“50km into the first stage I was at the back of a long line of riders, we were snaking down a dead straight road at full speed, flat out.This had the intensity of an early season race.My heart rate was well up and I was burying myself to hold on.This was only stage one and, on paper, was meant to be the easier stage of three. This was going to be a tough weekend”
Charleville 2 Day 5th/6th September
Stage 1 – 86km.
The club informed about this race early on in the year and to be honest it seemed like the perfect way to end the season. Also having it late on in the year is a great focus point for training and is really good way to keep motivated. The format is straight forward. Race 86km on the Saturday morning, Time Trial 6km Saturday evening and race 91km Sunday morning. Stage 1 was described as”rolling” and the start would have 85 riders from all over the country. I’ve come to learn that rolling means fast! Plenty of steep uphill digs not long enough to break up the bunch. So what happens is the climbers try and hurt the bigger guys on the short hills and the bigger guys try and hurt the climbers on the flat/downhills. Only once or twice did the bunch really relax over the 86km, giving just enough time to eat a little and take it all in. It had all the makings of a good old A4 bunch sprint, fast and chaotic, plenty of riders trying to get to the front on the wrong side of the road. So I sat about three rows back as we flew towards the finish sitting on the outside right of the bunch. I expected the big sprinters to get this so it was a huge surprise that as we got to the 1 km to go I saw alot of riders either bail out or struggle to keep up. I was steadily brought up to the front and with about 100 m to go it opened up perfectly for me, not that any of this was planned mind you, but I couldn’t resist giving it a dig and amazingly crossed the line 3rd. I was so shocked and delighted that I let out a scream, to which the winner turned around to look at me confused. I knew I didn’t win, I was just delighted to contest my first bunch sprint and that result now meant that I would go up to A3 next stage.
Stage 2 – 6km Time Trial
The second stage that day would be a 6km time trial. This was a bit of a disaster for me.Without doubt my worst performance on a bike this year. I started this in 3rd overall. I ended up 39th after losing a huge 1 min 16 seconds over that 6km to the race leader. It was a flat run from Kilmallock to Charleville. Simple right? Not for me. I started out too slow, realized my mistake half way, then panic set in and I went too hard blowing up towards the last km. I felt every bump on the road and could not get comfortable on the bike. My only consolation was that I wasn’t caught by the rider behind me. So It was off to eat some food and rest before the next days stage.
Stage 3 – 91km mountains.
I woke up on that Sunday feeling ok but not looking forward to the stage for some reason. Everyone one was taking about how hard this stage was going to be the day before and I let that sink in. Thankfully encouragement from Dee and some well timed texts from club members meant that by the time I left for the start line I began to relax. I think everyone was feeling the effects of the previous day so the first 25km or so went by at a pretty easy pace. We leave Charleville and hit towards Ardpatrick on to Kildorrery where we would do a loop twice, This loop included the main climb of the day, nothing super steep and a constant gradient but at race pace it’s tough. I sit near the front on the first ascent and I take in the little battle that is going on between race leader Pierce Boland and the De Ronde van Cork team,who seem to have gown in numbers overnight, they attack him a few times but he is able to match each one. He looked comfortable to be honest. We all quickly descend past the entrance to Ballyhoura mountain bike centre and start the loop again. Second time up is more intense. The attacks are harder and the pace is faster. The group thinned out and by the time we descend and hit the last 20km for home there is a group of about 20 riders left. We rocket towards the finish line averaging 41kph for the last 20km.If I’m honest I felt good coming into the final km but as soon as the sprint started and I kicked my legs began to scream. I dug in to manage 5th on the day, finishing 20th overall in GC.
So that’s it for the year. I finish with 16 points overall, moving me up to A3 for 2016. A massive thanks to all at Clonmel CC for the support, advice and help over the year. To everyone I met on the road the same. All year the camaraderie between racers has been amazing and thankfully I managed to get through a season without injury. Roll on 2016 !! – Keith.