Ras na mBan: Stage 6

Day 5: Moll’s Gap 58k (flat, uphill, downhill into the wind)

By Helen

Molls Gap was tough. The toughest day yet. Not because of the terrain or the weather but because our hearts were heavy.

Yesterday we had everything. Today we had nothing. All our efforts with nothing to show for it. It was hard.

In many ways racing is like life condensed: highs, lows, trials and jubilations all thrown into 1-3hrs. We’d been thrown a curveball. Sure we were disappointed but that’s life. Can’t control everything that happens, but we could decide whether or not that was it for us. But as a team we had unanimously agreed that we needed to finish as positively as we had started.

With the ever-encouraging team manager, Ger, and upbeat mechanic, Tim, we put our heads together and hatched a plan.

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Molls Gap, the uphill

Some of the plan went well, some not so well. Elise carried on attacking. I gave it a couple of goes. We got chased down. Lots of people had a go off the front – Dutch riders, Scottish lasses. It was do or die time. There were those defending position on GC and those who had nothing to lose. Made for an interesting race.

The wind over the top of Molls Gap was properly Irish! I think we were going faster up to the top (and let’s face it after 15/20mins of climbing we weren’t at full pelt) than on the crest and descent. I looked for a wheel. Any wheel. I found that the tiny Scottish rider’s wheel was free. I took it. She probably weighs half what I do but knew if I let go, I’d be gapped in no time. Its really telling when the peloton are struggling to muster 8mph. The wind was slamming us back.

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Moll’s Gap, the downhill

At about this time Elise’s hubby and daughter appeared on a windswept bank high above the road, standing among the clouds…or perhaps they were sheep, I was losing it a bit, cheering for us. Elise took to the helm and pushed on towards home. The wind changed. The peloton gathered pace and we were soaring down the hill toward home and glory.

Attacks started going but getting reeled in. I saw some powerful ones go, that I thought ‘shoot that’s it that’s the move’, but even they got pulled back in.

Then there were sheep.

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Danger in candyfloss form. SHEEP!

I was chasing a group with Elise when they suddenly started slowing up and shouting. We shouted to the riders behind. SHEEP! Silly so-and-sos. We got round them OK, thanks to some good motorbike skills up front, but cripes that was more excitement than I really wanted.

The peloton was still about 30 strong and getting faster with each KM (Elise!)

Siobhan came past me. I sat on her wheel. We saw Lou. We saw Elise. We gathered. I sat on Lou’s wheel but lost it. That didn’t matter too much the best lead out train had come together when it needed to. Siobhan, unfazed by the increasingly jumpy peloton carved a path through. When the time came, Elise came round and stepped on the gas like only she can. And then BANG! Louise went for it.

Unfortnately for us, Karla saw a good thing and sat on Lou’s wheel and managed to get round to take the win. I think Karla would agree that was a good leadout ūüôā

The sprint was tight. We thought we might have 2nd place, but it was 3rd. No matter, we’d ended on a good performance and Ger and Tim were on hand with sweet drinks and coats. (Another podium finish for Lou).

Sometimes results and performance cross paths, sometimes they don’t. We took what we were given and we did more than we ever expected to be able to.

Last year we weren’t in a position to ride together, this year having practiced more (although not us 4 together) it kind of happened. It wasn’t perfect, and we would have liked to have kept the jerseys, but then there’s always next year. I’ve learnt a lot and can see areas for improvement, so that will help me pass away long winter nights on the turbo thinking about what I am going to do next time. Mwhahahahaha!

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It was hard, then we hit the wind!

I’d like to thank Ger and Tim for being an ace team – always with a carrot and never a stick. The staff at Sneem Hotel were lovely from reception, to the waiting crew. Thanks Louis for first class accomodation and food (we’re spoilt – 4* accommodation – oh yeah! You’re treated well at the Ras). Thanks to the media team for shouting about what we are doing. Let’s hope that interest grows. Thanks to the judges, marshalls, out-riders, organisers (esp. Valerie and Louis) and commissaires without whom there’s be no race. Cheers to the people of Sneem, Kerry and Cork who welcomed the race – you may not get the weather but you get a warm welcome. Lots of respect and high-5s to all the girls racing – everyone put their heart and soul in to it, I hope everyone feels proud. We beat the XXXX out of each other and it was good!

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Class act. Danish team ‘L Reelight/Bike To’ conquered.

The Ras inspires, the Ras liberates, I dream of being a pro rider, riding with my mates. ( I know. If I wasn’t a cyclist I could be a poet. Is there no start to my talents?)

