinking how in god’s name do you keep going for so many of them it amazing the way they creep up. For me the Ras is the reason I race; Sunday races don’t motivate me, the Ras and the Ras Mumhan are the only races I get a kick out of (I also getting a kicking in them) and are the reason I keep coming back, I love the Ras I can also hate it at times but its mostly a love affair. I spend my days working as a Fund Accountant and Brid my poor wife has to put up with my Ras addiction.

As always there is a team behind the team and without them we would all be at home. Paul Lonergan will be our manager for the week, Paul is the main man behind Carrick Wheelers and has being club secretary for over 25 years. This will be Pauls 22 Ras as manager he has managed the greats such as Bobby Power, Robert Power, Ciaran Power, Larry Power (not one of them related) Brian Keneally, Stephen Maher and Sam Bennett amongst many many others to stage wins, classification wins and team prizes. It must be a come down to have to manage us!!!

Tommy Mcgowan will be looking after the bikes for the week. Tommy is a native of Mullingar where he rode with the local club for a number of years but upon moving to the big smoke to go to college in DCU he joined Ravens. Tommy rode 3 ras’s as a rider and this one will be his third as a mechanic. I have not being on a Ras with Tommy but reports are that the bikes look better than new every morning. During the day Tommy works as a computer programmer for the Central Bank so sorting out a bottom bracket is obviously not a challenge for him.

Theo English is the man responsible for getting the legs looking like new every morning. Theo has being a member of the club now with a number of years and as well as being a massuse he is also a mechanic/panel beater and is the best man in the locality to look after my wreck of a car handily enough he is also good with wrecks of legs. Theo is heading into his 4th ras and has also worked on the Irish team for the junior tour.

Of course the team would not function without our sponsors; primarily Iverk Produce that are based in Piltown Co Kilkenny. Iverk are one of the biggest employers locally and the chances are if you pick up a bit of veg in Aldi it has come from Iverk, without them there would simply be no ras for us and the club as a whole would suffer greatly. We are also supported on the Ras by O Mahony Cycles in Dungarvan. Tony has being a great supporter of the club for years and hopefully the mechanical gods will be on our side so we won’t have to using the vast amount of spares he has supplied us with. Ryan Motor Power in Clonmel have also being very generous to supply us with a van for the week and Auto Power in Carrick on Suir have being as supportive as always with the car. Wish us luck out there.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Kanturk Day 3

