We are delighted to announce the launch of our end of season Bike Sale. We are offering savings of up to 20% on selected 2017 models from Giant, Cannondale & Liv. Stocks are limited.
It’s all done & dusted & along comes the Monday morning rain. Stage 8 was a little disappointing to be honest. I knew to be ready for the cat 2 climb as it would prove decisive, as we came along a main road towards Julianstown I knew the sharp right hand was coming, we were riding steady tempo & cars were moving through the bunch to get up to the break. Being in the front of the bunch was important for starting the climb, I was getting swamped by riders coming forward along with the cars & slipped a little down. Was still ok though.
Then we took the hard right & the cars came to a complete haul essentially splitting the bunch right at the bottom. I chased hard & did make good ground on the climb but never got across to a large group of 40 odd that pulled clear. Had I been better positioned or the cars not interfered I feel I would have been there, however it is no one’s fault but my own.
The main bunch just rode around the last 70k with no major urgency. I missed the buzz of Skerries when it is racing flat out like previous years & felt a bit deflated after the stage. However the big objective of finishing was achieved & I managed joint 49th overall, out of 195 starters I was pretty happy with that & also joint 9th county rider overall. I had no bad luck all week, which was incredible, no punctures or crashes & never even got held up massively by any crashes as in previous years.
I definitely felt stronger this year than previous years. I find the hardest part is positioning in the bunch, when the pressure is on as you approach the big climbs trying to get into that top 30/40 guys is incredibly difficult. The ability of some of the teams to line it out before the climbs even start is unreal. You are in the red, breathing through your backside & the climb hasn’t officially started, On the flat stages were the pace is high & the bunch rolls along is usually fine, unless the cross winds start battering you.
Overall we, Louth Cuchulainn, had a great week, with all 4 riders safely home. Alan Gray enhanced his legend status, not only did he organise the whole team, he also broke his finger the first stage & just taped it up, cut a hole in his gloves & soldiered on. Our support team was brilliant through out. John Wall driving the car & having the vital experience of how to pace a rider back to the loving embrace of the bunch. Ray Fedigan from The Bike Station cleaning bikes and impressively fixing bikes with the race director standing over him saying “we can’t hold the race up any longer” when one of our bikes decided to just die in the neutral zone on stage 5. Ray stepped up & got it sorted. Muireann Harte from the Physio Rooms in Dundalk was our physiotherapist, sorting out the tired legs each night & introduced a bit of dry needling into the mix, which a lot of the lads found good for recovery. She also is well on the way to getting her truckers license haven masterfully driven the massive van Gerry Cumiskey Motors loaned us for the week. Roseanna Lynch did everything, stage finished she would have a protein shake ready & risotto ready to go (cooked in the back of the van). You needed a safety pin, “Roseanna”, what room am I in “Roseanna”, is the gear washed “Roseanna”, my shoes laces are untied “Roseanna”. They spoiled the riders rotten, we suffered 4 hrs a day on the bike & spent the rest of the time eating or sleeping, they worked flat out sun up to sun down, then the night stages started. While I never got to witness these events first hand, the stories at breakfast always made for great craic, which we swore to take to our graves!
Two words, both proceeded by the word very, Fast and Wet! Awoke to overcast skies which eventually opened and never really let up. Thank you Galibier for Mistral light was perfect for the day, very wet and not massively warm.
The stage was so much faster than I expected. I thought a break would go early & JLT would ride steady tempo all day. Thats kind of what happened but it didn’t become tempo until almost the 90k mark. The first 50k was a line out on narrow roads in bad weather. Nervy to say the least.
I did well to stay out of trouble all day and knew the last 80k quite well as mg parents live in Cootehill which we passed through. Knowing the roads is a big advantage.
The last 20k was scary fast as we pulled the break back from 2min to 50secs. The route to the line was very hairy in the wet and saw a number of guys slide out on corners.
With the finish being very local to Dundalk i was looking forward to it. But as is often the case in Ireland the weather somewhat spoiled it. Everyone was cold and wet and in no mood to hang around and chat. The concert in Slane made getting to our hotel slower than usual, that alongside a town centre hotel with limited parking has made for a stressful day for our support team.