This vid from Orwell Wheelers made me feel all warm and fuzzy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=z-Q6_HNm6VU

General Classification ———————————————————————— PL No. UCI Code Name CAT Team GC Time @ 1 8 DEN19930818 Vallin,Kamilla Sofie L Reelight/Bike To 11h08’58” 2 1 IRL19870719 Boylan,Lydia L Irish National T 11h09’04” @06″ 3 19 GBR19790728 Bunn,Lowri L Abergavenny RC 11h09’11” @13″ 4 6 DENI9960524 Dideriksen,Amalie L Reelight/Bike To 11h09’23” @25″ 5 32 GBR19850926 Boddy,Karla L High Wycombe CC 11h09’28” @30″ 6 54 IRL19810430 Meade,Fiona L Cycling Munster 11h09’43” @45″ 7 35 IRL19870102 McNamara,Siobhan L Look Mum No Hand 11h10’46” @01’48” 8 60 GBR19870721 Ewing,Anne L Black Rose Cycli 11h13’19” @04’21” 9 22 GBR19840810 Murray,Laura L Abergavenny RC 11h13’55” @04’57” 10 37 IRL19780117 Moriarty,Louise L Look Mum No Hand 11h17’18” @08’20” 11 3 IRL19810718 Dalton,Anne 4 Irish National T 11h18’54” @09’56” 12 27 GBR19871014 Sewell,Iona L Geoffrey Butler 11h21’32” @12’34” 13 12 NED19920925 Lenting,Charlotte L NWVG Bike 4 Air- 11h22’02” @13’04” 14 34 GBR19870203 Evans,Mary Hannah L High Wycombe CC 11h22’19” @13’21” 15 14 NED19840824 Postma,Mary Rose L NWVG Bike 4 Air- 11h22’20” @13’22” 16 16 NED19940901 Markus,Riejanne L District Team NH 11h22’21” @13’23” 17 9 DEN19940112 Olsen,AmalieWinther L Reelight/Bike To 11h22’30” @13’32” 18 61 IRL19670112 Moran,Tonya L Black Rose Cycli 11h22’49” @13’51” 19 47 SWE19881222 Nordin,Gabriella L Sandy Wallace Cy 11h23’00” @14’02” 20 13 NED19911107 Oudman,Hilde L NWVG Bike 4 Air- 11h27’55” @18’57” 21 10 JPN19830104 Hori,Yukiyo L NWVG Bike 4 Air- 11h28’20” @19’22” 22 18 NED19851105 Visser,Silja L District Team NH 11h28’53” @19’55” 23 38 GBR19750727 Sherwell,Elsie L Look Mum No Hand 11h28’56” @19’58” 24 64 IRL19750622 Buckley,Patricia L DTC Orwell Wheel 11h33’47” @24’49” 25 20 GBR19950150 Hill,Amy L Abergavenny RC 11h34’58” @26’00” 26 53 IRL19870501 Stephens,Niamh L Cycling Leinster 11h35’07” @26’09” 27 48 GBR19830215 Taylor,Gillian L Abergavenny RC 11h35’14” @26’16” 28 33 FRA19840515 Copie,Clemence L High Wycombe CC 11h44’57” @35’59” 29 70 IRL19660115 Marconi,Monica L Orwell Joe Daly 11h46’48” @37’50” 30 51 GBR19850612 McDonald,Charlotte L Cycling Leinster 11h48’29” @39’31” 31 36 GBR19780210 McKay,Helen L Look Mum No Hand 11h50’13” @41’15” 32 58 ESP19861105 Ortiz,Sara L Black Rose Cycli 11h51’44” @42’46” 33 2 IRL19871201 Brice,Amy L Irish National T 11h56’13” @47’15” 34 50 IRL19710210 Cooke,Fiona L Cycling Leinster 11h57’38” @48’40” 35 72 IRL19720906 Feton,Vanessa L 3D TC 11h59’35” @50’37” 36 52 IRL19800818 McEvoy,Orla L Cycling Leinster 12h00’36” @51’38” 37 28 GBR19840111 Maidment,Sarah L Geoffrey Butler 12h05’13” @56’15” 38 62 IRL19780612 Kennedy,Roisin L Black Rose Racin 12h07’09” @58’11” 39 25 Erskine,Julie L Aberdeen Wheeler 12h14’03” @1h05’05” 40 57 IRL19730814 Keohane,Anne L Cycling Munster 12h15’24” @1h06’26” 41 77 IRL19780124 Robinson,Karen L 3D TC 12h18’04” @1h09’06” 42 74 IRL Fox,Marie L 3D TC 12h23’17” @1h14’19” 43 63 IRL19631006 Hendron,Orla L DTC Orwell Wheel 12h32’14” @1h23’16” 44 68 IRL Cogan,Isabel L Orwell Joe Daly 12h49’52” @1h40’54” 45 67 IRL19811025 Soden,Lucy L DTC Orwell Wheel 12h54’34” @1h45’36” 46 39 Taromsari,Ishbel L Pedal Power Race 13h00’59” @1h52’01” 47 79 IRL19941114 Gourlay,Lauren L Orwell Joe Daly 13h27’21” @2h18’23” 48 56 IRL19930606 Doherty,Nicola L Cycling Munster 13h33’19” @2h24’21” 49 65 IRL19770712 Donnelly,Margaret L DTC Orwell Wheel 13h37’13” @2h28’15” 50 26 Perry,Jo-Ann L Deal Tri Club 13h53’16” @2h44’18” 51 75 IRL19720904 Finn,Tania L 3D TC 13h56’24” @2h47’26” 52 76 IRL19761227 Mulvany,Maria L 3D TC 14h18’49” @3h09’51” 53 69 IRL19800923 Downes,Catherine L Orwell Joe Daly 14h48’20” @3h39’22”

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From Cupcakes to Catford – don’t miss it!

