An 11 sprocket is a wonderful thing. Looked at in isolation it is a shining star of speed, engineering and power. I need one. Need it like a baby needs a nappy. I am usually not strong enough for one, it's just that there are 80 lads ahead of me who are; and for long sections of today's stage they toyed with theirs. So many times I hit the lever today body swinging on the edge of the saddle for an extra gear, only to be out of bullets.
Standing on the start line in Dunboyne the 170 riders in 5 man teams were called to the start. Famous good guys first. Guys with matching, free everything. They get paid to be there. Then the international teams - O so well groomed, the best riders in their country. Then the Irish and English teams who get a free bike and kit - undeservedly unpaid. Young, Good guys who want to be full pro. Looking fit, lean and committed.
Then called to the line, infront of a thousand cheering fans: us plebs. Men, with jobs and families and a dream. Only the jerseys match this far back. Boyos in 'clubs' not 'teams' with odd bikes, messy large bottles and worn shorts. Mostly good first cat riders, but lacking the finesse and stunning muscle definition of the paid pros. The darkess of the leg skin colour in this event is directly correlated to the distance from the start line. Team UK youth and the French 'Provencal' squad looked like they have been trapped in a sunbed then rapidly Coated with Ronseal. Around me are razor burns and panic.
Ahead is 1300kms and 29 climbs over 8 days and I can't wait. An hour and 51kms later, I could have waited. Just savage. In the regional cat 1-2 races I normally compete in, a line out lasts for 30 seconds until the five good guys realize the bunch is back upon them. After 2 hours and 103 kms covered, I imagined my ears were bleeding. Relentless attacks hammered the front of the bunch without submission. Everyone fresh and keen. On the final KOH, I was the last man over with the bunch. But broken. With 40k to the finish, twice I raised a bottle for service from my team car, twice my Speedo read over 55kph. I gave up and spent the last 40 mins eyeing half full biddon in the bunch, seductively sloshing about in other riders cages. I called in the cold kilometers I endured in December and hung on. With 10k remaining I smiled and congratulated myself on a bunch finish. With 5k remaining we turned into the Kilkenny Ring road with a 4 lane climb. It stretched like everest into the clouds, perhaps only 50m of a rise. But I was dead.
Cramping thighs meant I couldn't get out of the saddle to respond to the increase from the headwind attacks from the dark legged lads. I made it, just, yet damaged. 29.4 mph for 92 miles. A Node4 lad won in style but that victory is quashed by my team mates effort who has -9 eyesight.(-9.5 is clinically blind). This was said to me at 50 kph, avoiding traffic islands in the last km: "Myles, my last contact blew out and I can only see colours. Ride in front and call any obstacles."
Tomorrow is 98 miles with 7 KOH.