Monday, June 24, 2013

National Championships Carlingford

My day at the national champs started with my alarm clock going off at stupid o clock, Gerry Hawkins was playing DS for the day and picked me up at twenty past six with the “green machine” Eoin Green already in the car. We played a bit of tetris at first trying to get two bikes, two gear bags, two sets of spare wheels and two riders into a relatively small Renault but we managed it and off we went.

Two and a half hours later coming into Carlingford we were greeted by skys that looked like they wanted to dump at lot of rain on us straight away and a howling wind, brilliant I though conditions that really suit the 58kg riders; especially those who have done next to nothing since the ras. I met pre-race favourite Philip Deignan on my warm up and congratulated him on his recent success. He told me he was reading the blog and was a huge fan and would be delighted if I gave him a mention so I hope he is happy now (all of the above may not technically be true).

Before the start I was advised to be in the front coming through the town for the first few laps as the previous day it was taking 30 seconds between the first riders in the vets race passing through and the last riders and splits were occurring on the drags leaving town. We started off with a parade lap of town and then it was straight down to business as we rocketed out the road with attacks going from the gun. I had very modest goals from the start of just finishing the race as I have had very little time on the bike since the ras due to a combination of being knackered, helping to run our sportive, getting the first orders in for Lucca Sports, my real job and being knackered. So I planned to go against my natural instincts of getting into moves on the first two laps and just sit tight and hope that my legs would come around. The champs is a very hard race to finish many times I have gone mental for the first hour and ended up blowing myself up and standing on the side of the road after two hours.

So out the back road we went on the first lap and before I knew it we were turning left onto the main road, once onto this road we were hit by a massive crosswind and everyone was guttered in the right hand gutter, this is always dangerous as you are racing flat out and when lads get tired they drop their head when there parked and oncoming cars. The organisers did a great job but one thing I would have changed was I would have stopped all cars on the main road or implemented a one way system for safety especially during the first few laps. After the main road we swung left onto the finish straight and came to a crawl as we hit the head wind. This proved to be a welcome relief but it was important to stay switched on to ensure a good position going through Carlingford. The second and third laps followed a similar pattern of flat out racing. The pros were obviously enough getting stuck in but the working lads were not afraid of having a go as well. The Aqua blue's of Robin Kelly, Keith Gator, Sean Lacey and Damien Shaw were particularly active and had obviously gotten a bit of a team talk off Timmy earlier. Conor Murphy and Thomas Martin of Eurobabies were also very active along with the DID boys and Mick Fitzgerald of Fermoy. The locals Dermot Finnegan and Brian Mcristal were also very active every lap it was noticeable that they would attack coming into the finish, cant beat putting on a show for the locals but fair play to them they had the legs for it.

I on the other hand was engaged in a game of keeping a decent position without sticking my nose in the wind, not the way I like to race but when you have a limited box of matches to use they have to be used wisely. I had a really rough lap on the 5th lap and was feeling the pinch a bit, I worked out I was riding too far up in the bunch and was following the surges a bit too much which was taking it out of the legs. So I settled a bit further back in the bunch and made sure I ate and drank. At this stage there was a group of sixteen up the road including most of the pro's but the bunch did not stall as it was still active with lots of riders trying to get up the road, the team prize is very important for Irish clubs and riders were marking each other at this stage. The Sigma Sport pairing of Mullen and Hawkins with Felix English and an An Post or two were the only names to have missed the move but most county riders knew that these riders could be there ticket to the front of the race so it was very hard for them to get out.

The racing continued like this for the next few laps with riders going out the back door of the bunch more so than the front door. After about 120k we were less than 2 minutes off the front of the bunch which shows the benefit of having a relatively handy circuit, there is nothing worse than a mega hard circuit where there are only small groups touring around after an hour of racing, its the riders that make the race and not the course. As the race progressed the crowds on the side of the road were increasing there was a great buzz going through Carlingford each lap. There was a good few Carrick Wheelers up for the weekend to support the club, they had a great start to the weekend with Hugh winning the vets the chances of me and Eoin repeating that were non existent but they provided an invaluable service by cheering us on and more importantly handing up bottles from the side of the road, this was a lot easier than heading back to the car as the bunch was constantly splitting and reforming. Its hard to quit when you have your club mates standing on the side of the road cheering you on so thanks to all. Unfortunately when I threw away one empty bottle it hit Les and Tara's brand new car and made a bit of a dent, luckily Tara did not kill me straight after the race, I saw Fr Ted try to get a dent out a car once so I might have to give that a go!

With about 5 laps to go there was about 50 riders left in the bunch, we were picking up a few riders that were coming back from the front of the race some in better condition than others. We passed Arron Buggle standing on the side of the road staring at his bike in disgust with a broken seatpost, we passed Peter Hawkins on the tarmac but he looked ok, we passed Anthony Walsh who looked in worse condition. Simon Ryan provided a bit of excitement in the bunch by decking himself, every second lap riders seemed to be going off on the left hand corner onto the finishing straight, the most entertaining was provided by Tim O Regan who attacked about a kilometer before the corner but when we came around he was running across the grass with his bike luckily he rides cross in the winter so he was good at remounting. I might mention at this stage that it was flogging rain so falling off was nearly excused. It was raining so hard I had to take my glasses off as they were steaming up, they were in my rear pocket but seeing everyone come off I did not want to do the same and land on them, I saw MOL junior and senior out for a spin with Sean Hassey so I tested Michaels reflexes by throwing my glasses at him fortunately he caught them.

With 3 laps to go the bunch split in two I was fortunately on the right side of it in a group of about 20, at this stage we also lapped a group of riders fair play to them for riding on when most went for an early shower. I was hoping that we would be nice and sensible and ride up and over into the finish but this didn't happen as the team prize was still being fought for, Sean Lacey was jumping out of his skin as he had Damien and Keith up the road and wanted to ensure the team prize by being third man home. DID were also being very active word was coming back that Keith had cracked and was on the way back so that gave them hope Phoenix also had a number of riders that were going very well. With a lap and a half to go the riders that wanted to get out got out and those left behind settled down and rode steadily into the finish we lost 4 minutes in the last 2 laps but we were happy in the knowledge that we would finish. We rode nice and steadily until 500meters to go when of course there was a gallop for 31st, Eoin and myself crossed the line in this group, this was a good ride out of Eoin considering he was an A4 little over a year ago which shows how far you can progress in this sport with hard work and dedication. There was a huge crowd at the finish which reminded me of races in Belgium or France which was great to see cycling is certainly on the up, long may it continue. Congrats to Cuchulainn on a great event and to the medal winners. Thanks to Gerry for driving the team car and all at Carrick Wheelers for their support.....anyone know a panel beater?????