I’m not normally a big fan of pink.  But this year I have found a good enough reason to sport a bit of pink myself since it is the official colour of all things breast cancer.  Some of you may know that our founding member Charlotte Easton has been fighting breast cancer detected right at the tail end of 2011.  2012 has been an Olympic year for Charlie for many reasons Рfor the chemo, the surgery, and now for the radiotherapy.  These obstacles on the steeple chase of treatments that must be overcome have been systematically and courageously ticked off by Charlie in her characteristic no nonsense style.  The way she has tackled the diagnosis and treatment has inspired all of us to put the small stuff in perspective and enjoy ourselves every chance we get.

Since her diagnosis, as a team we have been itching to do something in support.¬† To make a start some of us have been wearing small pink badges on our jerseys, or wrist bands given to us by Elise from the breast cancer support centres.¬† Since my ankles are suitably skinny I have been wearing mine around my leg or on my forearm (where it won‚Äôt fall down!) as a constant reminder of how lucky I am to be well and enjoying riding my bike.¬† Every time I look at this I think ‚ÄėIf you think you are suffering, imagine the shit Charlie is going through‚Äô.¬† Or if I am a bit nervous or unsure of myself I think ‚ÄėYou are lucky to be doing this.¬† You do it because you enjoy it‚Äô.¬† As I tuck it under my sock and get started for a time trial I think ‚ÄėPush with that leg a bit harder for Charlie.¬† She would like to be doing this and she would kick your arse‚Äô.

As well as this small token gesture we have been collectively brainstorming bigger projects to raise money for a breast cancer charity too.  We have finally come up with a suitably ridiculous idea that can involve everyone and sets the right tone to celebrate how far Charlie has come with her treatment and show our continued support on the road to full recovery.  We want as many of you as possible to join us in this fun day out so here is how you can get involved:

Ride the twin peaks of the Catford and Bec Hill Climb and wear something pink

On October 14th the classic Autumn Hill Climb Time Trials that are run on Yorks and Old Titsey Hill in Kent are running as usual.  We would like some of you to enter these time trials and suffer in this small way to show your support.  From the team we have me (Jo), Lydia, Louise and Elise (and Erin) riding.  I have ordered some very special pink accessories which frankly have led me to some websites I would rather have not visited, but there you go.  Ladies of London, a lot of you wear pink anyway so you have no excuse but to turn up.  We would love some of you to enter too.  Entries via the CTT website or by way of the handbook.

Ride out from Look Mum No Hands! to watch a handful of crazy women in pink suffer up hill

If the hill climbs are not for you then you can always meet for an early breakfast at the café in town and ride out (hopefully with Charlotte) to show your support from the roadside.  There will be breakfast from the café at 7am for a 7.45am departure.  The Catford hill climb up Yorks hill starts at 10.00am, the Bec up white hill (old Titsey) is at 2.00pm.  If you can’t meet us in town, meet us there and give those of us riding the climbs an extra loud shout.

Or if you want you can make a donation to Breast Cancer Care at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/CupcakestoCatford

Not much is happening in October is it?  Come on…..put it in your diary!

We’ve set up a Facebook page for the event…¬†https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cupcakes-to-Catford

R√°s na mBan: Stage 5

95km, narrow gravelly grassy roads and vicious climbs

By Siobh√°n

Stage 5 was to be a make or break stage. This would be the case for each rider and each team in the race. For Look Mum this was the day the plan did not work. We took the most positive approach we could. Helen and Elise were to take ‚Äėsuicide rides‚Äô and once delivered Louise and I would take jerseys and the stage. The atmosphere among team members was an extraordinarily positive and ambitious one. We would aim for everything and give the race every bit of energy we had to achieve our very best.

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Louise smiles for her love of hardship

From the beginning all four team members took to the front. The race was neutralised for the first 4.5km to keep the bunch together over this first hill. We were ready as soon as the car pulled away and pounced. Elise and Helen took turns driving a hard pace. Very early on we turned onto narrow roads only allowing two riders abreast. The aggressive start from Helen and Elise put Louise and I in prime positions ready for the challenges ahead.

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Elise’s terrifying quads

‚ÄėThe Ballaghs‚Äô began after the first 20km. These are two category 1 climbs with an unforgiving surface and a gradient that would split and break the bunch for the race. I lost precious mountains points over these two climbs and Louise lost position. It was not our day.

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Ascending the second of the Ballaghs

Later in the race I took first position over the last hill prime regaining some points in the mountains competition. I felt defeated after crossing the finish line. When Louise and Elise arrived, Elise smiled and gathered us in. Louise gave me a warm jacked and later we learned that Helen, having done her part for the team was helping other dropped riders over the last climbs and home.

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Only Helen found cause to smile during this gruelling feat

On Stage 5 we didn’t get the results we wanted but what a performance. We had aimed for the highest and done everything we could. Surrounded by such a warm and positive team I really was enjoying the Rás more and more. I took the County Jersey for the day and we thought we were done.

