Epic! Sitting here reflecting on what was a truly savage day on the bike with a cup of tea and some very sore legs, epic, just about does it justice.
Thursday night myself and Beth tuned in to the RTE weather forecast to see what the gods had in store for us on the race’s Queen stage. The forecast delivered by a smiling Evelyn Cusack was for heavy rain and gale force winds. Excellent! Given Met Eireann’s track record there was always the hope that we would wake up to blue skies, birds tweeting and a breeze that was “just right”.
Team Scott Orwell started this year’s race two riders down with Monica and Emily too sick to take the start line. I was still under a cloud of phlegm, lovely, and Beth had only been able to return to proper training a couple of weeks out from the race with a knee injury. A veritable team of crocks!!
Crocks or not we had managed to hold our own on the first two stages with myself and Beth finishing in the bunch on both occasions. Aideen suffered an untimely puncture on the climb on the first stage and put in a mammoth effort to regain a chasing group only to be thwarted by a crash. She paid for her efforts on the second day and was distanced from the bunch late in the stage but as is her dogged nature she fought to the end and limited her losses.
As Sod's law would have it the Met Eireann crew were right on the money and by Friday early morning the rain was lashing down in Kilkenny! Myself and Beth went full Gabba while Aideen, obviously made of sterner stuff, looked like she was going out for a coffee spin on the nicest day of the summer!!
As we rolled out of the hotel the rain was coming down hard and the wind was making its presence felt. Eddie had given us our pre race instructions. No hanging around the middle of the bunch. We were to be up the front and racing. The racing kicked off pretty soon after the official start and the speed was up. I was hanging around in the top ten. I watched a lone rider ping off the front. I watched Lydia Boylan chase after her and look to be in no mans land. I then watched what Eddie told me would never be allowed to happen unfold, the pink jersey powered off the front in impressive style and across to Lydia and the three were never again to be seen.
Back in the bunch “the epic” was settling right in. The conditions were getting worse the deeper into the stage we rode. There was an undeniable sense of foreboding in the bunch with every kilometre that ticked by.
A nervous bunch rolled into Myshall and it was from then on that “the epic” really came into its own. It was a battle scene. The roads were strewn with branches blown down by the wind which was battering us as we battled up the first part of the climb. The group was getting smaller but I was still there.
This was where the soaring was supposed to happen. This was supposed to be my thing now. Instead my left leg started to cramp. I don't mean the familiar little bites you get at the end of hard races. I mean it was actually going to lock solid. It was all I could do to keep enough momentum to not fall over. So much for putting time into people. I was now being passed out by riders who had been dropped earlier on the climb. It was a nightmare. I somehow made it to the top of the Corrabut Gap.
The Mt Leinster climb is really just a long drag so I was able to relax my leg and massage the cramping muscle and it actually released its grip. The wind at this stage was threatening to blow me off the road. I knew if I could make it to the final bend that I would have a tailwind from there to the finish line.
From the first to the last rider Friday's stage was an epic battle. I have never seen anything like the carnage at the top of Mount Leinster. Everybody was totally empty. Beth had had a really hard day.Having gotten caught up in a crash she had managed to chase back on to the group but the effort was such that she got dropped again on a hard crosswind section. I have never seen Beth in such a state after a race and she is hard as nails. Aideen had her best day on the bike and road a smart race to finish well up there on the stage.
That was three days down and two to go - my poor little legs!!