Monday, 13 October 2014

2014 All-Ireland Intervarsity Cycling Road Race Championships

Dermot, myself and Bennett at the All-Irleand Intervarsity.
On the 11th October 2014, the All-Ireland Intervarsity Cycling Road Race Championships took place in Corkagh Park, Clondalkin, where a cycling specific track would determine the champion. Having been away from the Irish racing scene for the entire summer, due to my work placement at Enigma Bicycle Works in England, I was relishing the chance to enjoy and suffer in a race before the off-season really began. The racing season had actually concluded a few weeks before the Intervarsity Race so many racers had actually already transitioned into the off-season. For DUCC, that was certainly the case, with nobody in top shape for this race, but we were still all eager to give this race a decent crack before we took up our long bibs and winter jackets for the upcoming winter training.

Messing around before the race starts!
The event was organised by Ian Richardson, who cycles for the UCD CC, and was expertly ran with the schedule only falling slightly behind, not that anybody cared given the gorgeous morning that had risen (although it was freezing!). It consisted of two races: the Challenge Race and the Championship Race. The Challenge Race was for A4 and Novices and consisted of racing for 30 minutes before riding an additional 3 laps. The Championship Race was for A3 or higher and consisted of racing for 45 minutes before an additional 3 laps.

Trying to look fabulous!
DUCC had 4 riders show up to the event, with Paul Mannix representing us in the Challenge Race and Bennett Thomson, Dermot Cooney and myself representing Trinity in the Championship Race. Patrick Smith also accompanied us and was our photographer/coach/soigneur for the day. We had cycled out to the race so were decently warmed up for the race and had plenty of time to recon the course before the events started. My girlfriend Amy also came out to the race, which was her first experience of seeing me in lycra, much to my shame!

Getting warmed up.
The course consisted of a 1.3km circuit which was pan flat except for a very slight drag coming over the finish line. Other than that it was a great track with perfect road quality, safe corners and gentle turns. It was my first time on the circuit so I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was very pleased when I got to do a few laps on it.

Doing a few recon laps.
After a few recon laps of the track, it was time for the event to kick off. So Bennett, Dermot and I stepped aside for the Challenge Race. This was Paul’s first race as he’d only started riding with us at the start of the college a few weeks before. We were excited to see what Paul could do after seeing him shame most of us on the hills on our club spins, while riding a commuter bike!

Paul tearing up the Challenge Race.
The Challenge Race can be summed up in one sentence. From the gun, Paul rode off the front of the peloton and continued to ride away until he lapped the entire field where he attacked again to seal victory. I reckon he should retire now, first race and he’s already an All-Ireland Intervarsity Champion! It was quite surreal and ridiculous to watch but truly impressive. He was also wearing runners and not cleats…

Paul winning the Challenge Race.
After watching Paul destroying the Challenge Race, I was excited to get started in the Championship Race. There was only 14 riders racing but there were some top domestic riders in the peloton including the favourite for the race, Seán McKenna. UCD had a strong contingent of riders in the group with 7 riders.

The Championship Race start line.
Things kicked off nice and gently for the first lap as everyone settled into the race. After the first laps, the attacks started to go off. I was eager to get into a breakaway (who isn’t?!), more because I didn’t think I’d last too long at the intensity this race would take place at then in the hopes of soloing away to victory.

Lining up for some attacks!
A few riders put in some digs over the opening laps, but nothing seemed to stick and everything kept being pulled back after a few hundred metres. DUCC hadn’t gone into the race with any particular tactics, just to ride it and react to moves as they occurred. Due to UCD’s numbers, there was always a UCD rider attacking off the front which was left to the rest of us to react to. Eventually Seán McKenna put in severe attack that I unfortunately followed.

Struggling to follow Seán's wheel.
After busting my balls to get across to Seán;s wheel (my heart rate getting awfully close to my maximum), I managed to slightly catch my breath before having a look back to see if there was gap to the peloton. Thankfully there was around a 50 metre gap, so Seán and I continued to power on. After a few laps I was already deep in the red, we took turns riding on the front for a lap before switching, but I found I couldn’t recover in the laps where I was in Seán’s slipstream, entirely due to his unbelievable strength, and when I came around Seán, I was in the wind again and going even harder.

Seán and myself on the attack.
After around 8 laps of this, I simply couldn’t do it any longer and had to give up trying to follow Seán. We had only been racing for 15 minutes (it had felt like a lifetime in sufferland) so I had to think of the overall race and try to conserve some energy instead of blowing up in a few laps time. So I regrettably let Seán’s wheel go, but looking back I could see that a duo of riders where trying to bridge the gap up to Seán, so I decided to ease up a bit in the hopes of latching onto the two riders and maybe getting back to the front of the race. But when they had caught me, the peloton was breathing down our necks and caught us soon after.

When the peloton reabsorbed us, I recovered by just sitting on the wheels of other riders and trying to get my breath back. After a couple of laps I was in a position to try and do something again. At this stage Dermot had gone off the front solo to try and bridge the gap to Seán, Bennett and I were trying to chase down anyone that tried to jump of the front of the peloton, in the hopes of giving Dermot the best chance of bridging the gap solo and increasing the chances of a DUCC victory.

Dermot bridging the gap.
Bennett and I couldn’t contain everything unfortunately and initially a UCD rider got across to Dermot, who continued to power away and unceremoniously dropped the UCD rider. After the UCD rider was reabsorbed, two riders, a UCD rider and a SDCC rider, jumped and managed to get away from the peloton.

Bennett controlling attacks
They soon bridged the gap to Dermot, and together the three of them bridged the gap to Seán and formed what would be the winning break of the day. When they had formed up, Bennett and I decided to try and close down any attack that was put in to give the break every chance for success. With the chance of a medal for DUCC, we were happy to sacrifice our personal chances at medals in order to give Dermot a shot.

Dermot in the winning break
Struggling to control attacks!
Bennett soloed off the front briefly before another rider jumped across to him and the two riders looked like they would fight it out for 5th and 6th place, but Bennett sat up when the other had ridden across to him, not willing to jeopardise Dermot’s chance. After they were reabsorbed, Bennett and I conveniently rode a relatively slow pace at the front of the peloton to further frustrate other rider’s chance of getting across the gap.

So with the winning break decided everyone was riding for minor placings. As the winning break of 4 riders fought out the victory half a lap ahead of us, a rider from the peloton took a flyer and went on to take 5th place. In the group behind a UCD rider proceeded to beat me in a sprint for the line, leaving me in 7th place. Nothing particularly impressive, but I was quietly pleased with myself, given my lack of race fitness and sharpness, and I was riding my self-built 10kg steel bike with mudguards!

Dermot just missing out on a medal.

Sprinting for the line.

Crossing the line!
Up ahead, Dermot unfortunately got squeezed out of the sprint through the last corner. We were all nonetheless delighted with his, and our, performance. Tactically, we rode a great race, by getting a rider into the winning break and shutting down any attacks after that. This will all help us in gaining experience for the upcoming season that will start next February.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day for everyone involved, DUCC came out with a 1st and 4th place in the Challenge and Championship Race respectively, which is a great achievement for the club after what has been our most successful season to date.

Satisfied after an intense race.

Thanks to Patrick Smith and Ian Richardson for the photos.

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