Over a lovely piss this morning I exchanged pleasantries with Dan Craven. The ex African national champion (who could be a stand-In for the middle one in the Bee Gees) loves this race for vastly different reasons than I do. He loves the line outs, I love when they end. He loves the climbs, an opportunity to attack, I love large bars of dark chocolate and Belgian Beers.
After the start today, I didn't leave the drops for over an hour. A tail wind and a nights sleep had convinced 100 lads that this was their day. After doing 60kph it is like birthday card money glorious when it slows to 48 - it feels like a club spin.
It is hard to quantify how some one thinks that they have seen an opportunity to attack a fresh bunch moving at 55kph. The short-lived flurries in the first hour are driven by vanity, angry directors and blind faith. When every team want a man in the move. Tomorrow, I am going to propose we let one man each of the 15 strongest teams up the road at 50k and the rest of us can have a coffee and a chat.
After the mental roundabouts of Galway and the slippy atlantic road, we headed out of Oughterard, very rapidly and then someone randomly dropped a handgrenade into the bunch. A Big one. Crashing is part of the sport but it doesn't need to be compulsary. It's not the rider braking like an idiot at nothing, it's the feckers who hear this, panic and lock their breaks multiplying the maddness. For the record it takes exactly 76 riders to completely block a Galway road, 3 deep.
My race day was ended when Martyn Irivine decided to start a third echelon and regain the front of the bunch that avoided the pile up. His constant 500watts made me pull animal shapes on the bike. Chicken first- elbows waving, 5 watts more a duck like bobbing head and finally after the KOH, 5 watts more made me dance like a copulating jack russel- in and out if the saddle, no gear to match the power available. I signaled my time had come, rode up to the next guys bottom bracket to leave no gap and BOOM gone. When you feel your heart rate in your eye.....let go.
Friends in Team cars tooted to get me on the bumper. I pretended to be deaf. Guys passed shouting for me to jump on, I pretented to have a stroke. Over the second climb I was just out at the back of the cavalcade and a stunning sight opened up.
We had entered a valley and the entire An Post Ras was visible. (Please google 'Paul Henry artist':he is an Irish painter who captured 19th century images of Connemara. Now look at one of these paintings and imagine a bog road accross the middle of the mountains). Far Ahead I could see the flashing lead cars with the leading 3 riders (before they crashed) and 4 echelons snaking across the valley. The cavalcade was in splinters with single riders glued to bumpers over 2km of roads and venomous crosswinds. It was stunning. A REAL RAS stage.
We tapped through at 38kph for the last hour, hoovered some bodies up and then were caught by the stars who were mutilated in the explosion riding for time. Hope they didn't look left at the finish line -as the presentation was starting when we rolled in.
When we were getting changed the excuses started at a neighbouring team. Excuses my bum. They are transparent and self serving. No one really cares if you hit a hole or big foot jumped out and stole your wheel and you had to make a new one from sticks and branches. It's bike racing. Good days and bad- all mighty stuff