The Des Hanlon certainly lived up to its classic status today 158km 2 degrees and plenty of climbing certainly ensured that. The Hanlon is the first big rendezvous of the season where the best riders from North South East and West converge. The first decision of the day was how many layers of clothes is it possible to wear and still race, I went for a short sleeved base layer short sleeved jersey arm warmers long sleeve jersey and a gillet and I was still a bit chilly I had a cape in the back pocket in case it snowed, luckily the snow held off and we only got a few flakes on high ground.
As always there was attacks from the gun this season the racing has being a little different to previous years in that it has took longer for breaks to go but today of course the break went from the line, seven brave souls set off for a bike ride in the Carlow countryside. I had no plans to get stuck in early the last two years I didn't finish the race as I raced full gas for the first lap and blew myself up. The goal today was simply to finish and get the 100 miles in the legs as that would stand to me next week in Ras Mumhan.
The first lap was fairly uneventful the gap stretched out to over a min there was a lot of attacking in the bunch but nothing could get out, the first time up Castlecomer was steady enough the Butts climb was a bit more rapid I found it hard to get comfortable as my legs were feeling the cold and felt quiet dead. Out onto the second lap the speed in the bunch was quiet high as there was a lot of racing going on with groups coming and going all day. The second time up Castlecomer it was steady enough again it was as if the bunch was keeping the break on a 2 min leash and waiting to race on the last lap. The second time up the Butts I rode a bit at the front to try and get the legs pumping a bit. A few attacks ensued and |I was huffing and puffing a bit going over the top. The bunch was still large enough at this stage, Eoin Green our A3 who finished 3rd in Carrick last week was looking comfortable enough in his first A1/2 race since getting up graded, Martin was also climbing well and staying out of trouble as we headed out on the last lap.
Heading down the descent into Castlecomer the bunch was treated to a bit of stupid riding, one of the riders from a well known club in Leinster decided to attack on the right hand side of the road heading into a right hand bend....and of course there was a car coming, what going to happen some day is the driver of the car is going to overreact and swing across the road into the bunch. This genius of a rider also did the same thing on the way into the finish, so come on lads everyone wants to finish safely and go home to there families after the race. And attacking downhill is rarely a good tactical move at the best of times
Last time up Castlecomer there was a more serious push and I was sitting in the top ten comfortably enough, a biggish group were sitting ahead of us and got pulled back, at this stage Conor Murphy got out and set about closing the 50 second gap to the 3 remaining riders up front. I tried to get out once going across the top but Timmy Barry was playing the team card perfectly for Aqua Blue and closing all gaps. Peter Hawkins and Greg Swinand were doing a lot of riding all day to keep tabs on the front group, at this stage it looked like the three out front may come back as surely they were suffering from having spent 80+miles out front but Conor Murphy did a great ride to get across to them and dragged them clear again.
On the descent to the butts my bike felt like it was handling a bit weird but I did pay too much attention to it, I hit the climb in the top five to give myself as much sliding room as possible in case the lights went out. On the early stages of the climb I figured out why the handling was a bit weird I had a slow flat on my front tub, "a%^e" was one of the many things I was thinking if I stopped for a change there would be no way back but it seemed to be going down slowly so I hoped for the best, my legs were also slowly going down as we went further up the climb I was slipping towards the rear of the group and went out the back shortly before the top. I was not far out and rode up to a 8 man group everyone in the group fully committed and rode full gas on the descent doing stupidly hard turns. We had a right hand turn and the bottom and a 10k run into Carlow at this stage we were only 10 seconds off the back of the group we hit the corner full gas and rode really hard up the next drag, the group in front obliged us by stalling a bit as Hawkins and a few other slipped away so we got back on.
This was real Ras stuff, a group of about 25 knocking seven shades of s*&t out of each other trying to get away. I was seeing stars at this stage but happy to be in the hunt for a result of some sort. My front tub was holding up ok I tried to slip away with a couple of k to go but the legs were not obliging, next thing we knew we were in the last km and the sprint was upon us, I normally don't get stuck into a sprint but gave this one a go as its the Hanlon and the end of an epic day. Unsurprisingly i didn't lash everyone in the gallop but i was happy to have achieved my goal of getting around and managing to get stuck in on the last lap. Martin also finished in the group with me and Eoin did exceptionally well for his first race at this level by finishing in the next group.
Roll on Ras Mumhan.