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.