Sunday, May 27, 2012

2012 AnPost Ras Stage 8

The final video blog from the eight days of racing.

Many thanks to the Iverk Produce/Carrick Wheelers team and management for taking me on over the week. A great bunch of guys on and off the bike and I had a fabulous time - THANKS!

Also, thank you to all involved in putting together and running the race - I would guess that for the complete peloton this will be a highlight of the year. Thanks to all the spectators and supporters on the route for making us feel like stars and finally to all the riders for making the race.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

2012 AnPost Ras Stage 7

A day in the sunshine with some not so nice crashes at the end.

Friday, May 25, 2012

2012 AnPost Ras Stage 6

Hot hot hot!!! Came close to a great result, but fell 150m short. Don't think there were many riders anywhere in the peloton that were feeling good by the end - a hard hard day.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

2012 AnPost Race Stage 5

Mountains, yeah - well, small ones (longest climb was 7:36 - what I would give for some 20 minute+ climbs), but mountains all the same!

Thanks a million to the whole team for keeping me fed and watered during the day.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

2012 AnPost Ras Stage 4

Stage from Westport to Bundoran. Fast, lineouts and cross winds.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

2012 AnPost Ras Stage 3

Speed, nerves and crashes - finished in the front group of 55.

46kmph, mostly on small roads!

Monday, May 21, 2012

2012 AnPost Ras Stage 2 report

Safely in today in the front group. 44.5kmph on rough Irish rolling roads, so pretty quick!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

2012 AnPost Ras Stage 1

Stage 1 of the 2012 AnPost Ras - fast fast fast!

46.1 kmph on Irish rough roads! Finished safely in the peloton.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

2012 Tour of Ulster

This was the third year I have ridden the Tour of Ulster – each year I go into it with no expectations, no goals other then get great pre Ras training in a super well organized and safe race. Usually there are three long tough stages with a short time trial on the second day – this year was similar although the second stage was shorter than usual.

With family in the area, it is also an opportunity to spend time with them – racing all over the world, almost every weekend of the year for the last few years, the amount of family get-togethers I have had to miss is huge – this is always a chance to rectify that a little.

Stage 1 – 142km rolling roads

The race started pretty fast (actually, I attacked at the drop of the flag – sometimes that works) but was still together after the first 20 kilometers. We had been riding fast for a while though and coming up to a town where the race split last year, I knew it was a good time to make things happen. Coming up through the town's main street drag, I rode full out, 40 seconds at about 700W splitting 25 riders off the front of the peloton – as my legs started to clog up, some Node 4 guys (UK UCI team) came through and kept it going. We all rode well together to establish the break and that was it for the day.

The rolling roads and pace made our break's numbers drop from around 25 to eleven with eight kilometers to go. Three teams with three riders and then myself, Greg Swinard and Anthony Walsh. It was going to be tough for us individuals – attack, attack, attack – all of us tried – eventually a rider from each of the teams got clear and the others looked at the 3 individuals to chase. We did, but only got within seven seconds of the leaders, who fought it out for the stage victory. I finished 7th @ 10 seconds. 

Stage 2 – 110km flat

With Eurocycle's Adam Armstrong in yellow, his team rode to control the race. There were obviously attacks but the team rode well and with 15km to go it was still together. Then a dangerous move with three (of the ten) guys high on GC in it got away. Adam rode his legs off chasing and in the last ten kilometers, I was up there too. The gap was kept to a minute – not great, but not an end to the GC.

Stage 3 – 3.3km Time Trial

Unfortunately my new Time Trial bike hadn't arrived in time so it was the road bike with clip-ons for this one (It is a Venge though – so pretty fast anyway). Basically, straight down a main road into a headwind, a fast corner onto a parallel sheltered road back up to the start. It was a cool little course for such a short TT. My warmup was good and my race reasonably well paced – I finished 6th @ 6 seconds. First guy on a road bike – I'm thinking the Shiv (my new TT bike) would have been worth 6-10 seconds – next time.

Stage 4 – 124km rolling circuit

4 celcius, pouring rain, grim – but from when I woke up in the morning I felt great. I mentioned in the Ras Mumhan report that I like racing in terrible conditions – as long as I have the right clothing (I'm not so happy about training in it though).

