been upgraded last week after my victory, I started the Lucan GP in the A3
peloton today. I was nervous again as I wasn’t sure of the standard in bunch in
terms of pace, maneuvering around the group, and tactics. I decided to use this race in a similar way
to my first race of the season, be aggressive and see where I stand in the A3
peloton. Patrick Smith and Dermot Cooney
were also racing in the A3 bunch and amongst us, it was agreed that I would try
and get into breakaways while they would shelter and save energy in the bunch
for the final kick to the line.
course today was 3 laps of 18km circuit after a 5km lead in, totaling 60km. The
circuit was relatively flat with only one considerably drag 6km from the
finish. The day was very cold, around 5°C with a stiff and
blustery wind, and scattered showers. All the ingredients for some epic racing!
Having done a lot of cycling in Belgium, and having a large frame, these
deteriorating conditions didn’t really bother me, as was evident from the
clothing I was wearing. Only a base layer and shoe covers while everyone was
thoroughly wrapped up! I immediately regretted my clothing choice because as we
were rolling out, a particularly heavy shower decided to smother the peloton in
it’s icy grip, drenching me to the bone. I decided that the only reasonable response
to this was to warm up by trying to get a break going and started to make my
way up the side of the bunch.
Exposed skin was a bad idea!
few riders in the bunch had the same idea so I found myself working well with
them, everyone willing to drive the pace to try and get the break away. For the
5km lead into the circuit around 6 of us kept trying to get away but the
peloton were having none of it and constantly shut us down. Once we got onto
the circuit, we rode the final straight to the finish line, which was very
wide, smooth, clear of potholes, and with a stiff tail wind. This would make
for an extremely fast paced finale. We continued to try and form a break for
the entirety of the first lap, every time we tried to go, we hung off the front
for a few kilometers before being brought back. I was particularly reluctant to
let a break go up the rode without me in it, as I thought that if they got up
the road the peloton would be unwilling to work together to bring it back and
with it a chance for victory, similar to my victory last week.
completing one lap in this manner, I had a good idea of the layout of the circuit
and where would be good spots to attack and try something out. After the drag
in the lap, the 6km to the line were rolling wide-open roads with some
crosswinds. This suited my style of riding down to the ground. I’m not too good
at climbing, due to the bulk, and I’m not too good at sprinting, more from lack
of experience than ability. But what I am good at is putting power down on
flats, riding just shy of my limit and holding it for long amounts of time. I
thought this is where I’d go on the last lap and see if I could hold off the
peloton to the line.
Patrick leading the peloton up the drag
the line to start our 2nd lap, a relatively serious effort was made
to form a breakaway with 3 riders going up the road. I liked the look of it and
thought the riders looked strong so I bridged the gap. This was where I was
struggling on the day; I would get half way across the gap easily enough and
then really suffer to close the second half of the gap. I knew then my plan to
ride away from the bunch at the end of the race wouldn’t happen today! I should
have stayed sheltered in the bunch to save energy but I’d rather try and give
it a shot then sit in the peloton all day to most likely not place in a bunch
made it across to the 3 riders despite the suffering. One of the three riders
was a junior from Lucan CRC who had been really aggressive all day and was eager
to try and get something going, very promising for someone so young. So the
four of us started to work well together and get a bit of a gap. I love the
fluidity of a group that works well together, everyone coming through and doing
there turn on the front before another rider coming around. This effort stuck
for the majority of the 2nd lap and we were only caught on the drag.
we were reabsorbed, I stayed near the front of the group for the 6km before we
started our last lap. There was a corner around 1.5km from the finish line and
on this corner I lost the wheel in front of me, that is to say the rider in
front of me took a better line giving him a few bike lengths in front of me.
