Well, we promised a few more updates, and here’s the first. It’s Seán’s firsthand account of the race in Kildare last month, where he took the club’s maiden race victory (albeit tecnichally a tie). The Wheelers are incredibly proud of Seán’s achievement, and how he has developed as a race contender over the past 18 months or so, and look forward to him bagging a few more results this year, and in the next few years.
The day didn’t start like any other race day. The race was a late start at 3:30pm so the absence of the panic surrounding getting out the door in the morning probably led to no real nerves. I hadn’t any expectation coming into the race; I’d had a week off the bike before a Team Time Trial on Thursday and a 65km spin to work on Friday morning. I was feeling stiff and a bit sore.
As we waited for race to begin I was in good humour, meeting up with a lot of the guys from Kilcullen, Naas and Ossory CC’s, having a laugh and a joke, talking about bikes and the Tour de Suisse and Criterium du Dauphine. As the race rolled out of the HQ at Kildare Farm Foods I realised it was neutralised for the first half kilometre or so, and a rolling start, which was a first for me.
It was a nice sized bunch in the A4 category, there was only about 60 riders, probably a casualty of the race being on a Saturday. I felt good about that, hoping for a race without accidents like the last time out in the Meath GP where the bigger field led to a few people being irresponsible on the bike.
From the gun I could tell it was going to be fast, and the attacking started early with a group going out straight away, but were pulled back in quickly enough. I started to try move up the bunch as we went up the only real hill, I know I’m no natural climber, but I looked to be in ok form. I figured if I could stay with the bunch and finish the race I’d be happy, but in the back of my mind I thought that hill would be my undoing – probably on the last lap.
As I was getting near the front of the bunch I noticed John had gotten away up the road with a small group. There was a Stamullen rider and a Lucan rider with him, and maybe two more. I could see a Lucan man right on the front of the peloton. I made my way right up and tried to talk the Lucan guy into slowing down the chase to let the break go – it made sense, we both had a man in the break. It seemed to have the opposite effect as the Lucan rider was joined by a teammate and they put in a big chase. As that break was pulled in a counter attack went off the front and I managed to get in to it. I was feeling fairly comfortable and really wanted to ride hard and make this break stick, but the other guys didn’t seem to want to work, so we were caught back fairly quickly.
As the second lap went on I got nearer the head of the bunch and noticed that the riding was a bit pedestrian. I attacked coming around a corner from about 10th wheel and went away from the bunch on my own, I was joined by a guy from Dublin Wheelers and another, but again, they were leaving me to do the lion’s share of work at the front so I just sat up and we got swallowed back up. The race pretty much continued in that vein, there were attacks and breaks but they were always brought back in quickly enough.
At the start of the third lap I thought my day was over when an Orwell rider punctured right in front of me in the outside and I couldn’t get around him and wound up being spat out the back of the bunch, panic ensued and after a massive chase I caught back on to the end of the peloton. I got into one more break on lap 3, and as I was at the head of the peloton after we had been caught back when I heard the unmistakeable sound of John’s Cosmics coming from the group. A cursory glance to the right showed me exactly what I expected to see, John Fox had his grind face on and he was on the attack and there were a couple of guys going with him, so I stemmed the pace on the front as much as I could. I was soon overtaken as Lucan again set about chasing down the break.
At the start of the last lap I decided to try one more break, and went away with one or two other guys, I led the group up the hill and just as I crested the top a Dungarvan rider attacked out of the break, I had no gas to follow after the climb, so I let myself get swallowed back up by the bunch and started to look to get back towards John. Coming to the halfway point of the lap I was feeling good, got up alongside John and we started to make the plan for the finish. We had discussed earlier in the day that the finish might suit me to get up towards the top 8 – and snag a few points (and a couple of €s). With about 5km to go I was in John’s wheel and feeling good, and as we approached the last little climb I got a bit distanced from John and wound up with two bikes in between us. As we came down the descent and around the last corner the pace went through the roof and it started to get crowded, with bikes all across the road. I was boxed in near the middle of the bunch, a stamullen rider popped in in front of me and gave my front wheel a rub, which caused my handlebars to shake a bit, but I managed to hold it up. As this happened I managed to get onto the wheel of a guy (not sure which team, but he was on a nice Cannondale), and he looked like he wanted to move up, so I carried on with him. As we passed the 800m to go sign there were two (yeah, 2!!) Lucan sprint trains getting ready, one either side of the peloton.
The speed was now up at about 57kph. At about 500m I was two bike lengths behind John, and he seen I was a bit boxed in, so he made a huge dig and this strung the whole bunch out, which was exactly what I needed. I moved up around the outside and with about 250m to go I snapped the elastic. I was about to find out how good my sprint really was. I passed john and could hear him shout encouragement at me. I gave it the beans, absolutely everything I had. I knew that nobody had jumped right on to my wheel, but at about 50m to go I had a quick look back through the legs as I could hear somebody coming up. I immediately recognised the fluorescent yellow shoes of Evren Unal, a Newbridge man with as strong a dig as my own. I was almost spent, but started to churn once more to try and keep the power up and get over, but I knew Evren had the upper hand as he was coming up from second wheel. As he pulled alongside me we were closing fast on the line, I was starting to fade. I thought he might have just got his nose in front by the width of a tyre. As we crossed the line I threw the handlebars as far as I could with everything I had left. I had no idea if I’d managed to get over the line first. My heart told me I had shaded it, my gut said Evren had taken it, my head hadn’t a clue. I was still trying to process the fact that one way or the other I had just taken a podium place in an open race, a first for me and for the club.
And so the wait began, for the photo finish commisaire to make his decision. There was a lot of chatter back at the race HQ about it amongst the A4s. Word began to filter that there was no discernible gap between the wheels at the line, and so a dead heat was called. So I had won the race. I still felt a little incredulous at the whole thing, I had started today’s race thinking that a finish with the bunch would be a good day out, I never expected to be anywhere near the front of the bunch.
And all this while riding on a 13 year old steel frame bike. Lance Armstrong may have disgraced the sport and people’s perceptions of cycling, but he may have had one thing right – It’s not about the bike.
The little platitude at the end notwithstanding, we reckon that’s a fairly balanced account of the race. The Wheelers must add that any personal views expressed above are those of Seán Power and do not necessarily reflect the views of the club. Also, just for interest, have a look below at the official photo finish from the day, with thanks to Francis Gibson from Cycling Ireland. We reckon it’s fairly close, Seán thinks he won. And he probably would have, if he wasn’t sprinting whilst up on the hoods…..