Sunshine greeted us at breakfast time this morning, great way to lift the moral Kerry must be the nicest county in Ireland when the sun is shining, the drive to Kenmare was spent taking in the views. I was greeted with a nice surprise at sign on when I was given a nice blue jersey as leading A2, its not one of the big jerseys but any day you get to wear a leaders jersey is nice as those days are few and far between. Despite the sunshine it was still freezing so it was leg warmers for another day. Before this season I have never raced in legwarmers and this year every race I have rode has being in leg warmers!
We were faced with the climb of the Caha pass only a few miles into the stage, it was a steady enough climb with no steep bit and we cruised over it relatively intact. I later heard we were hitting 70kph on the descent, this didn't stop a few lads rooting around in there pockets for food on the descent. They must think they are pros in the Giro!! On Kerry's roads you keep your two hands on the bars on a descent as the roads are rough and are built on bogs so there is lots of bumps on the surface, very easy to loose control with only one hand on the bars.
Turning right at the bottom of the descent we headed along the coast road a few riders slipped away it was handy enough in the bunch despite the up and down nature of the road. On one of the little descents there was a pile up, I saw it happening and scrubbed off as much speed as possible but it was not enough as I landed in it, I actually didn't hit the road I landed on a nice big Dutchie, I got a nice bang from behind but I was up and going in a blink of an eye. My team mate Mike Lucey was held up in the crash and did a great job in pacing me back on. I later heard that the crash was caused by a guy loosing his bottles when he hit a pothole one of the bottles rolled along the ground hit of another guys wheel and this flicked the bottle up in the air and hit the lad behind him in the face and he hit the deck.....u couldn't make it up.
The chase didn't last long we rounded a corner and were greeted with a horrible sight of a big skid mark on the road and a motor bike lying on its side after hitting a bridge on a 90 degree bend, the driver was flat on his back being tended to by some of the other marshals. This knocked the wind out of the bunch no one likes to see this I hope he makes a full recovery.
Out through Castletownbear we went up a small climb at a rapid rate of knots after this we hit a small descent with a series of really fast bends a few guys hit the deck on this and unfortunately Simon Ryan was out of the race. There was a split in the bunch after this as we hit a crosswind section I was being a lazy bugger sitting down the bunch and was caught out but fortunately it came back together. Tension was building in the bunch as we were approaching the main difficulty of the day the Healy Pass. At this stage Timmy Barry made his escape from the bunch not to be seen again till we crossed the finish line.
I was in the top 5 starting the climb, perfect position in case there was fireworks early on, in the end we rode the first bit of the climb and a good tempo I was on Paidi O Brien's wheel but had to get off it as there was no shelter...no point the two smallest guys in the race following each other around! I found good shelter behind a few dutchies and was climbing in the top 15 feeling very comfortable and happy with myself. Turning a bend near the top the screw was turned and I didn't have an answer to it I slipped back a bit but didn't panic as the top was in sight. It split a small bit going over the steep bit at the top but there was only about 20 seconds in it so I knew if we dive bombed a few corners we would make it back. We took the descent full gas and made it back on just at the bottom.
We were now down to a group of about forty heading back towards Glengarriff, my legs were not feeling great at this stage I was getting a few twinges of cramp down the front of my legs which was strange as if I ever cramp its my hamstrings. I minded myself on the coast road and stretched as much as possible I thought I had got through my bad patch. At this stage Martin took his leave of our group and did a great ride to go across to the break. Once we hit the climb I immediately cramped up both legs and went straight out the back, shit I thought this is bad as I could barely turn the pedals around, it was really strange as I was not riding at threshold, thinking about it later I think it was due to the slap I got in the crash. After a min or so it cleared and I was able to get going again, I started riding back up through the cars, I picked off a few lads that went south the group had split in two I was in the cars behind the second group and making progress when they called the cars up to the front group. This gave me a bit of open road to ride through. 400 meters from the top of the climb I had made it up to the last car but cracked a bit over the top and lost the cars, this was to prove decisive as if i had stayed there I would have made it back but it was not to be. I rode the last 20k with 4 other lads and we lost 2 min to the group in front, disappointing as I was hoping for better but I have to look at the positive I could have being at the bottom of the pile up!!! We had one genius in our group he attacked us 5k from the finish and rode 5 seconds ahead of us all the way to the finish...cant wait to catch up with him tomorrow.
Today was a real ras stage and will surely become a classic stage in the future, Martin had a great ride to finish 5th, Timmy had a great ride to win after sitting on as he was defending yellow!!! I must say today's stages was really well organised there was next to zero cars on the road we basically had closed roads, fair play to the organisers it was excellently run.