95km culminating with a lap of Valentia Island
With a very different course ahead, and two jerseys already in the team the mood was different entering into the third day. Yesterday we had a plan and we had delivered. Now we would have to defend our lute, but we were confident, we were excited. The race was interesting, we had a fun challenge and we still wanted more. The plan for the day contained many ‘buts’ and ‘ifs’. With only two climbs both far less ugly than those of the previous day tactics to take control of the race would be very different. In essence we wanted a rider ‘up the road’ to win the stage, but the battle en-route would be tough and the Mountains Jersey was barely within our grasp.
Helen who had always felt nervous in a bunch was at ease. As the challenges grew Helen was rising to them. She had become a new rider adding tact and skill to her already proven power. Seeing one of the prime competitors for the mountains jersey move away with a break Helen found me in the bunch, led me out and up to the break. She once again took to the front for the first climb Coomaciste, a category 2.
I tried a break followed by the purple jersey but we did not manage to stay away long. Laura Massey with her Abergavenny teammates attempted to gain top points but Louise crossed the line first. Laura was ahead of me by one place putting her within one point of taking the jersey. The top of the second and last climb would determine the Queen of the Mountains for the day.
After the descent from Coomaciste Elise came into form. No Elise exploded into form. She attacked in and around 34 times. The Pink Jersey and her teammates, one of whom was battling for the Mountains Jersey worked very hard to reel her in time and time again. While the bunch would not let her go she had exhausted a key player for the Mountains Jersey while she herself was still strong upon entering Valentia Island.
Elise took control of the bunch to string it out in the approach to the final climb. Nobody could pass. I attacked but reeled on by Laura Massey sat in behind Louise for the climb. It was a physical and aggressive battle on the ascent. Both Laura and I struggled for position but I went first for the prime and took top points. We had the Mountains Jersey again. Louise broke away in a bunch of three over this last climb. I watched optimistic this was the move that might bring us a stage win. Eventually caught by a large group of chasers Louise sat in. Not today.
On the finish line we once again had two jerseys. As a team we were growing in strength, we were riding increasingly as a unit. Once again spirits were high.
Treat time! We took a celebratory trip to the beach and with a little bullying all four team members braved the Atlantic. Preparation for stage 5 would wait.