I was back in Ireland this weekend for the Suir Valley 3-Day, the last major event on the Irish cycling calendar.
It’s always a tough ol’ battle with a smattering of UK teams including JLT-Condor making life difficult for us.
I was a guest of the Killarney CC team and we managed to have a very successful weekend, with Richard Maes winning stage two.
The only other teams to win stages were the aforementioned JLT-Condor, Spirit Bikes and Neon Velo so in that respect, we did pretty well.
Racing in Spain (where I live) and racing in Ireland is very different on a number of levels and having raced in Spain all year, the contrast to racing this last weekend could not have been any more stark.
Eight days ago I raced in 34 degree heat on a day tarmac was melting. It was, er, slightly different this weekend…
Here are a few reflections…
- Irish roads are hard!
I’ve definitely softened in the couple of years I’ve been living in Spain because every time I come back to Ireland I feel as if the roads are getting worse! Maybe they are?
A few particularly gnarly stretches of road are the run-in on the back road to Clonmel, the ascent of the Vee from Lismore and the approach to the Glen of Aherlow.
Garmin after Garmin and bottle after bottle flew into the ditch. In some cases, even gilets were lost!
2. Crankiness sets in after day two…
It’s one of the not so great things about stage racing anywhere; you notice a decline in your mood. Or if you don’t, others do.
They won’t say anything though, usually, because they know their mood is coming too.
So when you take someone’s coffee and chair at the breakfast table he just puts it down to you being grumpy and accepts it.
That’s what great teammates act like.
Perhaps stage races are more fun when the weather is better?
3. What tyre pressure have you?
Top Irish riders are like meteorologists and they can predict the exact minute rain will fall or wind will blow.
It’s a huge skill in itself and one of the things they’ve perfected is getting the tyre pressure right.
You want it high enough so the wheels will sing when the road is dry….but not so high that you’ll crash when the road is wet.
I foolishly put 110 psi into both front and back on Sunday morning when the road was wet.
You can imagine my horror when one of the best meteorologists in the bunch told me he had 85…
4. Dry kit is absolutely marvellous
Racing in Ireland is so much more than lining up at the start and going hell for leather for three or four hours a day.
You must factor in a warm-up, a warm-down, nutrition, clothing, food, what to eat and when, how you’re getting to sign on, how you get back to the guesthouse, who is taking my spare wheels, who has my jacket, where are my arm warmers and on and on and on.
But before all that is the issue of getting dry kit on each day; that means dry helmet so I hang it off the TV, dry bib shorts so I hang them out the window post-stage (after washing them in the sink with hand-wash Paul Kimmage style), I wring the jersey out wrapped in a towel, sock, gloves and arm warmers go on the radiator (careful not to burn any a hole in anything) and the racing pages usually get stuffed into my shoes to soak up the moisture.
I would often use a hair dryer for the insoles….but you need a GOOD teammate to tolerate this!
In Spain, you are never wet.
5. A crit has no place in a stage race.
Ask any of the 170 riders who started the Suir Valley 3-Day and I promise less than 5% wanted a crit on the penultimate stage.
It’s a daft concept that nobody enjoys. Not fans. Not followers. If you’re at the back at the start, that’s where you stay.
Last year should have been the end of it when heavy rain saw it descend in to farce; the race was neutralised and you only had to ride 15 minutes after which everyone got the same time.
Apparently this was to give the people who turned out something to look at. There weren’t 50 people bothered. And why would they?
Racing is a test of legs so why not fire us up a hill for five minutes?
I guarantee you’d have more drama and more followers. And the best guys wins, not the bravest.