Unfortunately later on we were informed that commissaires were penalizing me one minute and the mountains points gained as I had ‚Äėleft my line‚Äô during the sprint for the final hill prime. The decision could not be reversed. Now the challenge was greater than ever. The Mountains Jersey and County Jersey were gone. We would have to find a positive and aggressive plan for our final race day.

R√°s na mBan: Stage 4

95km culminating with a lap of Valentia Island

By Siobh√°n

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Louise greets hundreds of adoring fans before the start.

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 ‚Äėbuts‚Äô and ‚Äėifs‚Äô. 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 ‚Äėup the road‚Äô to win the stage, but the battle en-route would be tough and the Mountains Jersey was barely within our grasp.

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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.

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New Helen! Confident fierce Helen!

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.

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Game Face! Louise & Elise entering Valentia Island for a final bout of attacks.

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.

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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.

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Ras na mbam: Stage 3

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This is the (pro?) men’s race but like they say anything they can do, we can…

By Helen

Stage 3 (day 2) was the Healy Pass stage. (shudder)

We started the stage with Siobhan in a contention for the QOM and Lou in the County¬†jersey…and in a national team near us, Lydia’s¬†brilliant uphill TT performance had moved her right up the GC to 2nd overall (a position she and¬†the Irish National team¬†would defend well over the course of the week despite everything the¬†race threw at them.)

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Healy Pass – has drama and beauty that is little appreciate on the rivet!

I remembered the Healy pass. Its a stage that will probably never leave the memories of any who climb it.¬†My sense of accomplishment after having climbed and descended it safely last year¬†is still strong. It’s humdinger!

Given that Siobhan and Louise were well placed on GC and that there were jerseys in sight, Ger, Tim and Lou hatched a cunning plan. We went to sleep that night excited.

It was raining when we got to Kenmare. It was raining when we signed on, and raining when we ‘warmed up’ (I think warming up is really all about getting your clothes as wet as possible so that no further wet is possible. This might be called osmosis. It might not. I was never that good at science.) I thanked my lucky stars I had my Pro aero lite overshoes on – they really stood up to the Irish test – I could not have been wetter if I had worn them in the shower. I deepy regretted not getting a LMNH gilet. It was wet. The just before we started it got worse. There was a couple of cm of water across the road, the rain was beating down, making it hard to look forward to see where you were going. It was miserable. It was proper Ras weather.

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Wet start. Wet middle. Wet end. Gotta love it!

It was slippy. In the neutralised section there was a slow speed crash. One which in the dry wouldn’t have happened and one which hurt the poor lass an unfair amount. When we moved on there was¬†a feeling of intrepidation. The bunch rode more cautiously.

I sat near the back of the bunch, hovering. Lou, Shiobhan, Elise (and Lyds) were all further up. It was stupidly wet and clearly it was slippy. I thought better just sit it out and finish safely, Helen.

But then something happened.

I remembered we had a plan. The team had a plan. I had a role and I needed to do it. I did whatever the mental equivalent is of rollling up my sleeves and started.

By luck, pluck or divine intervention I got up near the front of the peloton. I saw my gap and I attacked. It wasn’t a great attack, I can do better. The legs were tired from riding most of yesterday on my own (cue sad violin music), but it was good enough. I got a small gap. Now it was game on! I was sure it world be closed down, but that didn’t matter. I pushed on. The road started to go upwards. I lifted my gaze and sure enough there was the hill. Come on Helen just this bit. Drive it. This is all you need to do. I could hear wheels behind.¬†A wheel looked like it was trying to come round. Over my…I dug in deeper. Must do this, must do this…

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Siobhan shone, so did the road but it was just wet.

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Matching bartape to kit makes you 20% faster. Fact.

Siobhan was amazing. How she had found my wheel from out of the peloton I don’t know, but she did. She was¬†where she needed to be, when she needed to be there. Best of all she executed. She flew past me over the top of the hill and won the QOM. One of the amazing Danish team tried to take it, but Siobhan did it. She took it!¬†Boo-ya! Following their example as best I could I took 3rd. To think how¬†Siobhan just started racing last year and now this – a revelation! (Was it Siobhan or was it Lizzie Armistead? So similar now.)

What goes up…..

Having taken top spot over the climb, Siobhan was now in poll position on the descent. I did some quick maths and decided that it was better if she didn’t have to take the wind – even on a descent. This is the bit I’d like Jo McRae to read – she is our top descender – like Vos but more likely to break out into MC Hammer moves. I nipped in front of¬†Siobhan. I was going to deliver her as far as I could. I led them down the hill, Jo. 65 riders and not one came past me. Only 1¬†bend when I really thought uh-oh and yelled ‘flibberty jibbet’ or similar to the skies. Got to the bottom. Thank¬†God!