Due to the already high pace I really fought to gain back the ground I had
lost. Once I had made it back up and the bunch eased up, I rider came up beside
me, clearly a veteran as he looked wise beyond his years, and told me “One of
the most important rules of cycling is to never let the wheel go!” how right he
was! Starting the last lap everyone was still all together with no one up the
road. I decided to hide in the peloton for a while and recover a bit if I
could. I started talking to Patrick, before he stole the remainder of my sports
drink, about the plan for the finale. I said I’d keep trying to get away from
the peloton as it played to my strengths while Patrick and Dermot would work on
the sprint if it came to that. With that sorted I returned to the front when we
were starting the drag for the last time, hoping to launch my bit for glory on
it or near the top. Once I got near the front I saw two riders had opened up a
significant gap with another rider between the two riders and us. Typical, I go
back into the peloton for a few kilometers and that’s when the break manages to
Losing the wheel, bad mistake!
hit the front at the bottom of the climb and tried to drive the pace in order
to break up the peloton and maybe drag a few strong riders with me over the top
that could help me chase down the riders up the road. While I was able to put
in some decent efforts to try and get away from the peloton, I couldn’t hold
those efforts and keep them going to try and open a gap over the bunch. As I
said earlier, I wasn’t feeling the best. This continued until the last corner
before the final straight. Going into the last corner I was third in line, a
perfect position with the finish only 1.5km away. One of the other riders up
the front of the bunch was the junior Lucan CRC rider from earlier in the day
showing great form. Despite the 3 riders still up the road, who had the victory
in the bag, the main bunch was still treating this as a full-on sprint. The
pace from the last corner to the line was phenomenal, around 55-60kmh, which
really gets the adrenaline going!
was consistently near the front of the peloton for the final push but
unfortunately I made some silly mistakes, which occurred from lack of sprint
experience and forward thinking. I had decided to come up the left hand side of
the road in the finale as I was already on that side of the bunch but also due
to the curve in the road. I was in a hard shoulder with cat eyes on the dashed
line. Now when you’re cycling at 60kmh, the last thing you want to do is ride
over cat eyes as they give you quite a jolt! So while the bunch was surging up
the right of the road, I was bunched in on the left unwilling to dash across
the cat eyes in the hope of fully opening my sprint. So all I could do was keep
pushing in the hard shoulder, finishing somewhere in the top 20 riders. Patrick
or Dermot were unable to place as well. Patrick is still transforming into what
will be a beastly sprinter so is still trying to improve his endurance. The
fact he led the peloton up the drag on the first lap shows he is well on the
way. Dermot had had a particularly tough leg session in the gym earlier in the
week and was feeling the effects of it!
I was happy about my performance today, there were some silly mistakes I made.
I was satisfied with my aggression, having tried my luck in many breakaway
efforts and constantly attacking. I was confident I can keep up with the pace
of the A3 bunch after my upgrade from A4 and that my fitness and form was
sufficient for the A3 standard. I realised I was too eager from the gun trying
to get into a breakaway; I should have stayed hidden in the peloton for the
first two laps before trying something. But for my first race in the A3 bunch I
was content with my performance.
still getting used to the mentality of cycling. I used to play rugby before
turning to the light that is cycling, for 13 years in fact. It was the only
sport I can say I took seriously. In rugby, you win or lose (ok you can draw,
but that rarely happens). You can have a terrible game but the team plays well
and you win, or you can play brilliantly and the team still loses. In cycling,
you lose, lose, lose, lose, lose, lose or you win. If you have a bad day,
that’s it, there’s no chance of victory as there’s no team to carry you
through. You can have teammates around you but they can’t physically carry you.
You can be on the top of your game and still be outfoxed at the line by a more
tactically savvy rider. So many things can snatch your victory away from you:
mechanicals, punctures, crashes and many more. Rugby mentality is far more
simplistic. Obviously there are certain aspects of rugby that require strong
mental strength, but I find myself analysing and thinking more about my performance
in cycling races then I ever did after a rugby game.
my victory last week, I find myself craving the euphoria of victory again,
which probably exacerbated my feeling of disappointment immediately after the
race. But having had time to think about it, I’ve taken a lot of experience
from the Lucan GP that will make me a better and more rounded rider. While my
season goal is now to upgrade to A2, I now realise it may take a few more races
before that happens but my confidence is growing race by race!