Best laughs at the Ras over the last 24 hours have been the An post pro team staff, lead by Kurt (their manager) walking into hotel reception- REAL MEAN, like the James gang from High noon. "Ya for sure!" In a don't mess with us or else! type way. And The Swiss BMC team wearing matching red white and blue tracksuits like pro teams did in the 80's. They look like the 1979 Russian javelin squad.
My friend Paddy slipped an envelope into my hand before I left for the race. "Don't open it until holy Thursday" were the instructions.
I opened it like a coffin lid this morning to find 5 playing cards with a pair of nines with a message that the winning hand would decide my fate on the Donegal mountains. He emailed an image of his sealed envelope with a pair of kings. This wasn't a good omen.
The Thursday is the queen stage of the Ras. A real tough one to separate the men from the kings. For the county rider on the third page of the GC sheet- if you make Holy Thursday you will make it home on Sunday.
It wasn't mental fast this morning and I was delighted. After a dip in the sea with my stunning wife (guess who spell checks this?) and 2 kids and a pint in the evening sun last night- I felt relaxed and ready for anything. I can see how the pros are so lean as I reckon I'm losing a half a kilo a day at this craic. Hopefully by the end of the week I will be at the racing weight I should have started this wee spin at.
Out the back over the first climb of Barnsmore gap wasn't nice. The open, 3km climb we shifted over 40kph but the line broke in the last 500 and it took the man with the biggest pistons in Irish cycling Aidan Crowley to shout "Get OWYT" and form an echelon, for a rage of hard riding to regain the bunch. The look on the nice RTS guy from Taiwan was priceless and the first of seven climbs was ticked.
There is no way in heelll I can get over a cat one climb with some of these children born in the 90's! Its not lack of confidence, its a simple basic understanding of physicis. So the plan was to dig in until Mamore and solo home smiling and whistling. All was going to plan-The group ate up the kms, between the climbs. I would get dropped and ride at 70kph on the descents to get back on. As I just passed the chief comm car on the fourth climb some poor lad stopped using 'the force' to steer himself and hit a wall. The wall didn't move or jump out, but the floored bike left hard braking and a gap. An uphill gap leading into the cat 2 climb and I was wasted. Legs hollow- breathing like the one you take before blowing up a ballon. I went from 53-12 to 39-16 in 20 meters. Gone.
By the time I hauled my limp carcas over the top the race was already at over a km away beneath me. So I relaxed into the stunning views. I will not be back at the Ras as a rider so it was just nice to savour the supportive screams of the flag waving school children and pretend to be good, one last time.
Unreal what this race does to an amateur as I road around the Atlantic coast to the bottom of the second hardest climb in Ireland and it was easy to cruise 42kph. The big climb was class. No pressure only gravity. Loads of my friends at the top and finally the burn in my legs was glorious.
I felt like a dog with two mickies as I crossed the top in the afternoon Sun. After the frightening 1 kilometre straight down descent,the finish line was only 20k away with one little Cat. 3 climb to summit, I knew it wasn't a problem. Some man for one man!
Tomorrow is 135 with the wall of Glengesh. Bring it on- slowly