The final stage was obviously enough the final chance to pull a result from the weekend I really wanted to get a result to justify the club sending us to the race and for my own sake to have something on the score board before heading into the ras as chances are slightly more limited there!
For once we had nice weather, we rode in from the B&B and noted that the road was in bits with a couple of km to go. The finish today was at the top of a 300meter big ring climb. The course also had another couple of long drags before a fast flat run into the finish. I had a good chat with Mick Butler from DMG on the start line where he was laughing at the fact that I was being chased down every time I moved despit the fact I was a minute and a half down he on the other hand had got into the break on the previous two days
Attacks as always were on the menu from the gun I got stuck into a few but as Mick predicted there was no getting out; coming into the town at the end of the first lap on the section of road that I had noted earlier was in bits the predictable happened and I hit one of the numerous pot holes and got a rear wheel puncture. I was in the top 20 when this happened and we were trucking at the time normally when some one punctures the normal practice is to stick an arm in the air to notify the riders behind and to try to get out of there way asap so you don't get milled by some one. I had a tub on the rear and went to throw the arm in the air but the road surface was so bad it was impossible to control the bike despite the fact I was using tubs. Fortunately no one milled into me and I got a change from neutral, it wasn't the quickest one every but its hard for the lads in neutral as the wheels are not set up for the bikes they are dealing with.
I got going again but was out the back of the cavalcade, Gerry our DS for the weekend did a good job of having a sticky accelerator in getting me back on, it does not look great to be buried up the back of a team car but its only restoring you to the position you were in previously and its still an effort. Hanging off a car is something different some lads do it but in my book its not on.
Fortunately I got back in to the bunch to be greeted by the news that a break of 5 was up the road. I felt fairly rubbish after getting back on and thought that the effort had taken a good bit out of me as well as getting stuck in on the first lap. Going up the climb to the finish at the end of the second lap I felt like I was stuck to the road and eventually copped that the rear break was rubbing so I had to stop again to centre the wheel. Once I got going again I instantly felt better strangely enough!
I spent the next lap sitting at the very back of the bunch gambling that the break would come back and I would have a crack at the finish. I spent the time chatting to Mark Kiernan of Kilcullen, giving him delay birthday wishes (44;over the hill) and putting the world to right in general. At the same time I was switched off at the back of the bunch the break obliged me by getting caught. Onto the main road for the last time I hitched a lift from one of the Phoenix riders to the front of the bunch I had planned on baking everything for the gallop but as I got there I just had a feeling that something would stick and I gave it a crack, next thing I knew I was gone on my own. I plugged away on my own for a bit as there was a brief stall behind. I must have offended Dylan O'Brien in a previous life as for about the 5th time this weekend he came flying out of the bunch and up to me, we swapped a couple of turn for me to see two more riders coming across, I had to do a double take as I realised that it was Dylans father John that was steaming across he had Mick Butler sitting on his wheel. John to be fair did a huge turn, Mick was sitting on he is a fair rider so he didn't get a couple of "motivational words" as he does not have form for being a scrubber. Unfortunately we were brought back but now I was committed to getting out instead of waiting for the gallop, Cian Dwyer of the Munster team attacked and I went with him we got a nice gap again and Michael Millar of Phoenix and Mick Butler again appeared, Mick rode this time as he had since discovered that Denis Dunworth had being caught. We did a few turn but a few riders came across and the power went out of the group so it was time to go again with Mick and Brian Hart of Limerick but we never pulled out a biog enough gap and were caught heading into the last 2km. My legs were screaming at this stage but stayed in the top 5 principally to stay safe, into the town and the chicane I was about 8th on Brian Cantys wheel but Brian must have lost his nerve a bit from hitting the deck yesterday and lost the wheel there was a gap of 5 or 6 lenghts to the first riders so that was my hope of getting up gone (and the fact my legs were on fire) I crawled my way up to the line to finish 20th on the stage. I felt sorry for the yellow jersey but ultimately the strongest rider in the race won the race, the yellow jersey was forced to chase early on during the race when he had team mates in the bunch, the Blarney lads rode really well yesterday and paid the price today a though way to loose it but its a though sport.
Eoin Green benefited from the splits in the bunch to move up from 11th overall to 9th, Niall Og Dunne did very well to finish in the bunch for a 1st year junior who weighs a max of 6stone! Eoin Dunne was unlucky in the A4 race, riding his first stage race since the junior tour in 1992 his legs had got better over the last couple of days and had decided to have a go at the finish, he had good legs and was perfectly positioned but got taken out by a couple of riders switching and ended up with a few cuts, broken spokes and a cracked helmet. Many thanks to Gerry and Niall for helping out and Karen for getting our good sides in the photos!

Kanturk Corkman Day 1 & 2

The May Bank holiday weekend is normally spent riding the Tour of Ulster in preperation for the Ras but this year we were a bit slow off the mark and missed the entry, we were on the waiting list and then told that two riders could get in but by that stage we reverted to plan b which was riding the corkman for me and Mike Lucey and Martin Mizgajski riding the Frank O Rourke in Wexford and doing a couple of good training days around it.
I had rode the first ever Corkman and had the privilge of winning the first ever stage many moons agoso it was kind of refreshing to be heading back. Iverk Produce Carrick Wheelers had Ray Cullen, Eoin Green and Niall Og Dunne in the A2/A3 race and Eoin Dunne and Niall Dunne in the A4 race. Michael O Loughlian, Arron Kearney and Ruair Dunne were flying the club colours in the underage races. Gerry Hawkins was DS for the senior riders and Martin O Loughlian was looking after the underage.

Stage 1

The first stage was 3 laps of a 20 mile circuit, with 3 small climbs on the lap, the road surface out to the climb would test all bolts on your bike and the fillings in your teeth, the climbs came in quick sucession then we had a quick descent to new market and a quick run back into Kanturk. The climbs were unfortunatley into a stong head wind which would have the effect of killing the racing a bit. I tried to get out a few times on the first lap, Ray Cullen was also being active but nothing was sticking. Coming towards the end of the lap I drifted back in the bunch to find Eoin to give him "motivational word" to get up to the front and get stuck in as we (i.e. me) had decided in our chat before hand that we had to be agressive and have a man in every move. Eoin as it turns out was only after getting back on from a puncture. Just coming into Kanturk Ray got away with 3 others, coming up to the line they were on the verge of being brought back but the bunch stalled a bit and they went away again I plonked myself on the front row of the bunch to keep the speed under control in the hope that the gap would grow, Eoin appeared at the front and followed one lad who jumped out and had a free ride to the front. I kept riding slowely on the front and the gap continued to grow as a few more hopped accross, no Munster riders or Nicolas Roche riders so it was looking good for us. Eventually a group of 15 pulled away before the bunch woke up a bit and started riding again.

