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!