Rolling the early break.
The Ras 2015
An Post Ras is Ireland’s biggest cycling event. It is an 8 day stage race that covers over 1,200 km across the country. This is the second year I have had the privilege to race the Ras and, once again, I am left counting down the days until next year’s event. This year I was joined by four other Next Gen U23 teammates. We entered the race with high hopes (last year the team managed to have Nic Hamilton finish 3rd in the GC). Lining up as the youngest team in the race we knew it would be hard to repeat such a result, but were confident we would all learn a crazy amount over the 8 days. I went into the race hoping for a strong ride in the youth classification.
The Ras is not only long (8 days), but it offers both competitive and extremely high-level racing. This year we lined up with numerous ex-world tour level racers, who arrived at this UCI 2.2 event with a both a ton of experience and a lot of strength. Experience was one thing that we Canadians lacked as this was our first full Spring European racing campaign. Overall the race was fairly successful as we finished with three top 10’s, along with impressive rides by all of the team on many of the days.
Some of the races highlights included my 9th place from the breakaway on the decisive queen stage, and Alec Cowan’s impressive sprints, which landed him 9th and a 7th places finishes. The 6th stage of the race was a huge relief for me. After having endured five tough days that included mechanical issues (I had to switch bikes on Wednesday), crashes (Tuesday) and missing some very important splits, I was finally able to turn my luck around by driving the early break to the line. 13 of us held off the peloton over 3 categorized climbs and a fast run into the finish. After making it over the final climb with the leaders, things got a little tactical with 20 km to go. Attacks forced each of us to gamble on whether to chase or wait for another rider to give into the pressure of letting someone up the road. Eventually all but three of us lost when we gambled on a group of three slipping away and none of us worked together to chase it down. With around 5 km to go the gap was 10 seconds, but with everyone hesitating to close the gap and “shoot their last bullets” we came to the line in a sprint. I tried for a late bridge with 1km to go, but was swept up when the remainder of the group started the sprint with 250 meters to go. I ended up 9th on the day.
The final two days hurt a little bit as I recovered from a 160 km day of “full gas” racing, on top of the five days before that. I was happy to sit in the peloton and just survive. After a solid two month block with 20 racing days, I was not only looking forward to finishing up the last race, but also to getting home.
After getting home and being back here in Canada for just over 24 hours I am just beginning to decompress and look back on what was the longest, but shortest, two months of my life. I am looking forward to a few days off the bike, then the buildup for the Pan Am Games in July – the team will be announced on June 1st. With the spring part of my yearlong season complete I am pleased to check it off and reflect on the past few months. They sure have been crazy!
Nice to be done!
Highlights from the day I was in the break
The last 8 days have been crazy. 3 Nations Cups and a kermis have meant that I am coming off of 5 race days (6 races) in 3 different countries. This European spring project is starting to get busy! I am currently in Alkmaar, Netherlands for a track camp and a bit of a debrief as I can just finally start to look back on the racing done the past week. With so many positives coming out of the racing there is always things I can take into consideration to work on for racing to come.
Cote Picardi Nations Cup (Wednesday)
Not to much to say about this race other than it was crazy! After Saturday’s race on the Belgian cobbles in Flanders it was a nice change to see only asphalt for 180km! The ride to the finishing circuit (which we did twice) was a hectic one; I crashed twice but ended up on my feet without a scratch both times. The team rode super well and we entered the circuits with all 6 of us in the still very big peloton. The front group went on the second lap and myself and teammate Ben Perry found ourselves among the front 45 riders. Coming into the final km things were looking good, Ben was in a great position to get ready to take on the best in the bunch kick as I hung on for dear life very far from the front of the group. Unfortunately with around 200m to go there was a crash on the right (where Ben was) and I rolled in for 38th. I was a bit frustrated with where I finished in the front group but I was pleased just to be there.
ZLM Nations Cup (Firday-Saturday)
This race was absolutely nuts, a two day 3 stage race with two road races and a Team Time Trial. Stage one, wind. Team Time Trial, wind. Stage 2, wind. We were warned about racing in Holland and how if you are caught in the wrong position when you hit a crosswind section your day is over. This was very true and I spent the weekend living this. Sometimes I would get caught out and our group would make it back to the front and other times we did not come close. The final stage I got caught out on a bridge when the race was guttered (teams ride at the front on the very edge of the road so that no riders can get a draft from the crosswind) and after 100km my race was over. I got to the feed zone and it was into the car for me. Although I was disappointed in not finishing I gave it my all and will be back at that race with a vengeance.
After a bit of a shorter day than planned on Saturday during the final stage of ZLM I decided I would go and try to have some fun at a local race in Belgium. I am not sure if I was having much fun during the race but it was nice to race my bike as opposed to just suffering all day as I had at the ZLM tour in the wind. I was active for the first hour floating in and out of the many early breaks that go before the winning one finally sticks. After over an hour of following failed moves I gave up and moved back a few positions as I was thinking the race deciding move would not go for a while. I was wrong, and paid for it the rest of the day as I spent the remainder of the race chasing after the winning break. I rolled in 11th with one other behind the break but ahead of the peloton. It was a nice little reminder of why I race my bike after a frustrating weekend at ZLM.
I’m in a magazine!
Earlier this week a copy of Men’s Fashion Magazine arrived at my house and I am in it! A month and a bit ago I did a photo shoot with them at the Velodrome for their spring issue! I am not sure if I would recommend trying to ride on the velodrome in the clothes I did but it was pretty fun!
Other than that I am just getting over being sick (why it has taken so long to post this) and am hopefully going to be back training tomorrow.
Overall the camp was great, absolutely no complaints about getting to spend 10 days in the warm weather of Southern Spain before heading to Belgium, I have found that being over here in Belgium the last three springs you never know what kind of weather you might be treated to but these first few days have been pretty sweet, no shorts and jersey like in Spain but it could be a lot worse than the 5 degree weather we have had so far!
After hopping off of the plane from Spain on Saturday we had a day to settle into the house here in Belgium and racing started Monday. I think one of the best things about Belgium is the racing; I guess it is actually the only reason we come! Over here there is a local race almost every day from the middle of February until into the fall. Our first race was just a local race (or kermis as they call them here) this is usually a race with a distance between 100-120km. It was great to get back into racing after so many months of training! No complaints about the result either, I ended up 20th while my Next Gen teammate Adam almost started the season off with a solo win but was caught in the last 100m! I rolled in behind the front group with nothing left in the legs when the front group of 20 went after Adam in the last km. I am fairly happy with how my legs were after a hard camp just a few days before rolling to the first start line of the season.
My first real race comes this Saturday at the U23 Tour of Flanders Nations Cup that features a ton of the climbs and cobbled sections in the World Tour race that just happened last Sunday. I can’t wait to find out where I stand with the worlds best U23 riders over the 170km race! With recon Thursday and activation Friday I am coming close to my first big test of the 2015 cycling season!