June 5 , 2008
Sorry for the late last update from the Ras. Internet services in B&B are not that great and I don't have the professional or materialistic desire to take out a mortgage and get myself a Blackberry or an I-Phone. Well, not yet anyway. So here it goes.
Stage 5 Tralee – Skibbereen
It was about time we set some things straight, and with that in mind Dave set off early stage with a three other riders eager for a long hard day. After a rough couple of days where we have done a lot of work for little return everything was looking good for Dave and the team during the 140km trek through County Kerry and Cork to the southern town of Skibbereen.
But, just to sum up our week so far, Dave, after dropping two of his breakaway companions on the run into Skibbereen punctured with 3km to go, and despite a quick bike change and chase there was not enough road for Dave to catch back up and Simon Richardson of the Plowman-Craven team won the stage and came painfully close to capturing the yellow jersey from the Irish National Team. As a consolation prize Dave moved up to 4th in the KOM comp and everybody else finished safely in the bunch helping Ciaran up to 4th on the day.
To compound matters a little more for Dave, his custom National Champions bike fell off the roof rack on the way to our B&B writing it off. Dave was going to need an extra pint tonight to forget about the events of today. Raoul's antics at dinner that night did help cheer everyone up though.
Stage 6 Skibbereen – Clonmel
Longest stage of the Ras today with a fairly flat, albeit lumpy trip up to Clonmel, which is just down the road from Sean Kelly ville. Was motivated today to do well as my parents, who are on holiday, were going to be at the finish. Ciaran was also up for a good day with his family present along route and at the finish.
So pretty much to script, Ciaran, myself and Derek Burke got into a ten man break after 5km of racing and after 50km of hard riding from the group our lead finally crept above one minute and slowly continued to rise. In the group were a couple of GC threats to Dave McCann of the Irish National Team like Simon Richardson and Simon Gallagher and Ciaran was only two minutes down on the lead at this stage. About this time though in the race Derek had a mechanical and unfortunately could not get back and another rider dropped off the pace leaving eight guys up front.
With 30km to go our lead reached six minutes, and that set the bunch into action with a number of attacks and our lead began to be reduced rather quickly. The group had to pick up the pace again so Richardson and Gallagher could keep the advantage they had gained on yellow and so the others in the break like Ciaran and myself could still go for the stage.
Gap stabilised at three minutes and coming into the last 5km the attacks started. I had a little go but was covered and then Ciaran followed the moves and then went himself with 2km to go to hold off the break and take a well deserved win. I came in 8th and found the nearest piece of pavement and settled in. Richardson wrestled the jersey away from the Irish National Team and was now ten seconds up on Gallagher from An-Post.
It was a Good win for the team and for Ciaran. It also moved him up on the points comp and into third on the GC. Was good to quickly catch up with my parents at the end of the stage. Had been a while.
Stage 7 Clonmel - Roundwood
Well you have good days on the bike and bad and today was a bad one for me and most of the team. I can only really speak for myself, but after the 180km effort the day before I simply did not recover and struggled all day. Dave was away in the early break but he was also on a rough day and fell back through the groups once the race hit the Wicklow Hills. Ciaran also was feeling the effects of the effort needed during Stage 6 and rode in with me some minutes down on the winning group. Derek had a tough day as well and conserved his energy and finished the day.
Kieren Page however saved the day for the team. He rode well getting into a chase group and bridging up to the front group over the climbs and placed 6th on the day. Subsequently, he moved himself up to 8th overall in the GC. So not all was lost.
Stage 8 Newbridge – Skerries
Redemption today was spelled David O'Loughlin. After the teams disappointing ride the day before and Dave's near miss a couple of days ago we were going to give it a good crack. After about 20km of racing in real windy conditions and after a number of attacks from the bunch, with Damo Harris's words still in my head, I attacked up a little drag and Dave came along for the ride. After about 5km, Evan Oliphant and a Polish rider joined us and we dug into the wind and gradually built our lead.
Eventually our lead got to five minutes on our approach to Skerries and the finishing laps. After a lap of the Skerries finish circuit our lead was down to about three minutes. I put in an attack some 15km from home which was covered by the Polish rider. Dave attacked immediately and dragged Evan clear. The Polish rider did not react immediately and despite his efforts to chase it down and my efforts to jump across, Dave and Evan kept on riding away.
In the end Dave won a tight sprint from Evan and 30 seconds later the Polish rider rolled me on the line to grab third place from me. Ciaran won the bunch sprint for fifth, so after bad day the day before it was great for the team to win the final stage in front of the big crowd at Skerries and get three riders in the top five. In the overall, Gallagher won the 2008 Ras and Kieren Page was eighth. PEZULA won two stages, Ciaran was second in the points, Dave was third in the KOM competition and we had a number of other top ten placings along the way and plenty of good publicity and media coverage. It could have been better, maybe should have been better. But as with anything, it could have been worse.
Big thanks to all the staff over the eight days. Brian, Stef, Raoul and then Aidan for helping us out and taking a heap of photos and Declan for giving us plenty of support during the last couple of days and handing out a couple of bottles along with Aidan. Also to Mark, Graeme and the family of Dave's for the help earlier in the week. To the family members of the Irish riders in the team, thanks for the support along the road.
Thanks also to my Sport Psychologist Kane Oakley who always seems to find my inner "Hando". Don't ask...Long Story.
So back home now for a week resting up and catching up with my parents until I am off again to America and Canada for Philly Week and Tour de Beauce. Looking forward to both.
Til next time we meet.