May 22, 2008
well, the 2008 Rás is definitely on the way and it has been a tough couple of days. Plenty of attacking, plenty of covering moves and plenty of time on the front, trying to keep things together and in check for the team – and not a lot to show for it has left its mark on me. After feeling great in The Netherlands the two previous weeks I was hoping to be feeling better than I am. But alas, that is not the case. Still four days to go, though, and anything can happen in this race.
Stage 2 Ballinamore – Claremorris 166km
This stage was marked by a number of attacks in the first two hours of racing with all of us playing our part. However, a group just seemed to fluff of the front with 50 kilometres remaining. Luckily, we had Kieren Page in it, so I just began to cover things again. All the major teams were represented and the gap began to increase, so Derek and I began to set tempo on the front with 40 kilometres remaining to prevent things getting out of hand. 10 kilometres to go Ciarán and Dave took over and I hung in there til the finish. The break was back to one minute on the line and Kieren was in the top 10 – on the day after missing out in the splits on the run into Claremorris.
Great night had in Cong, which was just down the road and a big thanks to Mary, Jill, Damien, Aileen for putting on a fine feed. We would have been the best fed team on the tour that night anyway.
Stage 3 Claremorris – Lisdonnvara 133km
Leaving Co. Mayo today and heading through Galway and down to Lisdonvarna on the coast in County Clare. A shorter day today but by no means any easier. After doing a lot of work for little reward over the last two days it was decided to sit back a bit more in the first two hours and feed of some of the other teams a bit more. Worked out a little bit better for the team, but still a bit of a way to go.
Ciarán and Derek were up the road when Dave punctured with 50 kilometres remaining. Stopped with him to give him my wheel and I got back on after a lumpy chase to a bunch being driven by Plowman Craven. It took me a while to get back up towards the front, a little too long perhaps, as groups were jumping off the front and Dave was doing what he could up there but the bunch was all over him and letting other groups go.
Two groups were now up the road now after the first KOM, with us being represented by Ciarán and Kieren. McCann and Newton were away, coming into the finish and Ciarán was fourth on the day, with Kieren moving up on GC. Dave and myself came in about two minutes later and Derek, after an attacking day, came in in a small group, a few more minutes down.
Stage 4 Corofin – Tralee 155km
Sitting in the team's B&B in Tralee now, a town known for the arts, writers and poets, watching the rain fall on the window outside. Yes, the Rás has definitely started now and she threw up a nasty bag of tricks to us today and a few other riders.
Day started off well with Ciarán getting into a good break that looked like it was going to stick but coming into Shannon he punctured from the break and immediately put Derek, Dave and myself on the front to bring it back. Rapha Condor also had the need to chase and it was not too long before it was all back together.
Through Limerick and the attacks were flowing again until the yellow jersey, Mark Cassidy, crashed and the bunch, apart from a few muppets who attacked, sat up and waited for him to rejoin. To his credit he did rejoin the bunch after about 10 kilometres. An Post then began to chase the break with Cassidy in tow, but unfortunately his injuries were quite severe and had to retire from the race.
Things were still going OK for us. We were all active in attacking and following moves and felt like the elastic in the bunch was going to break pretty soon – just a question of when. Had a setback when Derek broke his chain so we were down one up the front and before we knew it a group was off the front with none of us in it. Throw in a long hard chase over the two remaining KOM's, pegging it back to under a minute, another puncture to Ciarán in the last 10 kilometres, we all finished the day cold, wet, dejected and stuffed.
We seem to be all riding well, being attentive at the front, attacking and following the attacks but always coming up empty handed. But who knows, there are still four days to go, a couple of hard days coming up. Hopefully all our hard work starts to pay off.
It is not over yet...This is the Rás, after all.
Til next time we meet.
ps. Big congrats to my mate Chady with his recent good form and his overall win in the Tour of Arkansas.