Saturday, 10 May 2008

Kellogg's Tour of Ireland - Stage 2 Cavan to Galway

120.5miles, 4133ft of ascent - 6h33m ride time
Avg speed 18.4mph; Max speed 37.1mph
Avg heart rate 138bpm; Max heart rate 170bpm
Calorites burned 6500

Another early start and after breakfast at the hotel the coaches picked us up at 7am to take us to the bikes at Cavan town leisure centre. The food truck arrived and everyone stocked up on the plentiful supply of Kellogg’s nutrigrain bars, Rice Krispie Squares, Hi-5 energy gels and drink and of course, bananas.

At 8.20am the peloton rolled out of town again and soon picked up the pace. Today had been described as an undulating stage with no real hills. I had planned to get into the middle of the pack and try not to do much work today. I’m not used to such long and sustained effort when riding and didn’t want a repeat of yesterday. Within a few miles there was already a split starting to form between a huge and fast rolling main peloton, containing over 100 riders, and the rest of us. I found myself on the front of another big group, desperately trying to chase them down. There were three of us doing all the work and after a few miles making little progress one of them decided we should stop trying and form our own little group of around seven riders. There were sighs of relief. Maintaining the 23mph pace was starting to take its toll and we all knew we couldn’t keep it up for much longer.

They weren’t wrong when they said the course was undulating and the seven of us soon found a happy rhythm spinning along the roller-coaster like roads. I’ve never seen so many long, straight roads. We would ride for mile after mile, each taking our turn on the front of the group, only to turn at a junction onto another long, straight, undulating road! We picked up a few stragglers from the front bunch along the way – some were so tired they just went straight out the back of our group.

Just past the big road crossing on the N4 and it was my time for my 15 minutes of fame. One of the media cars pulled up alongside us and seeing as we had four women in the group riding at the front (there seems to only be about 15 of us in total) they chose a particularly short, sharp climb to have a chat to me on camera. I think I made sense through the heaving breathing, but I’ll have to see if it turns up on the event DVD or not.

At 53 miles we reached the first feed station in under 3 hours. The first group of the main peloton were just about to leave, making us the second group to arrive – so we weren’t exactly taking it easy. I was glad of the soup and roll and took on as much fluid as possible. The problem I have riding at that intensity is I forget to eat and drink. I knew this would be a problem later on on such a long stage. We didn’t stop long and our merry band was joined by a few more riders who had decided the peloton was just too much for them. We decided we were the ‘poursuivants’ group (a la Tour de France) and set off again.

More long, drawn out, undulating roads and a hard working group of 10 riders chatting and laughing whilst clocking up the miles – I haven’t done much road riding but I don’t think things can get much better than this. Each rider seemed to go through a rough patch at some point but was allowed to sit at the back for a while to get their legs back. Those who were feeling good worked on the front and swung off whenever they felt like it. Nobody was left behind and we even slowed up to wait if a rider had stopped for some reason – pretty good for a random group of riders who didn’t even know each other.

There was one big hill for the day and it came at 75 miles, nothing compared to yesterday though and we were quickly over the other side. The usual warning shouts of “gravel”, “hole”, “dog” (don’t ask me why there are quite so many bike chasing dogs in Ireland but most of them seem to have death wishes), “left”, “cows”. Cows?! There was a screech of brakes and skidding tyres – three cows had escaped from their field and were standing in the middle of the road. The farmers were trying to herd them back in but we spooked them and one decided to try and Frosby Flop a 5ft high stone wall – no small feat for a fully grown cow! We moved aside and ushered the other two into the field.

Being an unofficial and small group we had very little in the way of motorcycle marshalling but the Garda were stationed at most of the main junctions. As we approached the final feed station at 90 miles the rough riding surface was making it tough and I was flagging somewhat, starting to drop off the back. One of the guys dropped back for me and I sat on his wheel until we reached it. I shoved handfuls of Nutrigrain bar into my mouth, topped off with energy gels. This must have worked; along with the fact that we only had 35 miles to go and it wasn’t even 2pm, we’d been blasting along without realizing it.

Finally signs for Galway and a motorbike marshall escorted us into the busy town centre full of Saturday afternoon shoppers. He did a fantastic job of stopping traffic on the busy roundabouts and the Garda controlled traffic on all the junctions. Thank God they did because we were now steaming along like a freight train and nothing was going to stop us. Again, this was a very unique experience for me and the special treatment added to that feeling of being a pro rider that the event creates.

It was every man for himself around the final few winding streets and into the university campus to pass under the Kellogg’s arch. Dave won the sprint, with me 50 or so yards behind. The rest followed in quick succession. Our little group had ridden together for most of the 120 miles and enjoyed every minute of it. A group photo was in order and the official photographer obliged, followed by another interview with the cameraman. The official time is probably closer to 7 hours, but I had a ride time of 6h30. The peloton that included Jamie Burrows, former Lance Armstrong team mate; the ParkPre professional sportive team and a young Irish pro rider, not forgetting Ickle Paul Davis, arrived a full hour before us but we were still the second group in and there were smiles, handshakes and pats on the back all round.

A shower on the university campus, plenty of tasty food in the union bar and then coaches over to the Days Hotel for an early night and some well deserved rest ready for tomorrow – the longest day of the Tour and the day the hills start. I’ve prepared myself for a good 10 hours in the saddle, anything less will be a bonus.


Simon said...

Sounds ace :)

trio25 said...

Sounds an amazing experience!