The month of June hasn’t quite gone as well as I had planned, with lots of racing and some good form coming back I was ready to see what I could do with added confidence and reassurance gained from the from the races in March.
Making excuses for performance has always been a tough thing to navigate, I often have a strong desire to tell everyone the reason for my lack of performance as all you can think about is how it doesn’t reflect your ability, but more often than not many people don’t really care... and if they do, they don’t want to hear the long winded explanation that you have been crafting since said incident. Everyone has problems of their own to deal with and I’m a strong believer that in most situations there is no such thing as being straight up unlucky, 9/10 times there is a reason in a race for an ‘unlucky’ circumstance, whether it was getting caught up behind a crash (because you were too far back) or punctured at an unfortunate time in a race causing you to lose contact (many reasons could be, wrong tyre pressure, not assessing the road quality, worn tyres or even not preparing for the worst and covering all bases with multiple pairs of wheels dotted around the course if it is susceptible to punctures are the reasons for this). If you really want something, perfection in preparation will get you it without the ‘unlucky’ circumstance.
Either way do as I say not as I do, so here is my blog post for June 2019 which is full of excuses for poor performances, but all with a reason that could have been avoided with more in depth planning. Enjoy ☺️.
I think that’s a perfect segue into CiCle classic, with tight twisty gravely roads, short sharp climbs and technical corners. It’s prime location if you want to hear a post race excuse. This year (like last) I was one of those making excuses. I got a puncture just as we left the feed zone and after a series of unplanned events I was left around 3 minuets behind the front group and being tailgated by the broom wagon, this of course was disappointing as my legs were feeling good and the race was just kicking off but I had much too much fun to feel too disheartened by the situation. So rode the rest of the course and headed home ready to prepare for my next race with the national squad, Trofeo Saarland N.CUP in Germany.
I had 10 days between these two events which went very quickly with my final A level exam along with many bike changes, mechanics, purchases to be organised (and tested) before my flight on the 19th. I arrived to meet the team which consisted of Kevin McCambridge, Will Ryan and his brother Archie, Mathew Devins and Tom Moriarty at around lunchtime in Brussels airport and we drove 4 hours to our hotel just across the boarder from France in Germany.
We headed out on our TT bikes in preparation for the team time trail that would be on stage 3.2 of the race covering 32km following a morning stage of 80km. This ride was nice as we had arrived to 25+ degrees, clear blue sky’s and with the addition of fresh legs and race bikes morale was high.
Stage one was a little daunting as I had only really just quite comprehended the amount of climbing we were going to be racing each day and as a rider of around 75kg, I wasn’t quite sure how or if I would manage. The race was de-neutralised on the biggest climb of the lap. I felt really good to start with, maybe using a bit too much energy at a non pivotal point in the race but it gave me a boost that I was more than capable. On the second to last lap a group of about 5 went up the road, I could see some strong riders in there and the case wasn’t concerted enough so the gap was only growing. So I decided to commit as my one big effort of the race to bridge up to it, I went solo and planned to make contact in time to recover before hitting the climb for the last time. I was struggling to make contact and got within 20m of them as the road pitched up, I simply didn’t have the gas to close and I watched them ride up the road. Archie however being one of around 3 riders that could match the acceleration of Marco Brenner (Dominant german first year) allowing him to join an attack that bridged the gap flying past me and making it up to the winning move. I slipped back and gave the bunch kick my best shot without any success. Archie ended up in 8th just under a minute ahead of the reduced bunch putting us in a good position after a tough stage.
It was amazing being part of a bigger set up at a tour, the national team are well organised and there was little we had to do other than rest and recover. It’s something I could get used to! Bikes were cleaned, lube applied, and stem stickers displaying the important information for the day. We had race food, post race food, massages and general support thanks to the soigneurs (Johan and Nancy).
Stage two for me was a ‘get round’ I knew the climbs would be achievable but it was about pacing my effort and seeing what I could do in the end. Luckily I was able to sit in as Kevin McCambridge went up the road with a strong group of riders excusing any Irish riders from the case. He stayed out for the whole race being the only rider to be there in both breakaways but never actually getting caught and he picked up 5th on the stage moving him up to 4th of GC.
On the morning of the 3rd day I felt awful. tiered, drained, hungry and just generally crap. We had a morning stage of 80km and the TTT in the evening as mentioned before. The race was always going to be aggressive as people would want to take advantage of others fatigue without doing too much damage to themselves due to the shorter distance. I felt surprisingly good after the first 40km and so tried to get well positioned for the final. I was tempted by a few moves in the last 5km but the fast lead in wasn’t going to allow people up the road that late on. I went for the sprint and came 12th, reasonable result but its always painful being able to see the winner with gas still in the legs.
The TTT was really important, it was needed to keep Kevin and Archie right up there in the GC and also maintain my position as I hadn’t yet lost time to the bunch. Only 3 riders had to finish and we had a strong team for it, especially with the hilly terrain. Unfortunately a mechanical whilst out the saddle about 10km into the effort sent me straight to the ground bringing Archie and Will Ryan with me (sorry boys). This taking out some of our planed main contributors to the effort and left me out the back after a wheel change. They finished in a very respectable time considering the circumstances (9th) and I rolled in insuring I was safely in the time limit with Tom Moriarty. This was a pretty big blow for the team as it had all been going very well up until this point but sometimes it be like that.
I was unsure if I was going to ride the final day as my shoulder had taken a big bash and with a history of dislocations it didn’t feel 100% and I didn’t want to make it worse, I started the stage but was limited to sitting in my saddle, after losing time I was now just riding purely in support of Archie and Will to pick up a result and a possible boost in GC. I struggled through the whole race, going deeper than I have ever done in the past just to stay in contact over the climbs and accelerating out of the corners. A move went with some important riders with 1 1/2 laps to go and without any team mates there it was my job to bring it back. I got myself to the front and berried myself. I don’t know where the energy came from and to be honest I don’t even know if it made any difference but it made me feel useful and gave me a sense of achievement for the day. Kevin, Archie and Will all made it across picking up good results to show our continued strength throughout the race. It was nice to finish and have the knowledge that 2 rest days awaited me.
Throughout the week Tom Moriarty and Mathew Devins rode out of their skin to help us, from protection when moving up to offering food and water in the warm weather which really made the difference when it came to difficult situations. So I’m sure I can speak on behalf of Archie and Kevin that we are very grateful for what they did and I hope to be able to repay them in the future.
The experience really made me feel like a professional rider making me even more sure of my commitment to trying to make cycling my job in the future, the team as a whole worked really well together on and off the bike and I look forward to future opportunities to ride for the national team.
A little update from the National Championships, I’ll keep it short as you don’t want to hear my excuses but, I came 3rd in the TT which was a bit of a disappointment but with the impacts of the crash still taking a toll on my recovery and the amount of time I have spent on my TT bike, it on reconsideration was a respectable effort that I can build on for the future. The road race was amazing, a great course going through Derry city centre and out into the countryside made it challenging course leaving 6 of us riding for the win, unfortunately an ongoing problem with my TT position causing cramps in the following days of a race left me standing at the side of the road with 200m to go feeling sorry for myself. But a great ride by Tom Moriarty, Kevin and Archie for the podium spots, and the outcome has only made me more hungry for the races in the weeks to come.
Thanks to pedal potential for their continued support and Hunt bike wheels for keeping me rolling especially after a few crashes now.