The remainder of the lap was quiet enough, another smakll group got out but never got a huge gap as they were visible in front of the bunch for most of the lap. Dylan Foley was trying to jump across on his own but was being marked heavily by the Munster riders who had a rider in the second group. Only towards the end of the second lap did guys start to panic and realise that there was a large group disappearing up the road with the GC of the race in it. A few of the Roches and Planet Tris started to ride and the second group was caught quickly enough unfortunately for us Ray had popped from the front group and was in this group. Once the second group was caught the wind went out of the chases sails a bit, the Munster team now had a obligation to chase but inexplecibly one of there riders thought he was going to close the 1 min 30 second gap on his own and spent a few miles dangling off the front of the bunch.
I couldnt get over how slow it was in the bunch we spent the first two climbs riding at a snails pace, we got a time check of 1min 40 it lit up a bit on the last climb and on the way in from New Market the chase was on with the Munster riders finally relaising they had to do a bit Barry Meade was hugely impressive for planet tri as he was doing massive turns. I was sitting in the top 15 staying out of trouble, coming into Kanturk I was in the top five to make sure I stayed away from the wannabe Cav's, the break was staying away but the gap was tumbling fast I ended up 5th in the bunch gallop more so by following wheels than sprinting. Eoin finish 8th and gained 36 seconds over the pre race favourites, woulod it be enough to help him migate and losses in the TT?

Niall Dunne deserves a special word of praise for even starting the stage as he fractured his wrist during the week in a crash off the bike he sensibly decided 1 stage was enough for his weekend

Time Trial

I hate time trials; the fact I am next to useless at them probably plays a bit part in this. If I had a fancy TT rig I might like them a small bit more but its hard to justify the outlay when there is so few of them every year. I rode a local TT on Thursday night which showed me that I had not warmed up enough before starting, so I made sure to rectify this. We were on the bikes an hour and 20 min before our start, it would not only have the benefit of warming up correctly but were also helping to rack up miles with the Ras in mind. As we rode on the course against the way the riders were coming we said we would have a tailwind for the TT. An hour and a half later we were proved wrong as we had a cross/head wind; other wise I would definately have bet Barry Meade!!! I barely scraped over 40kph for an 11:55, Eoin did 11:40 that left him in the 10th overall.

Stage 3

The stage was run over the old Banteer circuit which must be the flattest course in the country, the back road with the recession has become one of the roughest roads in the country as well, this weekend is certainly proving to be a good test of shorts. I tried to slip away with Cian Dwyer after a couple of miles but were not left go, turn the head for the main road there was a crash at the very front of the bunch I was about 10th in line and did well to avoid the spill Brian Canty and Barry Meade got a nice slap, turns out Dylan Foley went into the corner a bit too fast slapped on the breaks and the boys milled into him, I saw the Ras flash before my eyes and counted myself lucky to get away with it.

Onto the main road and I got away with one of the planet tri boys but yet again with no sucess, heading towards the end of the lap a group was staring to form I decide the next man going across I was going with him one of the Kilcullen boys obliged and we were on the way across but yet again being chased down I sat up and the bunch sat up once caught and that was the break sorted for the day. The rest of the race was handy enough as the Blarney guys rode to defend the yellow jersey, the group got out to 40 seconds and the yellow jersey was disappearing on the Blarney lads but they rode well to control it, one Tralee rider was very unsporting to keep riding into the middle of the line and splitting it up, bad move on his part as surely the Blarney riders will remember that for the rest of the season.
Onto the last lap the gap was dwindling and looked like the group would come back but it never did as riders ran out of legs I was really annoyed as I hoped it would come back to have a crack at the sprint but unfortunatley the group stayed away by 10 seconds. I got 5th again in the gallop without sprinting at 100% as its hard to go flat out when you know its not for win. Hopefully stage 4 will see the dice roll my way, I finished the day off by doing an extra 20k with the ras in mind.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Aqua Blue Classic

I was really questioning my sanity as I left the house on Sunday morning and heard a weather warning on the radio. At the same time it was flogging rain outside and blowing a gale. But I had committed to go and the clubs “new” team car was getting her Sunday race debut so I had a lift, in short I was running out of excuses. I am always telling guys to Harden The F&*K Up so it was time to heed my own advice.
On the journey down the weather was getting worse if nothing else, but as we cleared Cork City the weather was clearing as well, out entry to the sprawling metropolis that is Minane Bridge was delayed by the fact that there was a three blown across the road. But the sun was out I doubted it was for long but it was a positive sign.

