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« Gone racing .... | Main | Final Prep Race - Shay Elliot 140k »
Sunday
May222011

The Bionic Dude p/b SDCC

The Team

I had accepted an offer to ride for a Rás team immediately after the Tour of Ulster. I was delighted just to be riding but I was not aware of the transfer market that takes place in cycling at this time of year. I ended up feeling like a bit of a football player learning of his own transfer in the papers. A manager of another team that I initially asked for a spot ended up being short a rider and so he negotiated my transfer to his team unbeknownst to me. When I got the call after the deal was done, I was delighted despite the lack of a sign-on fee for me (I wish). It suited me as the team had come to adopt me at races even though I wasn't a member. I hadn't joined initially because I knew competition for places would be plentiful for the Rás as the club has some very strong riders. In the end real life and injuries got in the way meaning a spot opened up for me unexpectedly. Thus, I'm very happy to be representing South Dublin Cycling Club and riding for a super back-room team that includes the great legend of Irish cycling Mick Lawless. This means another new team-strip for me, one that is effectively the same as that of Lance Armstrong's Astana Team in the 2009 Tour de France.

Of course, there is no 'I' in Team. Hopefully I'll get to introduce you to the rest of the lads during the week.

The Bike

Getting ready for the Rás is exhausting, the training now seems the easy bit. Thus, I'm really looking forward to getting on the road now that all the preparations are done. The only thing I dread are the post-Rás blues as I will have a huge void in my life after the race. Absolutely all my focus for the last number of months has been on cycling, something that I will never be able to justify but something that I can't seem to tear myself away from either. The whole season has come down to this moment, so I have to ensure that I am fully prepared to have the best race I can.

When the bike is finally race ready it is such a relief. There was some initial disappointment last week when I peeled my punctured tubular tyre off my rear Zipp 404 (go-fast wheels) to discover a crack on the rim. The impact that caused the crack was what lead to my pinch-flat in Rás Mumhan, something that is hard to come-by on a tubular but such is life on Irish roads with fragile wheels. I left it up to the mechanic in the bike-shop to make a call on it and he said it wasn't rideable. The crack is only superficial but it is across the bridge of the rim and naturally I can't take the risk of the wheel exploding in the middle of a race. I was a bit annoyed as they are some seriously light and fast wheels, albeit from 2005. To replace the rear-wheel with a new one would cost at best €1150 ... obviously, that wasn't going to happen. It's a sign of how expensive the sport is and by now I'm just totally fed up shelling out cash on cycling. I feel like Al Bundy in the opening credits of 'Married with Children'. There is a scene where he is so used to handing over money non-stop to Peggy and the kids that he becomes oblivious to the fact he is giving money to his dog. I run a modest Aluminium Cannondale Caad 8 frame from 2006. My HED Ardennes race-wheels are from 2009 and are a nice mid-range wheel. The DurAce components are from 2006 also. Even though my ride is far from pimped it still costs a lot of money to tick her over. Thus, it is absolutely imperative that I don't look at or pick up a pro's bike during the week. If I do then my legs will stare up at me and say 'are you having a laugh?' as they curse me for the fact that they have so much more weight to pull over the same course as the pros. Then, I end up getting sandwiched by the inevitable thoughts in my head which go 'ooh, you'd have a much better chance of winning if you ran a pro's set-up'. Before you know it you are between a rock and a hard place, your legs mutiny and your head won't get them onside until you sign a a peace-treaty to buy a new lighter and faster race horse.

Aspirations

I'm a rookie so it's very difficult to know what to expect. To simply finish is the stated and main goal. The standard of this race gets incrementally higher every year, so much so that it scars people and scares good riders away. In addition, the course this year is particularly tough. The only benefit of being a rookie is that I have no sense of perspective. It is important to note that this race can end an amateur rider's career as he ends up with panic attacks at the sight of any gap opening up to the wheel in front ... even on a training spin. Such is the stress of the infamous line-outs, where all hell breaks loose for ten minutes as the bunch tries to close the gap to the break, that people are turned off the sport competitively for good. It is even possible to have nightmares about the line-outs. It is also common to use up 8 of your 9 lives during this race. There is so much suffering that you'll die at least 8 times (a thousand more like) meaning that when you finish you become born again in an effort to cherish your ninth and final life. You desert the sport for a normal life, a girlfriend and a proper job - one that doesn't entail waking up with sweats every night and throwing your body blindly down mountains.

I want to have as good a race as I can. I'm not riding this for the holiday, although I want the experience to be as fun and relaxed as it can be. Of course, I can't reasonably expect to dominate pros when the lads that beat me every week will be getting their asses kicked for a change. As I'm neither a specialist climber nor a sprinter I can't focus on any particular stage. Thus, I'll be trying to get as high up the GC as is possible – whatever that ends up being. If things are going well it would be nice to feature in the races within the race, the B prize in my case. I know my legs are good and without trying I'm weighing in at a lightish 73.5kgs (light for me, I'm 6'2” - I'd be lighter if I ever cut my hair and beard). I can't have prepared any better for this race so it ultimately comes down to my head, the one thing which I never doubt. Thus, in a bizarre way I feel very relaxed about what is to come. When I throw my leg over a bike it all feels very automatic for me. I engage a deeper part of my consciousness that makes racing feel very much like auto-pilot. Of course, it is not possible that I'll end up back in Dublin after a savage eight days and 1247kms of racing wondering how I got here. However, once I'm on the bike I outsource everything to my racing brain and if I couldn't trust my racing instincts then I wouldn't be in this sport. It's too hard already without saddling your bike computer with a slow processor.

Best of luck to all the riders, especially the amateur ones who must work and play the family-man too. They really deserve a lot of respect. And with that I'm off ...

may the Irish sky not fall on my head

his dudeness

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