But no time to breathe. We were now¬†at the bottom of Healy’s Pass, Siobhan was on my wheel, everyone else behind her¬†and there was a jersey to get.¬†Each bend I kept thinking this is it I’m going to blow, and each bend no one came round me.¬†By this point I was not feeling so good, Siobhan gave a couple of words of encouragement, like a gel, it gave me a little boost. Just as I was about to say ‘go on without me’ Louise appeared. Hallelujah!

Lou took to the front. I have seen this girl fly up this mountain as if it was not there before – that’s the former pro within. She rode steadily with me behind and Siobhan on my wheel. I let Siobhan pass. The¬†leaders started bunching up and one-by-one coming past me. I held on for as long as I could. Siobhan attacked. I had nothing. The race was shattered and so was I.

But with Siobhan and Lou up the road, riding with lead legs up a treacle mountain was the best place to be (I came back to sticky uphill roads a few days later).

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Louise and Siobhan (and Lyds) in a strong lead group

 Epiphanies and God help me moments

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Elise loving the hardship

I caught up with Elise and a small group a little later on. We worked well together. I think we were two of the group who were feeling better. Caha Pass I remember is being the one where I swear there were vultures circling me last year. Last year Pan had an epithany there (one of many I think). Maybe that was mine. Elise is very strong uphills for someone who professes not to¬†be a hill climber, and what is¬†more she¬†is good company. It was lovely to be picked up by a team mate. We found we would end up together on other days too. She loves a bit of hardship, in fact the more horrible the weather the more she seems to grin and is likely to say ‘isn’t this fun?’ Unlike last year, I found that the misery of sheets of rain and strong winds oddly comforting. It just wouldn’t be the Ras without it would it?

By the top of the Caha the group had split a bit. Good. I wanted a head start. I thought I was going quite bravely down the hill until Elise and her new riding soul-mate Yuki came charging past. I think they caused the tarmac to ripple. (Their bond had started earlier in the day and Elise knew that they would see much more of each other in days to come. Destiny.)

I found my perfect riding partner in¬†a quiet Dutch rider who I think I recognised from last year. The last 20K home felt like 120k…are we nearly there yet? My Dutch companion and I took turns to push on the flat. Wanting to give up, but never doing it. I think it was here last year that Jo was having a similar conversation with her race buddy.¬†By the time we crossed the line I felt like we had lived through something. I could have gone in with a hug (no that would have been akward!) In many ways the feeling at the end of a race is a bit like that at the end of a drunken night out. I love you man!¬†(We only lost just over 1¬†min on the Yuki and Elise tornedo so I think we did very well. High 5!)

Up the road

At the sharp end of the action we had 2.5 riders (Lydia was riding for Ireland but her socks were LMNH). Siobhan had followed Lowri Bunn of Abergerveny RT over the top of Healy’s Pass, securing 1st position in the QOM overall.¬†Louise had done a fantastic job of taking Siobhan to the top of Caha where she ensured that the jersey was hers. Siobhan had attacked 100% at each opportunity. She did herself and us proud. There were a lot of good climbers in contention and she withstood the pressure.

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Not content with setting up Healy’s and Caha for Siobhan. Louise stuck in the lead group. Looking deep into her soul she found more energy.¬†The lead group comprised many¬†strong sprinters (Lydia, Karla, Lowri, Lauren¬†to name a few¬†without refering to the results sheet) it was not going to be easy. Louise went for it and was just pipped¬†on the line by her former teammate, Femke, with Karla taking 3rd. Lydia kept 2nd in GC (not doing badly, are we?)

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Podium girls: Louise, Femke and Karla (more from her later)

I wanted to write about this stage¬†because I’m proud to bits of what I did. I am proud to bits of riding with Siobhan¬†who said she wanted to contest QOM, came¬†through and delivered. I am proud to bits of riding with¬†Louise¬†who worked for Siobhan and¬†then¬†dug deep to contend the sprint. I’m proud of riding with Elise who was positive throughout and over the 5 days probably did more attacking than any other rider (suicidal in a positive way??).¬†We rode for each other and encouraged each other¬†and I am proud of that. (Its the LMNH way.) And you know Lydia wasn’t too bad either!

Photos curtosy of Kenmare.ie, Visit Kerry.com, Sticky Bottle, Black Umbrella Photography and John OShaughnessy Photography 

Results

RESULT – new dog friend (clearly not as dreamy as Sneem hotel’s very own Red, but this dog – I called him big head – was stupidly friendly. I tried to explain that he was leaning heavily on a person who was just about balancing on a bike but he nuzzled harder. Danger-seeker.)

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Image Sneem dogs rock….they also have a tendancy to wade in stinky wet and then come for a cuddle. And they’re floozies!

R√°s: Stages 1 & 2

Stage one was a 68km circuit race passing through Sneem Village four times. As the first day of any stage race, a bit nervy. Helen was very unfortunate to puncture at the start of the stage, but a testament to her strength (both of legs and of character!), she barely lost any time on the bunch (unbelievable!!) Siobhan was going for mountain primes, with a lot of help from our resident train Elise and a little help from me, Louise. Elise attacked. A lot!! I attacked. A few times.

