Tuesday, April 26, 2011

2011 Kerry Group Ras Mumhan

This is the 2nd year in a row that I'm doing the 4-day "Kerry Group Ras Mumhan" stage race. This is also the 2nd year in a row that I'm the only female taking part in a 160 rider strong peloton. Why am I the only female? Well, most of the riders are A1 or A2 riders, the stages are long (over 100km every day, nearly 500km in total) and tough, with lots of hills. So why am I doing it? Well, I like Kerry, it has beautiful countryside, and is one of my most favorite places in Ireland. I also think it's great training, trying to stick with 160 strong male riders. It's also very safe racing - all the riders who do this race know how to ride their bike and there is very little shouting and nervous jostling going on - it seems more controlled in a way. Finally, the stages are great, they are hard and they have climbs in them, so it suits me and the peloton tends to break up into smaller, more manageable groups. I don't like mass bunch sprints.

Anyhow, this year, in contrast to last year, we had fantastic weather. I've been told more than once by some wise old Kerry men that a bank holiday Easter weekend with nice weather is as rare as a Dutch man winning the Ras Mumhan ;) And nice it was - sunny blue skies - together with the rugged Kerry countryside and coastline - heaven! Nothing of that constant rain and gale force winds from last year, great!

Stage 1: Good Friday April 22nd. “The Slide through Sliabh Luachra”, 105km and 3 climbs

A nice stage, very hilly, hard roads. Riders were dropped left right and center from the start. After about 40min of hanging in there I was hit by the same fate with a few others and first we were two, then three, then more and more so that in the end we had mopped up enough riders to have become a sizeable groupetto with a nice chaingang going until the finish. Happy days! (except that I was shattered already after this stage...).

Stage position: 19th last of 147 finishers, 2.29'57"

Stage results here, GC here.

Kamil Pasek from Black Rose Racing and me proud at the Conor Pass Finish

Stage 2. Easter Saturday April 23rd. The “Dance around Dingle”( “Damhsa an Daingean”), 130 km and 4 climbs, finish on top of Conor Pass, the only Category 1 Climb of the entire race.

Again the speed was superhigh from the start, and I tried to to hang in there. After a river crossing early on in the race the bunch started to line out and split. At about 15km into the race and going around a corner down the hill we were greeted by a big bunch pile up that took up the whole width of the road. There were bikes and bodies everywhere! Having arrived after the crash had happened, we were lucky and could pick our way slowly through the bikes and bodies. I tried to hang on to the group that came through around me, but they were going that little bit too fast. Not to worry, a slightly more comfortably speeded group came through a few min later and this was the group I stayed with. We were going well until we got lost. A quick discussion with the commissaire and a solution was found and we were rerouted in a way that meant we hadn't actually lost much time (except maybe from the faffing around and from people loosing motivation because we had gotten lost). This group didn't work that great together and I did a bit too much work in front on the way to the bottom of the Conor Pass climb, so that I had to let some of the group go faster up the hill. Nonetheless I pushed hard and was very proud of myself at the finish :)

Stage position: 26th last of 136 finishers, in 3.45'22"
Stage results here, GC here.

Proud of my husband's 2nd place in today's stage! Except he missed the prize presentation too!

Stage 3. Easter Sunday April 24th. “ The Waltz around Waterville”, 142km route, same as last year, 6 climbs.

This year the start to this stage was slightly slower and I was able to hang in with the bunch until the first king of the hills. I even got over the top in not too bad a position, but unfortunately I lost the next wheel in the line out and had to chase hard to catch back on. I wasn't the first person to get dropped, in fact, a whole load of people were still behind me. Up the next climb I was joined by 2 or 3 other guys and we all chased hard for about 20min or so to catch on to the next bigger group that we had in sight. A last little push and we were on. This group tried to get a chain gang going, but there were some that didn't want to participate, upsetting the pattern, so that in the end there were two strong guys that motorbiked us most of the way round. The roads were hard and energy sapping and this was the longest stage with 142km - I was happy when I rolled over the line at last (especially since I had lost one of my bottles and was running low on water....).

Stage position: 14th last of 126 finishers, in 4.08'03"

Stage results here, GC here.

Stage 4. Easter Monday April 25th. “The Puck Fair Polka", 114km stage, 2 laps circuit followed by 10 laps of the town with a cat 4 climb at the line each time.

I knew it wasn't happening even when I got up. This was confirmed when the flag was pulled in after the neutral start and the speed went up crazy. I couldn't hang on at all. There was nothing left. Battery empty. Didn't get charged up last night. Sorry. At least I wasn't the only one not feeling it and eventually two really nice Killorglin lads caught up to me and pulled me around the two big laps. We were not allowed on the small circuit, as the peloton had already completed a lap. Not that I wanted to go around anyway....

Stage position: 14th last of 124 finishers, in 2.58'57" (actual riding time was less, as they added on the time of the circuit laps we didn't do).

Stage results here, final GC here.

And that was my experience of this year's Ras Mumhan, over 13hours of racing in 4 days. I finished much higher up than last year (counting from the last person up: from 3rd last to 16th last), so that's a plus. I also finished with a groupetto every day apart from the last day, so I was happy with that too. I was not happy with how drained I was on the last stage and I am STILL recovering from the race today (it's 5 days later!). But hopefully what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and I'll have some great form come the Dalby and Offenburg World Cups!

Thanks so much to Theo English for his great massages after each stage - they did great things to invigorate my tired legs after each stage.

Thanks also to the race organizers, especially Mary and Michael Concannon for a great course and safe racing.

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