Upon signing on it was clear that the Munster Peloton had forgot to take there HTFU tablets with breakfast, there was a very small field entered. It’s often the case with races on hard courses that lots of guys stay at home; how they hope to improve as cyclist by staying at home is beyond me. Instead of a 77mile A1/A2 race the race was run as a handicap event over 6 11mile laps. Iverk Produce Carrick Wheelers along with many other clubs had a small turn out. Tony Cullen was representing us in the A4 race, with Niall Og Dunn, Shem Cullen, Eoin Green and myself in the combined race. Gerry Hawkins was kindly doing duty as team manager for the day.

The A3’s got a 3 min gap over the A2’s and we in turn had a 3 min gap over the small A1 group. The A2’s rode handily enough out to the first climb Dennis Dunworth of Visit Nenagh was obviously feeling good as he attacked straight away we would not see him for another two laps. The first climb was rode at a crawl as we were straight into the headwind, we then had a small descent and a flattish section of small roads until we had a technical descent and hit the second climb of the cicuit. Mehall Fitzgerald was in our group and his few years off the bike have not dampened his descending skills he bombed down the descent and started the second climb about 10 seconds ahead of the rest of us! I rode up to him on the climb and no one followed me, we were on our own for a few miles. Fitzy was showing off his new Planet X which was adorned with Planet X carbon wheels, the front was 80mm and the rear 100mm hardly ideal considering the wind. Any time we passed a gateway he was being blown 1 foot to the left or the right, if a small rider like me was riding them I would end up in the Irish Sea!

We tipped along for a couple of miles but decided there was no point in killing ourselves in the wind and waited for the rest of the group, we also picked up Thomas Fallon who had punctured out of the A3 group, he would add a set of strong legs to our group. During the second lap the group never really got organised as lots of lads wanted to hide from the wind and some of those who chose to ride did not seem to notice what direction the wind was coming from and instead of riding in an echelon proceeded to put the rest of the group in the gutter!!!

Unsurprisingly we were caught by the A1 group at the start of the 3rd lap. When I say group I mean 5 riders!!! Must have being a fun first couple of laps back there. I loved the cheek of one rider who had being sitting on in our group once the A1 group appeared and went to the front he decided to move up and sit on their wheels, I wasn’t long about “gently” moving him out of the way. Unfortunately Eoin Green punctured out at this stage and to make sure he would have a really bad day he had a second puncture about 3 miles later. We also picked up Denis Dunworth at this stage and he went straight out the back door.

Onto the climb and Sean Lacey attacked but was going nowhere into the headwind, over the top he went again with Mick Fitzgerald and no one reacted. A few tried to jump across but no one had the legs to get across into the wind. Timmy Barry was proving to be a deterrent as well as we knew if we did too much we were going to be hopped and sure enough we were Ed Barry was just off the front of the group saw Timmy coming but couldn’t get on the wheel, it was an impressive show of strength as Ed tried to get on and Timmy kept looking around to make sure he didn’t as you don’t bring a passenger across when you have a teammate up the road. That was basically the race run for our group, we picked up a number of A3’s that had being shelled but the last two laps were basically run as a training run, taking it easy and chatting on the climbs and cruising along on the flats (there were no flats just bits that were less steep than the climbs) the race was so hard we actually ended up as the group going for 11th. Fair play to everyone who finished it was a hard day out that will stand to everyone.

Eddie Dunbar had a great ride to win the way he did, the shine was nearly taken off his day by crashing at the finish line when he threw the arms in the air, hopefully a valuable lesson learned. Shem Cullen did well to hang on to finish 7th despite having some mechanical problems on the last lap. A special word of congrats to Niall Og Dunne on finishing, Eddie Dunbar was not the only first year junior to show a big pair of you know what on Sunday.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Silver Pail GP Fermoy

My Ras Mumhan recovery on Monday evening consisted of having an Easter egg as my evening meal, no dinner just an Easter egg! I woke up on Tuesday morning feeling like I had being out on the beer the night before. The "off" switch was definitely flicked on for this week, the "on" switch has being on from Christmas so this week was treated as a rest week physically and more importantly mentally. So diet went out the window for the week and a grand total of two hours were clocked up on the bike. The Silver Pail today was to be the first day of the build up to the ras. Iverk produce Carrick Wheelers had Martin, Mike and Eoin Green joining me in the A1/2 race. It was good to see plenty of Carrick jerseys warming up for the A3 and A4 races as well, it was also good to see a few lads getting stuck in in the underage races.

