Stage 6 - Blarney-Tramore 172k
I was pretty nervous this morning before the stage as day 6 is when everybody's legs are black and blue from racing. Some people find their form at this point and others pack their legs into body bags. What way would mine be? The stage opened straight onto a long drag and if you were feeling bad at this point then you could get shelled early and be swinging out the back all day. It all depended on what the pros wanted to do.
On my warm up the legs felt heavy but I knew they would come around. At the start-line I ended up having chats with Coyle, a good thing to do to dissolve any of my angst. While we didn't talk about the B prize at all it became very apparent that Chris just happens to be a B because he doesn't do a whole lot of racing in Ireland, it also became obvious that he was more focused on getting the daily amateur stage winner award, hence all his aggressive racing. Still, I want to be on the podium in Skerries so I still had a GC position to manage.
Thankfully there were road-works on the opening drag, which meant the neutralised section of the race was lengthened to include the drag. The day would be incredibly rolling so it was nice to get the first one out of the way. We were riding a fairly comfortable tempo but it was still work. Mid-way through the race the yellow jersey race took off from the bunch leaving us to our own devices. A few amateurs, including Art, peeled off the front hoping that at last the pros would let us race. The pros reeled the break in but I think they then realised that they were spoiling our day out. This was the first day that the amateurs had missed the pros move and so the daily amateur stage-winner award was still on. Suddenly it was back to the mental racing that we have every weekend in Ireland in the amateur ranks; attack, attack, attack. Coyle was being particularly aggressive with his team-mates and soon I found myself firing a load of bullets to get into a move out of the bunch. I was principally marking Coyle as I wasn't too keen to get into a break with 70k to go. There are still two hard days left and it was looking like what remained of the bunch could have a relaxed ride. But there was a chance for something to get away and so I must have jumped around 10 times to get into the move. Each time we were pulled back. I dropped back to recover and see what was happening in the bunch when my team-mate Mick followed wheels off the front into the move that would stay away. I was delighted for him as he was talking about it this morning. When I looked I saw that Coyle was with him and that they were now 300ms up the road. Rats. Not much I could do now but either to bury myself to bridge or to wait and see if they would come back to us. The pros came to the front to nullify the attacks from the bunch as they hate the pace changing so much when they are trying to have an easy day. Thus, we rolled along fairly comfortably and it was now a matter of how much time I would leak to Coyle on the stage.
As we hit all the rolls on the run-in to Tramore I started thinking about how I would gain time on Dempsey who is currently 2nd in the B prize, just 27 seconds ahead of me. Again, I'm not sure how much Dempsey would race for the B prize but I realised that I was having a fairly easy ride and that the legs were still really strong despite all the jumping earlier. I was thinking about tomorrow's stage but then I realised I could probably surprise him today by stealing a march into a blind corner from 5k out. I was sitting second row with my team-mate Art in the bunch and we hatched a plan to tag-team it after the 5k to go banner. He would drop me off at the stomper of a finish climb with 500ms to go in Tramore where I would just try and hockey the mountain. We had words with the An Post lads and Gallagher of SportActive (former Ras winner in 2008) at the front to ask if they would mind us clipping away. They said it was cool and when we saw a good corner coming they nodded us through. Off we went, just the two of us. A 5k effort is not that much of an effort but it came after 167k of racing. We were flying and working well together. As planned Art dropped me off at the bottom of the climb and I did my best to haul my bike up a really steep hill in the middle of Tramore town. The plan worked and we took 90secs on Dempsey over the final 4.5k for the craic. This puts me back into 2nd and a minute up on 3rd heading into tomorrow's mountainous stage. The bad news is that I leaked 14 minutes to Coyle by missing that break. It is what it is. The race is super stressful when you are fighting for a position, especially when you are up against an amateur as in form as Coyle. So in some ways the stress is off. That is not to say that I won't be looking for another opportunity over the next two days. Who knows, I have come to understand how absolutely nuts this race is, anything can still happen.
It was a good day for the team, we were all feeling good and while Mick didn't manage to score the amateur rider prize it was nice for us all to have a taste of some action off the front of the bunch. Much obliged to the An Post lads and to Gallagher for allowing me to sneak away at the finish. I understand they stopped lads from the bunch attacking me, deadly buzz.
Another day over so ...
Ringo (my new nick-name in the peloton)