But no go, nothing was let away and it came down to a sprint finish. I tried to lead Elise out but it was very hectic and not a little scary so unfortunately our efforts came to nought. Though gotta be happy that we all stayed upright! With Lydia also safely in the bunch. The girl who won the stage, Femke from my old Dutch team, had fallen off earlier in the stage so fantastic effort to go on to win and take the first pink jersey of the race.

Podium: top 3 on stage plus jersey winners with Nicola and Louis of Sneem Hotel

Next up was that afternoon’s time trial, 3.4km uphill … Look Mum did well, with Helen in the hot seat for quite a while. Our positions were 3rd (Lydia), 7th (Louise), 16th (Siobh√°n), 18th (Helen) and 27th (Elsie, as she would from now on be known … the results sheet people just wouldn’t listen!) … fantastic ride by Lydia which effectively set her up for the week. I’m quite certain that Elise and Helen would also have been vying for podium if their legs hadn’t had quite such an excellent warm-up ( / hammering!) on that morning’s stage!

Both the pink and blue jerseys changed ownership after the time trial – with Clare Dallat the time trial winner taking both, though I got to wear the blue (county leader) jersey as a rider cannot wear two jerseys. Siobh√°n at this stage was sitting pretty in joint second spot in the QOM competition, ready to pounce on the big Healy Pass stage, day 2 ….

R√°s na mBan from behind the steering wheel

LMNH: A D.S.’s Account

Myself (Ger Madden of Fixx Rouleur) and Tim (O’Regan of D.I.D. Dunboyne, when not hanging out in Sneem currently living the dream in Belgium) had the honour of managing Look Mum No Hands at R√°s na mBan 2012. Louise, Helen and Siobhan, 2011 contestants and Elise, first time( but not soft)
This was our second time to manage the LMNH ladies team. Last year it was a case of First time around for all of us, for the riders except Louise it was their first 5 day stage race and for myself and Tim our first time managing a team. So we came into the race with a bit more self confidence and more expectation from what we would like the team to achieve.
From the beginning we encouraged the team to race from the start and to make an impression early on and most importantly to make friends in the bunch. Straight away on stage 1 the team delivered,on race radio we were to hear the same message again and again”Look Mum No Hands are at the front of the bunch controlling the pace”.
Helen was unfortunate to puncture very early in the stage and tried really hard to make it back to the bunch but the pace at the front never let up. The stage finished in a Bunch Gallop with Louise, Siobhan and Elise finishing as part of the main pack. Stage 1 down and everyone has made it through.
Now for the most important stage, The Charity Ladies race where all contestants had to be or dress like Ladies so Louise supplied myself and Tim with some of her finest short skirts and tights and tops(there may be Photographic evidence of our efforts  if you know where to look)
Stage 2 was a 3.3 kilometre TT and from the beginning our team made the pace with Helen holding the fasted time of the early starters until Siobhan went better to overtake Helen and was matched by Louise by a slightly better time. Eventually Siobhan and Louise would finish in the top 6.
This set us up for Stage 3 over the Healy and Caha passes. At the team meeting that evening  we discussed various race scenarios and planned to have all the team ride hard over the first QOH of the day to set up Louise and Siobhan for the Healy pass, Helen and Elise were a revelation here, doing what we knew they were capable of. Siobhan attacked half way up the Healy pass and was joined by another rider and they rode over the top of the QOH and starting the break which included Louise and another 10 riders, this was to be the main break of the day with the bunch falling behind as the break raced towards the Caha pass and on towards the finish in Kenmare.With Siobhan picking up points on the 3 QOH and the GC positions of the riders in the break, a second place on the stage for Louise and the County jersey and the Mountains  jersey for Siobhan, LMNH a fine reward for positive team riding.
During the stages myself and Tim made notes of various situations the developed during the race each day to bring to the team meetings that would be missed by the riders as they happen, sometimes it is easy to see the race develop from the comfort of the car that may not be apparent to the riders.
The next day, stage 4 brought the race to Valencia and a chance to consolidate our position as we maintained our position holding the 2 Jerseys at the end another tough day finishing with a fast and furious Bunch Gallop.
Stage 5, The Queen stage-“The Ballaghs” This was going to be the defining stage of Ras na mBan 2012. At the start one of the other team managers’ suggested that we would take over the race leadership. An indication of how well the other teams’ viewed how good our team was riding. From the beginning of the stage the bunch was thinning out because of the terrain that was a feature of this stage, roads that were undulating and narrow in the lead up to the first QOH at Ballaghbeama. Over the QOH the decisive break of the day formed and Siobhan was there among some of the other race contenders including the race leader and the main contender to Siobhan’s Mountains jersey. Louise was not in the move so Siobhan now had a chance of taking the County Jersey also.
Over the first 2 QOHs at Ballaghabeama and Ballaghasheen, Siobhan only scored 1 point and was now likely to lose the jersey to her main contender. The break kept a fast pace throughout and pulled away from the bunch putting minutes between them. On the approach to the final climb at Coomaciste the chief judge adjudged that Siobhan sprinted for the line in a irregular fashion and the penalty for this(Irregular Sprint) was a one minute penalty and omission from the final QOH prime. 4th place on the stage before everything changed.  All of a sudden 2 potential jerseys were taken away unfairly in my opinion, we appealed this harsh decision but were dismissed out of hand. The harsh reality of bike racing that changes fortunes in an instant.
As the leaders were racing to the finish, Helen was encouraging riders who were struggling up the final climb at Coomaciste, dropping back from her group to help others along. A gesture that was not lost on the same team manager from the start of the stage who  was impressed by our attitude throughout the race.
And so to the final stage a short stage ¬†to Kenmare,over Moll’s Gap and back to Sneem. Although we lost our 2 jerseys LMNH rode the same positive race that was a feature all week with Elise finally believing in her ability, attacking out of the bunch on the way to Kenmare, cresting Moll’s Gap with the bunch and driving the bunch towards the finish and leading Louise out for a fine 3rd place on the stage.
Overall, 7th place for Siobhan and 10th place for Louise a fine result.
A testament to all the team’s efforts, is that whenever LMNH turn up at a race, the opposition know that they will have ride hard to beat Look Mum No Hands.
For next year, I would expect LMNH to be contesting for the Overall title at R√°s na mBan 2013.
Ger.