There was about 40-50 riders in our race, a good sized field for a Munster race, we started off at 100mph as usual. I instantly felt my legs objecting after there week of rest and eating, I knew it would take a lap or so for me to come around and I was praying that the move would not go before that but of course it did. The move only went after a few miles, it consisted of the Aqua Blue trio of Olan Barrett, Robin Kelly and Keith Gator, who were joined by defending champion Paidi O Brien and Michael Fitzgerald representing the local Fermoy club. To be honest I thought I heard someone say there was nine riders up the road, I was getting it that hard for the first couple of miles I couldn't make out what was going on at the business end of the race.

Martin had being following the moves out the road so it was a pity he missed it, Mike was doing a bit of riding on the front so I joined him, Martin rode up beside me and as the gap was only 10-15 seconds at this point I told him to try and jump across but he said he didn't have the legs...I then realised we were in for a long day of chasing. As we as a team had missed the break we took the responsibility for riding straight away Martin and I did a lot of turns straight away and were joined by Richard Hooten of Visit Nenagh, at the end of the first lap the gap was a manageable 25 seconds and if we were joined by a few more riders in the chase we could have closed it out. Simon Ryan was making a return to the bunch after a head injury in Ras Mumhan but the bump to his head must have still being affecting him as he tried to jump across the gap on his own, Simon is a good rider but he is not going well enough to cross a gap like that on his own, his effort disrupted the riding and the gap ballooned out to over a minute, I was sure now we would never see the front of the race again.

We were faced with two choices 1 sit in the bunch and cruise around or 2 ride on the front and serve our punishment for missing the break. You don't improve by sitting in the bunch so choice two was the only option. Unfortunately Mike Lucey suffered a mechanical for the second week in a row and was out of the race. Eoin Martin and myself were joined on the front by Richard Hooten. Martin was doing very impressive turns but Hooten impressed me greatly by the riding he was doing his turns during the tailwind section had me cursing that I only had a 12 sprocket on. I always say that an 11 is only required in Ireland for the Ras and the stage races but I was proving myself wrong today. This was the pattern of the race for the next couple of laps as the gap grew out to over two minutes.

Out onto the last lap and Martin and Richard were still doing the majority of the riding, the riders who had being sitting on with the last 80 km started racing now and a group split off the front of the bunch. I still though there was nine riders up the road so was cursing them for racing as there were no prizes left but it turns out they were racing for 6th so fair enough. Although I would say the riders who had no team mates up front would have being better off riding with us on the first two laps as they would have had a chance of racing for first instead of sixth. That was the race run for us, results wise it was bad for the club but we got a hard 100k in the legs. Up front Paidi and Olan had escaped the other three, it would have being nice to see Olan win in his home town and after all the riding he has done for his teammates this year but its hard to get the better of the Banteer bullet these days!

The A3 race was marked by an early escape that stayed away all day, I gathered that the Carrick boys rode well together with Shem Cullen in particular doing a lot of riding trying to get the break back for the sprinters in the club but it was not to be with Lenny Foley getting 9th and Ray Cullen getting 11th. Paul Bourke showed his intentions in the A4 race by racing in shorts the cold wind hitting his legs certainly drove him on as he scored a great win, well done Paul.

The racing was not the only cycling event occurring today, unfortunately Tony Ryan passed away last week and his removal was this evening. There was a huge crowd which was great to see and a reflection of the high esteem Tony was held in. Tony though me a lot over the years he was always willing to give advice and tips to riders, he would not sugar coat it and would tell you the way it was, if you were a few kg over weight he would tell you, if your position was a bit out he would tell you, everything he told you was aimed at helping you improve as a rider regardless of what club or team you rode for. He ran our Sunday spin with military precision there was no half wheeling then or going too fast or slow Tony said the speed we rode into a headwind or with a tailwind and you didn't dare deviate from that speed. The Sunday spin has suffered hugely from Tonys absence over the last few years, he will be missed rest in peace Tony.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Ras Mumhan Stg 4

