Today was one of those days that will live long in the memory and not for good reasons. The weather has being fairly brutal all year long but today took the biscuit. We were greeted in Waterville with rain howling wind and freezing temperatures. Most of the bunch lined up in rain capes with shallow section wheels as you could easily be blown away today with deep section rims.
We got drenched on the start line the majority of the riders were shivering waiting for the start, we were neutralised for the first 3km and once the flag was dropped the racing started in earnest with a few riders taking off straight away the bunch was in no mood to leave them go and the first line out of the day developed. I didn't have a great start as my legs were dead from the cold I passed my team make Mike Lucy who's breaks were rubbing....must love making things hard on himself!!! The first 10k the bunch kept the screw turned we hit a small climb and a few more riders left the bunch, I was about 20th over the climb and it was obvious they race was going to break apart very soon, a few riders were loosing there nerve on the descent and backing off in the corners but they had to be taken full speed to stay with the group. I had to go around a couple of riders and Eugene Moriarty and myself had to drill it to make sure we made the split. Straight away we started another climb, the second group were visible just behind us but majority of riders in the race with good legs had made the first group and it was game over for those behind.
About 40 riders were in the front group attacks were coming and going thick and fast, there was a number of serious guttering sessions until after Cahersiveen where it settled down a bit. Two riders had slipped away up the road Sean Lacey Paidi O Brien Ryan Mullen and a Dutch guy slipped out of the bunch in an attempt to get across it was not the wisest move in the world as we were into a headwind, I was on the small ring on a flat road riding hard and only doing 30kph that's how strong the wind was. We got brought back and the two guys out front were left off there were in for a hard slog. The group really slowed for a while especially on the next descent as the yellow jerseys team were riding on the front into the headwind. Lots of riders were complaining about the cold as they were frozen through. I had a winter base layer jersey gillet and rain cape and was still frozen. Other hard nuts like Keith Gator was riding in a pair of short and no over shoes!!!
We swung right passing by Waterville and headed in the direction of Casheriveen again and "enjoyed" a roaring tailwind I am sure some guys enjoyed it I spent the time hitting my leaver convinced I could not be in the 11 but I was and nearly getting spun out. We hit a left turn to head for Valentia and this is where our group exploded, I had relaxed a bit too much and was towards the back of the group I thought there was no need to panic as everyone who had survived the first two hours of racing surely had good legs and was well able to ride in the wind. This was not the case as guys started leaving wheels go, I skipped around a few but didn't have the legs to close the gap, I swung to the left hand side of the road to form another echelon in the hope we could make it back but it was no good the firepower was not there and we could only watch as the front group dragged themselves away from us.
We got organised and rode relatively ok I though there might be a small stall up front coming off the island and we might get back on through the cars but it was not to be. The next two hours were basically spent riding up and over at a steady pace, the rest of the time was spent trying to get food out of pockets as fingers were fairly useless with the cold at this stage. It wasn't the coldest day I have ever put down on the bike but it was certainly up there. The finish line was a welcome sight we had lost 16 min but no one really cared we just wanted to get out of wet gear, i took my gear bag into the lobby to get change, there were riders all over the place and very few looked in a good condition. As I said at the start it will live long in the memory.
Congrats to Paidi on grabbing the win and Damien Shaw on doing a great ride to get across to the break and put himself in yellow, also great to see a number of the Irish under 23 team up there in the mix. Congrats to everyone on finishing today, nearly 30 riders bailed today which speaks volumes for how hard the stage was. Hopefully tomorrow will be a more controlled affair, I will be looking for a day pass from the bunch hopefully I will be able to get one.