One more stage to go and it isn’t a ceremonial lap of Skerries. Going to be full gas for 130k
Two more days to go and today was another EPIC. Cat 3 climb after 17k had everyone nervous but we rode it very steady. All was good then we turned almost 180degress and boom. 180 guys lined out & crosswind hammering us. I was losing wheels and couldn’t close gaps. Short bursts of speed are not my strength. The bunch was shredded to beats within 25k.
My group kept riding steady to the mighty Glengesh. I climb alright for a guy of 75kg but i was trying to stay with a few guys of 55kg ish, I lost. The descent and next 2 climbs were brutal. I was maxed for 20k trying to close up to a group in front. I took crazg risks on every corner, prayed to every god going & just buried myself. Sweat was pumping from me and heart rate was in the red. Was a do or die effort and eventually I got on. I wasn’t at the front of the race but a respectable group.
Another climb at 90 ish km mark & action kicked off again. Digging deep into the Phil Liggit “suitcase of courage”I got into a group of 20ish and we rode steady to the finish. While we were 14mins down there was massive gaps behind us.
Am tired this evening. Our support team of Roseanna, Ray, Muireann & John are just top class. Getting off the bike is a joy as your fed, bags in hotel room etc. They even listen to our adrenaline fueled post stage rants.
Racing to Ardee tomorrow past my parents new home in Cootehill (shout out to CKR). Should be good crowds in Ardee, hopefully plenty of green from the Cuchulainn CC, undoubtedly the finest club in the country. Best of all my good lady wife Annette will be there, Sooty my dog might even make an appearance. Really looking forward to seeing them.
What a day 181km of hard riding. First 50k was ok to Letterkenny big roads and relatively comfortable (i emphasis relative). After 50k the proverbial hit the fan. We were lined out on narrow roads as we approached 2 climbs in quick succession.
The climbs were suppose to be both Cat 3, well all I can say is “cat 3 me hole”. They were brutal with the 50kg Ozzy boys storming up them. Once down the other side after some vision blurring chasing I was in the 2nd group on the road within 60sec of the front of the race along with all the leaders jerseys.
Then we just stopped riding and the buncb came back to us. Next 80k was sold riding with a lot of line outs. The heat was intense & i was begging for bottles. Also dropped an energy bar. The head wind at this stage was intense also.
30km to go I got away with 4 others, we worked & I thought the race would let us go. No such luck, wd got caught with 10k to go. I feel very frustrated with the last 2 stages, I’ve been going better than the results suggest but none of my groups stick. Still 3 days hard riding to go.
Digs tonight is very fancy, B&B above a pub. You couldn’t even fit a dead cat in our room let alone share it. They crammed 3 single beds in here, with a good inch between them.
John Fitz had a day to forget with a crash & broken forks. He fought on bravely & made it home just in time.
That was HARD, well actually it was 100km fast but relatively easy then 50k of savage hills & fast racing! The race was comfortable to Buncrana then the speed & stressed increase dramatically as everyone jockeyed for position.
The bunch was lined out over the 1st cat 3 but it was hard. The cat 2 climb the Pinch split the bunch too bits & I couldn’t quite hang with the front of the bunch. I was in a group with the yellow jersey but no one wanted to ride. The pros in the group have their job done with their leaders up the road. County riders want to conserve energy for the days ahead.
Despite this we still had the sizeable obstacle of the Mamore Gap, which was epic! It was long & so steep & sucked whatever remaining energy i had. The final 12k home on dead legs was hard. I came in about 7min down in a respectable group.
Post stage its recovery drink & Roseanna’s excellent risotto. Shower and rub from Muireann while Ray & John service the bikes. I do a bit of stretching & lie on my bed until dinner at 7ish. Staying in race HQ means the dinner will be slow as they serve 100+ cyclists. Then I read or watch Netflix before lights out at 10 to be up at 7.
I’ve found the best thing to do is get a routine going & it makes everything go that little bit easier. Tomorrow is the longest stage at 180km. Is no big climbs but a lot of exposed coast line on dead roads.
My first ever visit to Donegal’s Bundoran, which I always thought was in Kerry for some reason. Luckily geography isn’t important when bike racing just follow the wheels. I did briefly notice some cracking scenery today, which reinforced my dream of riding the Wild Atlantic Way.