Stage 4 was run under balmy conditions of 4 degree's with weak sunshine on display strong wind and no rain!!! Today the plan was to try and get in the break of the day from the off it was clear Aqua Blue wanted a break to go so there would be some calm in the bunch. There was a strong headwind on the outward stretch of the 15 mile lap that we would do three laps of before hitting the finishing circuit, so it would not be as simple as falling off the front of the bunch to get away. My teammate Martin and I both had the same plan we covered all the moves heading out the road, I slipped away once with Mike Butler from DMG and once with Thomas Lavery from Comeragh but we didn't get the right combination and were brought back. Thomas eventually made the move but was unlucky to puncture out of it. Martin and I had slipped back a bit in the bunch when one move stuck so the two of us looked like lemons having missed the move. We were not kicking ourselves for long as it looked like slow torture out front in the strong wind.

The group hung out there for a lap or so and were brought back, it was slow into the headwind section and rapid heading back towards town with the tailwind. I basically took a lap out of the race sitting at the back of the bunch, its a bit of a gamble in case there is a split or a crash but its a chance to mentally switch off. i also did my good deed for the day by telling one of the UCD lads that his rear break was rubbing, racing is hard enough without that!

I moved back up on the last lap before we entered the finishing circuits, there was a lot of tension in the bunch heading towards Killorgain as everyone tried to be in the top 20 hitting the bend before the bridge into town, a crash was in the air but thankfully everyone stayed sensible and upright.

Aqua Blue were going a good job in controlling the bunch Robin Kelly, Keith Gator and John McCarty were doing a lot of riding while Timmy Barry, Olan Barrett and Sean Lacey were waiting in the wings, Joe Fenlon on the other hand was just willing the day to end! Damien Shaw was looking comfortable he was sticking his nose in the wind a little bit too often but the lads were doing a good job of guiding him.

Onto the finishing circuits the real racing was about to start, the first couple of laps were sedate enough. The Aqua lads who were riding one the big laps started to crack naturally enough the Dutch riders started to throw riders up the road, one of these moves stuck with 2nd,3rd and 4th on GC there with Timmy Barry babysitting them. This naturally enough was a serious problem for the yellow jersey, there was shades of last year when Ryan Sherlock missed 2nd place on GC going up the road.

Keith Gator was doing an epic ride by still chasing Olan and Sean were also getting stuck in, at first the gap hung around 20 second and looked to be under control but very quickly it blew out to 50 seconds. Shaw was loosing the yellow jersey as so many had done before on the finishing laps. The Dutch riders who were still in the bunch  were really starting to throw there weight around in an attempt to disrupt the chase, if a rider was riding on the front they would leave his wheel go so he would have to sit up and wait for his teammates to get back up to him.

A few of the Irish riders started to get involved in the chase, a couple of the cycleways lads got involved Con Collis and Mark Nugent both did big turns. I also did a couple as I didn't want to see the jersey going overseas especially the way the Dutch were conducting themselves. I was doing one turn into the bottom of the hill up to the finish line, I was on the right hand side of the road getting ready to cut the apex of the corner when one of the Dutch riders dived underneath me and basically went straight on trying to force me off the road onto the footpath. Leaving a wheel go is one thing but dangerous riding is another thing, everyone has to go to work in the morning.

What I didn't called the Dutchie does not bear repeating but if they were happy winning the race like that leave them off. Onto the last lap and it was obvious it was going to be touch and go, Timmy dropped out of the break to ride on the front of the bunch, I was about 20 back and riding towards the front of the bunch gave Shaw a shout to jump on my wheel to move up but he didn't budge he looked like a guy who was on his last legs or simply didn't realise he was loosing the race. I did one more turn and was drifting back down the bunch the Dutch yet again were trying to block the road Shaw was still about 20 back and was getting screamed at by Sean Lacey to move up. He eventually did and manged to hang onto the jersey by only 4 seconds. He certainly had his teammates worried, I am glad he won is as he was the strongest rider in the race and I would not like to have seen him loose it to the Dutchies especially the way they rode. Before people complain that the Irish were riding together all the Dutch were doing the same despite the colour of their jersey!!

That wrapped up Ras Mumhan for 2014, I had achieved my first objective of finishing as the last two editions I had ended up in the ambulance! I finished up in 31st nothing great but happy enough with how I was going. A big word of thanks to the organisers and all involved in the race, we basically had closed roads for the four days which was exceptional. Also a big thanks to our support crew of Theo and our DS Paul. Thanks to everyone for reading also, I hope to do the same during the Ras.