Race preparations as normal started the night before, I have a regime I do of trying to find all my gear before eventually giving in and asking Nicola for help to locate such and such only to be told its right there!
After finding everything I lay it all out in 2 piles, good weather gear and bad weather gear but always opting for the real man gear (good weather gear no matter what weather) I would soon regret this as mitts are not a good choice in hailstones 😉
Next I turn to the bike, which has already been cleaned as I do after every spin. Non the less I need to double check it and give it the once over once again.
A new thing I have added to my routine is pinning my race numbers to my jersey the night before. Usually I would leave it till just before warm up but it has become a health and safety concern….. Me using safety pins after 3-4 coffee’s. As I pinned on my still shiny A3 white race numbers I hoped it would be for the last time, with me needing only 2 points to upgrade to A2.
Conditions were some of the worst I’ve seen, strong winds, heavy rain and some hailstones thrown in for good measure! We had almost 100k to race in these conditions and within 5k I could barely feel my finger tips. We had 4 laps to contend with which meant I got to see the finish line a few times and got to watch how others negotiated through the chicane located 600 meters before the finish line, it can be very useful, you get to see who’s nervous, who’s confident and who’s just dangerous. The finish line was located on the top of a 400m drag but leveled out in the last 50m, this meant it was going to be a hard finish with the climbers having a good chance of taking a win over a pure sprinter.
The attacks came fast and hard in the first 10k but with an eager bunch speeds were kept high. On the end of the first lap I found myself between a group of about 8 and the main bunch. I pushed hard over the finish line and made contact with the group up ahead. We managed to gain a small gap very quickly down to everyone committing to the break and working straight away. The group grew in size a small bit to about 12 riders with only a few recognisable faces, one been strong man Paul Dunne from Ballina’s Fitscience team. Paul went on to take the KOH on lap 3, commenting its not good when the heaviest takes the KOH!! We rode consistently up and over through the lumpy back part of the course and pushed hard on the tail wind section gaining a maximum of 1min 30sec. I sometimes think riders are given smaller time gaps so they work harder….
On the last lap, riders were starting to feel the pain of being in the break from 25k and legs were getting heavy including my own. I was starting to think I had done too much work but I was thoughtful that I only needed 2 points to upgrade my license so I was more invested to the break staying away than I was about overall victory. With roughly 15k to go I noticed Castlebar rider Dave Walshe was after bridging the gap with 1 other rider, a true sign of the form he’s in. A few attacks came on the drags but the bunch were quick to react.
As we turned onto the Westport road for the final time a Mego Racing rider clipped off the front and the bunch stalled and looked at each other. He gained a nice gap very quickly and went onto take the win with a solo effort for 5k. We soon realised that the rest of the breakaway were going to be fighting it out for the minor placings.
Paul Dunne and another rider attacked off the front within the final 2k, I was sitting a few riders back and no one re acted. I came up the inside and sprinted as hard as I could but just not hard enough as I brought 2 other riders with me.
I entered the chicane for the last time in 4th position just behind a Longford rider who had been very strong in the break. We could hear the sound of bikes hitting tarmac behind us but there was nothing we could do.
500 meters to go a bus decided to cross the road in front of us, I shouted to keep going realising it would quickly be out of our way. Sean O’Conner from Galway Bay lead out the sprint and went at the start of the drag, 400 meters to go or just after the bus pulled out of the way! The rider I was sitting behind couldn’t react quick enough loosing a couple of bike lengths so I had to go around him starting my sprint earlier than I’d have preferred. I had a good bit of ground to make up at this stage but with only 2 riders in front I pushed on even though my legs were shouting they had enough. I could see the rider just in front was starting to loose his momentum and I was starting to close the gap on him. I sat back down in the saddle and drove as hard as I could getting past the rider in front of me with only a few meters to go, taking 3rd overall.
3rd place gives me 6 points bringing my total to 19 and with 15 being needed to upgrade to A2 it meant it was my last time pinning a white A3 number to my Covey jersey.
My attention now turns to recovery and prepping of survival mode for my debut in Ras Mumhan 4 day stage race.
Big thanks to all the organisers and marshals. A great race on a great lumpy and technical circuit.
It could be a while before I have another race report to write 🙂
Race report by Patjoe O’Connell