Today hit very small roads from the gun & it was nervy & fast. Getting to the front is so difficult, more so the concentration required to be up there is immense. Switch off for a second & you loose 40 places. I got caught behind a bad crash today & required a 5min flat out effort to get back to the bunch. We then did 10km flat to the mat with a tailwind which almost pulled the break right back. However they weren’t caught & pace really stalled again.
Even when bunch is going easy something is always happening. Out of the blue saw a guy hit the road hard as he swerved to avoid a cats eye. I was right behind him & lucky to stay upright.
Bunch was rolling along then in last 40km it kicked off & after some really hard riding i found myself in the 3rd group on the road. Those big efforts after 100km+ are so intense. I was happy to have something to show for it.
Tired man now! Ray is changing the cassette giving me a 28 for the Mamore Gap tomorrow. Its going to be savage but being such an iconic Irish climb I’m looking forward to it. Sadistic!!
Stage 2 over & complete, 143km to the charming Mayo town of Newport. On paper it was a very straightforward stage with a few sprints, decent roads & no climbs. Essentially it was all that but side winds battered us all day. We seemed to spend a lot of the day lined out in the gutter as King Kelly would say. It finished in a bunch sprint, with me safely in their.
There will however be a big cost to this stage. It really ground you down & will leave guys tired. It never let up all day & had some really intense periods as the crosswinds split the bunch at various times. My positioning wasn’t as good as yesterday but i kept myself out of trouble.
B&B is 200m from finish line which is a godsend. Within 15mins of finishing i was wolfing down tuna risotto made by top class chefs Roseanna & Muireann. Muireann will be doing the rubs later. The Bike Station’s Ray Fedigan is working on the bikes & mine needs a little TLC after a collision with a pothole.
Everyone home safe, Alan impressively battling with a broken finger. Ray is motoring & seldom seems under pressure, while Rás debutante John is finding his feet & getting stronger.
That’s a wrap for today tomorrow we head for Donegal & the looming hills. Las Vegas in the hills of Donegal. #RAS2017
Once again I am lying in a random hotel bed, which I’ll never remember. Yes its the Ras, attempt number 4 for me. This year riding for my own club Cuchulainn Louth and proud to do so.
Unfortunately we lost our 5th man after the Tour of Ulster so thd team is Alan Gray, Ray O’Shaughnessy & our Cavan blow-in John Fitzpatrick. Backed up with a top class support team & some generous sponsors.
Today was a 146km drag race, fast with just the 1 cat 3 climb. Very nervous bunch early on especially going through the different small towns. I made a big effort to ride at the front & minimise stress. Easy strategy is just the same as 195 other guys! However for the most part I pulled it off. Last 20/30km i was tired & just wanted to get home.
Ras is faster than your standard Irish race but perhaps not as aggressive, more controlled with strong teams who know how to ride & also thats there job. The break went from 3min to 16sec in a matter of 20km. When these teams ride they get the job done!
All home safe thougn Alan crashed & broke a finger. Post stage 1 always a bit manic as everyone finds their feet. Give it a few stages & we’ll have it down to a T
This day 2 weeks ago I was in a Belfast hospital getting surgery, today I finished the Rás, Mad that. Ironically the injuries i picked up on the stage 1 crash caused significantly more problems than the Pre-Ras crash. I suffered badly after that with my ribs and various muscle injuries.
Stage 8 did have a bit of a last day of school vibe, however once the flag dropped it was game on. After the initial flurry the pace was steady to Skerries. Those laps are fast and we scorched up the Blackhills. The 3rd time up it the remains of the bunch blew to bits and my little group of 7 or 8 came in just over a min down on the stage winner. All week long i just missed the 2 – 3% to be group 1. Maybe if i hadn’t crashed on Stage1 it would have been different.
Nonetheless i finished, safely, I loved it and enjoyed the whole experience. Its a long journey from November 1st to Skerries in May. A lot of cold days on the bike, hours on the turbo and weekends away getting kickings at the races. Also it takes a few years. You need 3 plus years of solid racing, the Des, the Shay, Ras Mumhan, Ulster. It doesn’t happen in 1 season. Finally you need support, a good club, Cuchulain, a great team iTap (Johnathan, Noel, Christian you are legends) and finally a loving support group (my family, friends and amazing wife Annette). Thanks everyone, couldn’t have done it without.
Pop out to the Bike Station Wednesday evening to say hello.