R√°s na mBan 2012: The Warm-up

The LMNH dream team rode the An Post R√°s na mBan again this year http://www.rasnamban.com. The R√°s is Ireland’s premier cycling event for women, and possibly the only 5-day international stage race in Europe for amateur riders (though professionals also ride it, it is not (yet) UCI ranked). It is raced on the tough terrain of south Kerry and based at Sneem Hotel http://www.sneemhotel.com, who along with the Irish Post Office An Post are the main sponsors.

Five of the Look Mum squad raced – Lydia (riding for the Irish National Team), Elise, Helen, Siobh√°n (our newest recruit) and me, Louise. Along with Mum support squad of baby Erin, Elise’s mum and Doctor Dave. And in the team car: Ger Madden D.S. and Tim O’Regan mechanic (more on their racing later … !).

Team Mum almost ready to roll …

We arrived in plenty time for the race and did a great warm up ride on Friday prior to race start on Sunday. We recce-ed the third stage, which visits Valentia Island.

Checking out a QOM … which would prove very helpful

and … what better introduction to Kerry than Coomanaspaig … the hardest, steepest climb in the area heh heh ūüôā One of the girls asked me how much of it were we actually able to see (the top was lost in the mist) – halfway? hmmm no what you’re seeing is almost one third of the way up I reckon …

Luckily, what goes up also gets to go down! One fantastic descent later, down to the beach … (for a swim, good for the legs ya know)

… and to the Skelligs Chocolate Factory for recovery drinks.

Helen poses with molten chocolate

Triple Crown: Irish National Track Championships

The first weekend of September I was back in Dublin to defend my Sprint Championship. The weekend of racing went a little better than I expected!

Saturday:

Saturday’s racing started off with the 3k pursuit. I’ve been really enjoying the pursuit this year as part of the National Omniums, something I have definitely improved on since last year. But the pursuits in the Omniums are only 2k; 3k feels a whole lot longer!! A week before in training I did 4:12, I knew I could go faster on the day and was very happy to do 4:05 in qualifying. A big PB for me. This put me up against Caroline Ryan, a pursuit specialist. I was very happy to take silver. Caroline did a storming time of 3:51. I’ve a lot of work to do before I get anywhere near that time!

In the afternoon came the sprint. First up, the flying 200m qualifying. I set a new outdoor national record at the track champs in 2011 and really wanted to beat my time. I was really nervous. All the pressure was on me to preform and prove last year wasn’t just a fluke. But I knew I could…and I did. I set a new record doing the 200m in 12.92 seconds. After that all I had to do was take each sprint round at a time. I won all my sprints and retained my title. The shamrocks were staying with me! But no time to relax…recover and focus for the next two races on Sunday.

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Winning the Sprint Title. Photo by @VeLoLovesCity

Sunday:

I could feel a cold coming on on Saturday night and so on Sunday morning I was not feeling super confident. I just kept telling myself to focus. I had time to be sick later but now, I had to race. I’ve been training for this all season. I couldn’t let a silly little cold get in the way now.

First up, the 500m TT. I’d be practicing my standing start recently on Herne Hill (with the help of coach Scripps, Rob Mortlock and the Sunday morning track gang!). I really wanted to nail a good time. Sub 40 was the aim. I was last to go, a sub 40 would mean the jersey. Pressure on. They had the proper start gates out so I tried to concentrate on what I’d practiced. Bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleeeeep, pffffff…I was off. I came out of the gates really well but the first thing I noticed was that my shoes weren’t done up tightly. I couldn’t believe it. “Quickly. Focus. You can still do a good time.” Damn, I went way off line out of bend 2. “Shit. That’s it. No. Focus Lydia. You can still do a good time.”. It is totally amazing what goes through your head in a very quick 39.41 seconds! I did it! Jersey number 2 was coming home!

