Since the race was running on roads that are both used in the Swords CC league and would be considered part of my training routes, I knew mostly what to expect for the day. Immediately on seeing the course, I knew my problems were going to be on the descent to Ballyboughal. A long fast descent at -3 or 4%.
Why the descent you ask? Well I spent last year training for La Marmotte which means hills, hills, and more hills. As such I enjoy going up them and do so at a fairly ok pace. I’m still a bit off last year, but still enough to stay with the front of most groups on the ascents. For some reason however, I am unable to keep the power on during descents. Can’t figure out why.
And In The Beginning …
The race began with a short neutralised section. Enough to cover a warm up (even though I’d already spent an hour warming up due to be too early) and to take us along the rolling road to the descent to Ballyboughal that I don’t like so much. Before reaching the turn, another problem became obvious, my HR was way way too high. 175 to be precise, and during a neutralised section, well already not looking good. The Chinese from the previous night was going to haunt me.
Luckily the descent was at a normal enough pace and the group held mostly together. I didn’t loose too many places during it which was a good way to be.
The rest of the lap remained pretty much uneventful all the way up to the steep descent back onto the road from the start at the sports center. For those who have never cycled this road, it is effectively a tractor track that was tramaced back in the 80’s. Oh and it is really steep and has some pot holes right where you don’t want them. Then to top it off, the end has a little bit of a flatish run right before the sharp corner giving the impression that you can take it at speed.
I was also told that the previous year, the finish happened along the straight after that descent. Everyone would have been happy it wasn’t this year.
The decisive moment
The group bunched up again on the flat road back to corner 2 and the pace was slow enough to easily take off my gillet since the sun was out. Once through corner 2 and on to the rolling road to the descent, the pace did begin to pick up. Right from the start I began moving up through the group in anticipation of a split happening. I think we were only a third of the way along the road when it did. And I missed it too, but the few guys ahead looked like they were motoring by the stranglers. Until the guy ahead of me started drifting back from his wheel. With a bush on my right, another cyclist on my left, and the guy in front drifting while beside someone, it was the worse position to be in. Luckily the guy on my left started moving forward and a gap opened. I was on his wheel and we began rolling forward. And fair dues to him, he kept the pace up all the way to the end while we picked up another rider or two.
Right at the end, I sprinted up the corner to ensure I was near the front for the descent. Things looked like they were going fine and we’d catch the break ahead. Everyone started working together and taking turns. Somehow I missed the signals and on my way through for a turn, I couldn’t make it, sitting up I got the mother of all stitches and began rolling backwards. With a wheels length gone and not being able to hold on, I knew then and there that it was over. I popped a gel, sat back and waited for the main group.
Most of the group of maybe 20 or so riders worked together to keep the pace going. Was actually catch a few from the break later in the lap although I don’t think we saw them before the finish. I didn’t bother pushing on the last hill, because really, why work for 10th?
Still it was a good day out and some lessons learnt. I do have to spend more time training with faster groups through descents or even on the flats. Some more hours of pain wouldn’t go a miss either.
Avg Speed: 34.1km/h
Avg Power: 230 watts
Normalised Power: 288watts