I lost the first battle of stage 1 to my teammate Martin he got into the B&B room first and claimed the double bed...crap bad start need to be thinking ahead more!!! 193 riders signed on for stage one, mental numbers for the roads we would be racing on, there was only one way to deal with a bunch that size and that was to stay at the front, easier said than done as everyone has the same idea and there is no guarantee that riding at the front will keep you out of crashes as i found out last year. Iverk Produce Carrick wheelers had Martin, Mike Lucey and myself lining out.
I had a good chat with my old Murphy & Gunne teammate Derek Burke on the start line, Derek is making a come back after "resting" for a few years, Ras Mumhan is a though one to face a few weeks into his comeback but the hard miles have to be done. Derek rode his fist international race with us at the Giro Del Capo in South Africa back in the day I still laugh at the bewildered look on his face after the stages down there at some of the things he saw happening in the pro bunch. The day we rode past a truckers stop in a forest that ladies of the night frequented was the best of all especially as said ladies flashed the peleton as we rode past ....but that's a story for another day.
The stage today was a repeat of last years stage 1, out to Killarney we had a fairly strong headwind so that made life in the bunch safe enough, last year we had a tailwind and we flew out the road and lots of nerves were frayed by the time we got to Killarney. Skirting around Killarney everyone knows that you need to be near the front of the bunch for the small climb out of town as that leads into the small "roads". I moved up along the bunch on the climb and was in the first 20 hitting the small roads, happy days everything going to plan. A few riders slipped off the front and I decided to go across to them, half way across I looked around and Ryan Mullen was coming across happy days I though he will pull me across. He did a turn and flicked the elbow to come around him, at this stage I was really regretting my decision to stick my nose out in the wind as I had lactic coming out my ears. I didn't have the energy to tell him that a turn out of me was not optional, he figured it out fairly quickly and pulled me across. No sooner had we got there than everyone ran out of legs and the bunch dragged us back.
I spent the next 30 minutes recovering and giving out to myself for listening to my head instead of my legs. The next section of small roads to the main climb of the day was handy enough we hit crosswinds at one stage and straight away riders were leaving the wheels go. The first day of a stage race is always risky as guys who don't have the legs to be in the top 30-40 of the bunch are as they are fresh but once the pressure comes on they leave gaps open and that's how splits occur, it shows how important it is to maintain position as races are not won on the first day but they can be lost.
Over the climb we stayed together and sped down to Castleisland, after Castleisland we were to go back onto small roads for about 15k so positioning was important. There was 8 riders away that had a gradually increasing gap that was at about a minute at this stage. One of the Dutch teams started riding coming out of Castleisland, I thought that would be curtains for the break but they didn't last long on the front. Attacks were starting to come out of the bunch but nothing was sticking and the stop start nature of the race meant that the breaks lead was stretching up towards 2 min.
With just under 20k to go a group slipped out of the bunch I saw Sean Lacey sitting on the back of it and flicked across to it handily enough. Luckily the bunch stalled behind so we put the heads down and were gone. Barry Towhig was there along with a guy from UCD a couple of Dutch lads and a few British lads. Lacey was not riding as he had men up the road which was fair enough but the UCD guy also wouldn't ride as he had a man up the road, this turned out to be a load of bull but he didn't stop him sitting on, we didn't know he hadn't a man up the road till after the finish, he did a few turns but we could have done with him riding through all the way to the finish. The group was fairly unorganised but we pulled the breaks advantage back to a min and we had a min on the bunch going through Milltown.
I was riding as hard as possible ensuring not to miss turns it didn't look pretty but it was a good chance to gain a bit of time, Barry was also riding well and one Dutch guy and one English guy in particular were riding well. The other started to mess around a lot in the last couple of km as they were getting ready for the honour of sprinting for 9th!! Strange carry on, on day 1 of a stage race when every second counts. We caught poor Simon Ryan who got shelled from the front group in the last kilometer. Lacey jumped us to try and steal a few seconds but the group rode up to him, we hit the last corner and started the sprint for the finish, I was seeing stars at this stage and was only interested in not loosing the wheel in front of me! I crossed the line at the back of the group happy to have gained a small bit of time, tomorrow the gaps will be measured in minutes and not seconds but its nice to have a decent start to a race.
My partners in crime Martin and Mike had uneventful days and finish in the bunch.