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And finally the scratch race. I was starting to feel tired and more and more sick. But this was the big one. I wanted to win. Caroline Ryan was racing this event too and after her performance in the pursuit I knew she was the one to watch. And that was my tactic. I knew I couldn’t match Caroline for pursuit speed but I did know I could try out sprint her. Chasing down Caroline’s attacks was hard. We should have stayed off the front but I just didn’t have the legs to keep her kind of speed up. With around 5 or 6 laps to go Roisin Kennedy attacked. I looked at Caroline to follow. I was on her wheel. With 3 laps to go Caroline was driving on the front. It was down to the two of us. I was hanging on for dear life! I didn’t think I could stick with it. But with Toby, my Mum and Dad watching I had to dig very very deep. Coming out of the last bend and onto the finishing straight I got out the of the saddle and kicked as hard as I could, it didn’t feel like much! I got on Caroline’s hip and she lost her line a little. I shouted and put my hand up (for non-trackies: when the sprint is launched you must hold your line). Caroline put her hand up to acknowledge this. I kept focused on the line and sprinted as hard as I could. I just pipped Caroline on the line. I had won my third title. Wow! What a weekend!

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A big thank you to the incredible support I get from everyone. Pictured here is my Mum, Dad and Toby.

3 countries, 3 days, 1 BIG mountain

While some of the girls prepare for the Ras (Tour of Ireland) I have been away all week circling the biggest mountain in Europe – Mont Blanc.¬† And I want to add that this is NOT the soft option.¬† Invited on a spectacular ‘ultimate cycling tour’ by Rpm90 I have been working my way through Switzerland, Italy, and now back in France with a group of intrepid adventurers.¬† I could tell alot of tales, but frankly, I am having too much fun and spending too much time on my bike, so for now will give you the abbreviated pictoral highlights.

My first time in Switzerland.  Col du Corbier (1230m) first to find the climbing legs out of Morzine.  Then some fantastic descending taking advantage of the Swiss corners with banked bends and black top tarmac.  Arrival Verbier.

A grumpy James of Rpm90 on Col de Grand St BernardDay 2 of riding and we head into Italy over the Col du Grand Saint Bernard.¬† James of Rpm 90 looking a little grumpy.¬† He would claim this is because he is having to go slower than is comfortable ūüėČ – Yeh right!

Munchies from the van at the top

There is snow on the ground at the top.¬† We take on food, hot drinks and head down an awesome descent.¬† A 69 year old Frenchman with an impressive Moustache pauses at the top carrying enough luggage on his own to put our whole team to shame.¬†‘Bon Courage’ he says (you stupid Englishers) and¬†we head down the descent into Italy.

we are definitely in Italy because of these…

After 3 hours of solid climbing and a fun descent into Italy I am beginning to get a little grumpy myself, and not wanting to finish up like James I decided to get in ‘the van of shame’.

Anja driving the all important van

This is no ‘van of shame’.¬† I am not proud, and besides we have retro chunes and a couple of soft toys on the dash….we head deeper into Italy…

Italian Espresso. Say no more.

The Italian hotel had quite possibly the best shower I have ever been in, and of course the best coffee.¬† I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture of the shower.¬† Lets just say it had jets and nozzles in all kinds of innovative places.¬† We hit the road on the Col de Petit Saint Bernard, which makes it sound kind of friendly.¬† It was nothing like the slog of ‘the big one’, but it was still one helluva climb.¬† The sun was shining though….

Summit finishes by Jo and Nick

On the way up the climb we brainstormed our Italian vocab which was mainly food realted. “Tutti-fruiti” etc. etc. (actually tutti fruiti was about it).¬† Over the summit Nick and I brainstormed summit finishes on an ideal ‘show boat’ finale.¬† In this picture I¬†am doing the ‘teapot’ and Nick is doing a variation of the Usain Bolt ‘lighting strike’.

The usual moves…

The sun had affected the brain and there was the usual showing off.  Notice the apathy of the locals who are quite rightly focussed on their coffee.

Some of the gang..

The weather has been fantastic and the company is great too.  Here we have Nicholas, Nick, Me and Alan.  Many a smug photo has been taken in a similar vain this week.  We are all conquerors.

38 minutes of hard descending followed and we were back in France.¬† I am definitely getting my descending legs, brain, arms and entire body on.¬† I feel the need…the need for speed…..

A bit of lunch in a supermarket car park courtesy of the lovely Anja followed..and we are off up the Col du Roseland.  Another Monster.

19km of hard climbing later….

Huddled in relief at the top of the Roseland

Nick, Nicholas and I huddle together at the top of the Roseland.  Nick (pictured right above) has been eating all the Haribo all week.  This is why he got to the top first and has the biggest smile.

The planning continues…

Finally after another long day in the saddle we arrived back in France in Beaufort on Tuesday afternoon.  3 countries, 3 days, and did I mention 1 BIG mountain РMont Blanc.

I write this from Chamonix where we have been yesterday and today.¬† Today I have been Mountain Biking with Anja.¬† For anyone trying to contact me by phone, forget it.¬† I managed to sit in a stream on my phone this morning and it seems to have bubbles in it.¬† I really am an excellent bike handler you know!¬† The adventure continues……