Monday, March 30, 2009

Des Hanlon Memorial Road Race

So, this was supposed to be a semi-serious attempt at the Des Hanlon, an Irish Classic in road races. It is known as one of the tougher ones, with quite a climby course. Details about the course can be found on the Carlow Cycling website.
Basically, there are 3 races:
  • Race 1 - Senior A & B (3x Laps) 145Km
  • Race 2 - Combined V/J/W/C (1x Lap) 62Km
  • Race 3 - Combined V/J/W/C (2x Laps) 103Km
I decided to do the 2 lap race, thought 62km was a little short. At race HQ, Ryan and I met a good few familiar faces from mountain biking, from Epic and WORC and even Richie Close and Arek from MAD had exchanged their bouncy bikes against some sleek and fast race machines for what was their first road race.

The course of the Des Hanlon Memorial road race

Our start was neutralized through the Carlow roundabouts (my warmup) and even when we were allowed to race, nobody really bothered to push for a while. With over 60 people in my group I had to concentrate well not to ride into anybody's wheels (I am still not comfortable riding in such a big group). I tried to get ahead, but found it very hard to do so safely, so for a lot of the time I was towards the end of the pack. There were a few hills and a few breakaway attempts, but each one with no more than a few people, so it seemed not worth going for it anyway and we always reeled them in again pretty quickly. The speed was comfortable, even a little slow.

Then we came to Castlecomer and went around a left-hand corner and oh flip! Everybody started racing up the steep hill around the corner and whoosh they were gone into the distance. I was badly positioned at the back of the pack and noticed the attack too late when I went around the corner and even though I really gave everything then it was too late, the pack was gone. It's incredible how fast it all happened. I wasn't prepared for that, sleeping in my own dreamy world of sitting in with the pack.

Well, seems that a good few missed the connection, and we got together to try and chase the pack, including John and another lad from Epic, Richie Close from MAD and a few other guys. We worked together hard, with John and Richie putting in a great effort trying to catch the pack again. At one point it really looked like we were closing in on them again, but then the next tight corner came and they were gone again. It was looking less and less likely that we would catch them again, but we could still see them in the distance from time to time. Unfortunately we lost a few guys on the way and then John punctured out as well, so only one guy and I were still trying to chase the pack. We were going well, working together well (now! he didn't want to put in the work when we still had a chance to catch the pack - if we ever had one) but with two people there isn't much you can do, especially if you've already worked hard for a while.

We still went hard though, I thought at least I want to get a good work out out of this, and picked up a few other guys that were dropped by the peloton along the way and worked together as a group of 5-6 people. Towards the end we whittled down again to 3 people and due to an unfortunate incident of the guy who was going with me for most of the lap sliding on the damp ground I was now on my own going for the last 9km.

However, at about 5km to go the 2 lads had caught up to me again and we rode together towards the finish. We were going fast, the 2 guys stayed in front, I hung on, 4km to go, 3km to go, 2km to go, 1km to go, well if they want to stay in front, their problem, I'm changing into 2nd positon, 500m, 400m, 300m, 200m to go, I look around if the road is clear of traffic, 100m to go, I start sprinting and go really hard, the guys don't react fast enough and wohoo! I crossed the line ahead of the two guys with a time of about 3hours 20minutes. Well, even though I came in minutes behind the peloton, at least I won my finish sprint against the two lads, it really made my day :)

And guess what, I was 2nd unplaced lady! Although that's not hard if there was only 2 ladies taking part in the whole event, because of an unfortunate clash with the women's league race on the same day. Being dropped from the pack means almost as hard work as it is being in a breakaway in front (but it's way more demoralizing breaking away from the back end...). So here is - again - road racing lesson number 1: Do not EVER get dropped by the peloton! It is incredible how hard we tried and weren't able to catch back on. In most cases, if you are dropped, that's it. And the way home is a lot longer by yourself.

Results and some race pictures can be found on Richie Close has a report about the race up on his blog too. Ryan had a pretty good race, doing really well and keeping with the lead group in the Senior A/B race until he dropped the chain midway up the last climb, having to stop to put it back on. Unfortunately this meant he was dropped from the group and so he came in 10th, still a really good result! He'll have his report up on his blog soon too.

No comments :