Anyway, I don't think I quite expected the race to be THIS hard.....
The race comprised 4 stages around Kerry, with a total of 493,5km.
Stage 1: Killorglin Milltown and Glencar, 96.2km
The start to stage 1 was super hard. After missing my first road race this year a week beforehand I was still trying to get back into the knack of things what with feeling comfortable in the bunch etc. so that I was way too much at the back and suffered (REALLY suffered) from the harmonica effect. If it was a cat A3/A4 race I'm sure I could have hung on, but the speed and accelerations in this race (mostly cat A1/A2 riders) was just too much for me and after a few full-out cross-eyed sprints to catch back onto the bunch I had burned all my matches. About an hour or so into the race when the next acceleration came along I couldn't follow and got dropped from the bunch. After feeling miserable about my abysmal performance I got on with myself and enjoyed the 45km or so by myself, riding endurance, with the plus that I was actually able to enjoy the scenery because I didn't have to concentrate on any other cyclist's rear wheels. I've attached my power data below. I spent over 13 minutes of the first hour in anaerobic capacity - no wonder I was spent so quickly.
Power profile from day 1 - I got dropped from the bunch about an hour into the race - power profile a lot steadier from then on
Stage 2: The Healy Pass and Moll's Gap, 140.9km
This time round I was feeling a little more comfortable in the bunch and I was able to hold my position better and benefiting from drafting in the bunch, but again I got dropped about an hour into the race. However, with all those long hills on the course I managed to pick up one rider after another and even overtook some of the riders on the final climb that greeted all the tired riders with a headwind from hell. I wish road racing could all be uphill! Finishing 15th last (plus 4 dropping out), this was to be my best performance!
Ryan however showed a fantastic performance, with a 2nd place finish - only loosing out to Wim Botman in the final sprint up Moll's Gap. He even got a mention on the RTE news for this - I'm so proud of him!!
Riding through this magnificent country side of Kerry, with snow capped mountains in the distance was an amazing experience.
Stage 3: Valentia and South Kerry, 142.6km
This stage almost broke me. After the neutral roll-out there were fireworks. The riders attacked from the start and the speed was absolutely unbelievable (even Ryan said the start was very fast). I basically got dropped from the start - and I still had about 140km to go! With the broom wagon lingering temptingly behind me I rode on and caught one guy, overtook him and set on for a pursuit of two guys I could make out in the distance. Finally, on a longer bit of climb I caught on to them and we started a good pace-line. We picked up one more guy on the way who stayed with us for a few min, but he then dropped out. So the three of us trudged on, with the broom wagon just behind us. At about 70km to go they dropped back and the other guy that I had overtaken at the start joined me again and basically pulled me home the other 70km.
Just want to apologize here to the broom wagon drivers who I got to follow me around for about 140km so that I could do the full stage.
Stage 4: Killorglin and Milltown, 113.8km
Got introduced to the main sponsor as the "only [read: crazy] girl in the race" before we set off to a leisurely start. Woah, I couldn't believe how slow the guys were going. Life was easy, the bunch behaved for once and didn't outright attack and I had no problem hanging on. Until we hit the first hill. The last 3 days of racing had slowly sucked up all my energy and I gave up on that small hill, stopping to push and getting dropped by the bunch - AGAIN! I felt bad about it because I felt that I could have stayed with them today and all I needed to do was to push through those extra 20secs of pain. But I was spent. Soon enough a few other stragglers joined and as a group of 3 we worked (or rather they worked while I just hung on) our way around the course, until we hit the crit part, where our race ended, because we arrived about 2 laps too late. At least this gave me a chance to watch some of the rest of the race. And with those howling winds I was quite happy I didn't have to do the rest of it. I finished 98th in the GC in the end, which is third last, but I'm happy I am amongst one of the 100 survivors out of the 125 riders who started off on the first day! Ryan finished a fantastic 6th overall by the way....
All in all a great experience and fantastic interval+endurance training (over 450km and over 15hours in 4 days) and a good chance to sample some of Kerry's finest landscape. Not sure if I'll do this one again though, I think I'll stick to some of the easier ones for now.....
Results available here.