Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ras Stg 8

The final stage had a more relaxed feel to it than the previous stages as if you had got through Saturday’s stage in the Wicklow mountains the odds were fairly good of making the finish in Skerries. The stage started at 12 which was an hour later than normal, grand for the Jackinees but not so good for those with long journeys home. We were blessed for the 8th day with beautiful weather, the Ras is obviously the ideal event to ride in May the Tour of California is too warm the Giro is too wet and the Tour of Belgium …..well it’s in Belgium.
We were warned before the start that some village idiot had thrown lots of stones on the corners around the Naul; as if we didn’t have enough to worry about. From the start in Nass we were on a dual carriageway for a few miles when a number attempts were made to get the day pass from the bunch, Mick Fitz was in the first one but no joy Sean Lacey followed suit and looked like they would stick but no joy, Colin Robinson and myself tried but barely got off the front of the bunch. Eventually two guys got away and a pee pee stop was called (the first of the week) hence an out breaking of joy in the bunch a nice day a stall and a tailwind suddenly the world was a nice place again. Of course this didn’t last long and we were backing doing 55kph before long. I was floating around the back of the bunch the riders left in the race obviously had a decent set of legs on them so there was little chance of someone letting a wheel go and the bunch splitting. There is always a chance of getting caught up behind a crash but I was willing to take the chance.
Olan Barrett was unfortunately taken down and did a bit of damage to himself cutting a nice lump out of his knee and elbow but as he said himself it looked worse than it was. The roads were constantly changing direction so we couldn’t relax much but fortunately as we were near the capital the road surfaces were getting a bit better. I was chatting to Sam at this stage I told him that he was going to win (call me a genius) he said he hoped so and that he was feeling better as he had being sick the previous few days. At this stage Simon Ryan was doing the county riders proud by being in the break of the day.
A short while later Sam punctured and I saw Ronan McLoughlian going back for him I knew that this would be a taxi back to the front of the bunch when they came past a few minutes later. People underestimate how good a rider Ronan is he really does a heap of work for his teammates and has become a really good pro over the years. After availing of the An Post taxi back towards the front of the bunch I started to switch on a bit more, the legs were feeling good and I was hopeful of sticking into the front group over the finish circuit. The speed was starting to ramp up as we hit Skerries, through the finish line for the first time we were greeted by a large crowd as always in Skerries. I had lost a good few positions on the descent into town as lads were flying down the descent and I was eager to finish the race with all my skin intact. Along the coast heading for the climb the bunch was in one long line, I was getting worried as I was behind a few lads who were visibly suffering in the lineout and were sure to pop once we hit the climb. I made a big effort as we approached the bridge at the bottom to move up. Once onto the climb the familiar feeling of lactic acid spread up to my ears but I knew it was a two minute effort and I would be safe for another lap. Riders were going pop left right and centre, we debated before the start would Fitzy get over the climb if he did the finish would really suit him as it suits those who have no regard for their own personal safety!! Three quarters of the way up we got our answer when he blew, over the top we were in one long line but having made the split. The front group was down to about 60 riders, the hammer stayed down but a good group of lads managed to get back onto the descent into town including Fitzy; perhaps it was still on for a county rider to contest the gallop? Over the line for the last time with the bell ringing we knew that there was only one big effort left and the ras was over. Along the coast and it was lined out again but I was better positioned this time hitting the climb, unfortunately the first thing I hit on the climb was hitting John McCarthy a shoulder as there was a crash going under the bridge. About 5 or 6 lads came down, I didn’t come down but came to a standstill, this crash of course split the group, and the effort to get going again killed the legs. Up the steepest part of the climb I was going around riders and telling myself to stay in the big ring or it was game over. Once the climb flattened out I was in a group of about 12 dangling off the back of another 30 riders or so, we had to do a few huge turns across the top to get back up to this group. The hammer was also going down in this group as it had split ahead and we were chasing the first 20 or so riders. Down the descent into Skerries it looked like we were going to catch the front group, I at this stage was just happy to be where I was, through the last few corners and the last few efforts were made and before I knew it we had crossed the line and Ras 2013 was over.
I was delighted to hear Sam had won the stage (but it was no surprise as I told him two hours previously it would happen!!!) Martin for once rode a stage with no mechanicals (he has had more mechanicals than hot dinners this week) and finished in the same group as me, Mick after his failed breakaway attempt early in the stage rode at the back of the bunch for the day and came in in a group a couple of minutes down.
Its strange finishing as it’s a mixture of relief and a bit of disappointment that it’s all over. I got a nice surprise as Mrs Dempsey showed up unexpectedly. I was also delighted to meet Brian McMahon and Deirdre McMahon father and sister to the late great Kieran McMahon who the point’s jersey in the Ras is named after. As I said previously I rode my first ras with Kieran and I always looked up to him over the years it’s hard to believe its nine years since his passing. Aqua Blue took the team prize, great to see the lads wearing Verge socks on the podium it’s great to have the brand launched with only a couple of days and already be on the Ras podium! Rodger Aiken was surely the man of the week from an Irish perspective we must all be glad he does not ride more Sunday races!
I would like to say thanks to An Post for sponsoring the event and for all the volunteers for running the race it’s a huge undertaking and we the cyclist feel truly grateful that we are allowed to compete in this great event that would not be possible without the volunteers running it. Thanks to everyone for coming out to watch as well, it was great to see large crowds on some of the climbs this week.
We finished with only 3 men but we had a great week with Conor’s stage win being the obvious highlight. Many thanks to the club for backing us again this year it’s a huge under taking for a club to have a team in the ras year after year. It would not be possible with the support of our chief sponsor Iverk Produce but more importantly it would not be possible without the people behind the team and the club, namely this week Paul Lonergan our manager, Theo English our massure and Tommy McGowan our mechanic. I would like to thank everyone for reading the blog, it was an effort some nights but to see up to 500 hits a night was very encouraging. Finally I would like to thank my better half Brid for all her support over the years we have our first baby on the way in August so this will probably be my last ras for a while but I may be back in the future for number 10. Vive le Ras