Enjoying the crap weather - Photo from Cycling Ulster
With the yellow jersey, Matt Higgins of the UK team Node 4 Giordana, having only 3 riders left on his team (Philip Lavery had to pull out midway through the first stage due to sickness) – it was always going to be a struggle for their team. Other GC hopefuls started the attacks from the gun but Node 4 looked to have things under control. 20 kilometers in, on a twisty stretch of road a big group rolled off the front – crap – I was midway in the peloton. Do or die, I had to be there – I made a big effort and bridged solo across. Soon afterwards, Conor Murphy and Greg Swindard attacked out of the break - 2nd and 3rd on GC. I attacked and dangled solo off the back of them. Soon I was joined by Conor Mc Allister and Javan Nulty. We were sitting around 20-40 seconds off the lead duo but continued riding tempo. Eventually, four others joined up with us including Adam Armstrong, the yellow jersey and John O'Shea. Matt Higgins had no teammates with him – didn't look good for him. The group of 8 rode tempo with Matt doing most of the work – I had teammate John O'Shea for company, which was great. With 30 kilometers to go, Conor and Greg, who were off from the guts of 80 kilometers, were brought back – within a few seconds of that, I attacked and instantly got a gap – quickly I was joined by Adam Armstrong. He was sitting 15 seconds further up in GC than me and riding strong all weekend. We rode hard and within seven kilometers had a minute gap on the yellow jersey group. When I was in Adams draft, I say he was either in the 11 or 12 cog - trucking! We continued to ride and the gap quickly grew. Adam rode all of the climbs full gas (only very short climbs 30-45 seconds on the course) to show me that he wasn't going to be dropped.

Winning the stage - 2nd overall
As we raced into the center of Dungannon, I claimed the sprint and second overall with Adam winning GC. We pulled out 5:30 on the yellow jersey group – crazy. Teammate, John O'Shea claimed 4th and 1st A2 rider overall.

5 wins, 2nd, 6th and a 7th in 9 days – form is coming along well.

I would just like to thank the race committee, moto riders, marshals, commissaires, spectators, sponsors etc... Thanks for putting together and being part of such a great event. To the racers for making the race. As always, to my and my team's road related sponsors – Cycleways and Zipvit (and Lightweight too) – best equipment, best nutrition – thanks. Finally, a huge thanks to Stewart Carr for working with the Iverk Produce team over the weekend – you were a godsend – everything ran smoothly when you were involved – thanks!

Report available on Sticky Bottle and Cycling Ulster.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

2012 Connemara Bogweek 2 Day

I was looking through the racing calendar and the Bog Week 2 day popped out at me. There were two (more) local tough races (both under 100km though) available but three stages over two days, including a time trial in an area of Ireland that I did not know had me sold. All my focus is on the AnPost Ras in a few weeks so I wanted hard racing – the closer races would have had a more competitive field but going to a stage race, as a marked man and with no teammates – I knew the racing would be very tough for me in Connemara – it didn't disappoint.

Stage 1 – 80km rolling

The first stage started at 2pm so shortly after 8am I left Dublin for the 3.5 hour drive over to Tullycross, Galway. As I got closer to the venue, driving became more difficult – not due to the quality of the roads or traffic but due to the stunning nature around me - I had to stop to admire. As I mentioned, I had not been here before so everything was new to me. Ireland really does have a LOT to offer.

The unusual thing about the Bog Week 2 day stage race is that is ran as a handicapped race. Basically, the A1, A2 and A3 riders race together but the A3 riders get a large handicap to give them a fighting chance. So at 2pm, the A3 riders set off while the A1/A2 folks waited for 3.5 minutes.
Our course for the day was 2.5 laps of a rolling circuit, with a total distance of 80km. There were no real climbs but lots of wind and some heavy bumpy roads (and even some bulls on the road that we very carefully had to navigate around). Our group combined well for the first lap, but the second lap was attack after attack – at times I wasn't so sure we would actually catch the A3 group at all. With about 9km left to race, I finally escaped the A1/A2 group and rode solo across to a freshly splintered A3 group. When I caught them I rode straight through them and continued to the line to claim my first win of the weekend. I was glad to see a few of the A3 riders stayed ahead of the combined A1/A2 field.

Stage 2 – 5km TT – rolling/bumpy/windy

Again, the location for the TT was stunning, a rolling course, bumpy roads and a huge headwind made it tough going for everyone but I have had a good focus on my TT skills these last few months and I was able to claim the win by 30 seconds. It had been a long long time since I last raced my TT bike – I missed it, I really do like time trials...

Stage 3 – 85km rollling

As I mentioned earlier, the A3 riders get a handicap over the A1/A2 group. What makes it peculiar is I'm now in the leaders yellow jersey, but I started 3.5 minutes behind the person who is sitting 3rd on GC, just 1 minute behind me. He is now the virtual yellow by 2.5 minutes and I have not even pushed my pedals! I have no teammates so I had a few choices... Before I started the stage, I was prepared to throw it away if no one would ride, I would not pull a peloton around for 85 windy kilometers... Over the first 10km our work rate was patchy, so the A3 group actually extended their lead to 4 minutes. So I decided to go into attack mode – basically, the last 70km I was mostly off the front, either by myself or with one or two others. With 25km to go, a move stuck - Padraig Marrey and I made it across to the A3 group. They rode with us for a few kilometers but on the final KOM, they dropped off the pace and we rode a two man TT to the finish. I had a little more left in the legs at the end and claimed my third win of the weekend.
Winning the final stage in the yellow jersey - photo Michelle McCarron
The weekend of racing was fun. The race was through some of Ireland's most beautiful landscapes, the organization was spot on and the people in the area (restaurants/accommodation  etc...) were incredibly friendly. This is a relatively new race and I would really like to see it grow over the next few years.