Gorey 3-Day – My first stage race !
Stage 1: Saturday March 30th 2002
I was feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement at the start in Tallaght, our support team were making sure that bikes were in working order and that all tags and numbers were secure, and everyone had signed on. There was a big bunch starting, about a half hour before the start Kelly arrived with rather large Kit bag, so he’s definitely riding ! Jesus I’m thinking will he make today’s stage faster than normal, I hope not ! After an hour on the road I was feeling comfortable, even though the speed was fast, at this stage we had two riders up the road, John Lally and Geroid Loughnane, I managed Hacketstown OK but it was the drag after that, Carnew that was a bit more gruelling ! I think we lost some 30 riders off the back at this stage ! with about 15 to go John was still sitting the Break but Geariod had come back to the main bunch, he had put in a real hard ride up there. With about 8 miles to go I started to work my way up to the front of the bunch and disaster struck ! before I knew it I was on the ground, the impact caused my right leg to cramp and I could n’t bend it. A guy beside Anto McMahon had taken him down on a downhill bend, I think the guy panicked cos it was a very sharp and fast turn and to make things worse there were cars pulled in on the right by one of the Motorbikes. Anyway I could n’t avoid going into the back of them ! While I was trying to fix my leg Anto couldn’t find his bike when I saw him looking into the ditch and across the road, it was yards down the road ! I can laugh now at this now ! The other guy got into the ambulance, the driver kept asking “do you want to get in?” “no not really” I replied, the thoughts of sitting around the B&B or watching the race did n’t appeal to me ! Anto was gone at this stage, and I managed to losen out my leg after about 5 minutes and got back on the bike and finishing 9’30” down on the winner, but I was happy, I survived my first fall from a Racer !A good rest a plenty of food would hopefully have me right for the Time Trial the next day! John Lally placed 6th putting him nicely in contention with the TT to come and setting the team up for a high placing.
Stage 2: Sunday March 31st 2002
I felt OK in the morning as myself Sean & Geariod cycled out to Cloughto the start of the 4 mile TT. John Lally was already there warming up in style on the trainer. He went off first, then Geriod, and then myself. It was a very fast start 35-38 mph and a good tail wind, I was happy with 7’54 and John did a 7’42 which was the second fastest time of the morning starters, I think the wind picked up after that ! Back for breakfast and rest before the afternoon stage.
Stage 3: Sunday March 31st 2002
The weather was damp and dull, the rain held off, but the speed did not, when we hit the main road it was up to around 38 mph and lined out in single file ! on the second lap there was a pile up mid bunch, the back road was quite narrow and there were bodies and bikes all across the road, people were panicking to get through as the bunch went on ahead. I managed to get around and rode hard with a few other chasers, by the time I got the the main road I had blew my Lights, Sean Lally and Anto passed me by but I wasn’t strong enough to take a wheel, I was very pissed off, I should n’t have been in such a panic to get back on ! I started to do the third lap on my own, passing by some others who had blown up as well, John Wall passed by his arm on the window of a car doing 50 !! he was later disqualified for this. The bike was definitely going in next Wednesday’s Buy & Sell, a million other thoughts entered my mind, none of which were anything to do with cycling ! Just as I was finishing the third lap, Keith Daly caught my wheel with one of the lads from the North Bucks Team, himself and Sean Tierney were involved in the earlier crash, Kieth was sore, and badly stung but OK, as we approached the turn off from the main road a bunch of about 25 lads spun ( Sean T included ) by and we very gladly joined the bunch most of which were either the crash or held up by it.The finish couldn’t come any sooner I had nothing left in the tank for the last few miles. After the finished I got into the van and didn’t even ride back to the B&B, I was wondering if I could recover enough for the ride home tomorrow ! It was another solid ride for John & Geariod finishing in the bunch just couple of minutes behind winning break. Sean Lally and Anto finished comfortably in the second bunch, it was a great ride from Anto as he spent Saturday nite with a bag of frozen peas on his knee to keeping the swellin’ down ! Sunday nite’s dinner was beef, and we ate every last morsel put in front of us. I was beginning feel a bit normal again after dinner ! The B&B was brilliant the rooms were great and food was excellent, I might even go back down without the bike ! After dinner I went straight back to the room and drank plenty of water that evening, and tried to do as little as possible to try and recover as best I could for tomorrow, I really wanted to finish with the bunch tomorrow and avoid any trouble.
Stage 4: Monday April 1st 2002
We packed our bags in the morning, it was damn but not raining, as we left the B&B the cows in the field opposite all began to sit, and the rain came down only minutes later. We cycled into Gorey and were wet before the start. I signed on the Pub in Gorey and that larger than life figure appeared beside me signing on at the same time, Sean Kelly, he was wearing a long white rain cape and seemed in good form, he went downstairs to the bar and ordered a cup of tea, and sat with it, this looked like a ritual he has been dong for years on miserable wet race days, I wonder did he have a cup of Lyons before the Paris-Roubaix in 84 ? it always rains that Sunday ! I cycled up to the start, the legs were feeling OK this morning which was surprising as I found yesterday took a lot out of me. And we were off, it was fairly fast and I found myself hovering at the back for the first hour, the fall had unnerved me a bit, the rain did n’t stop and it was cold ! but once your completely wet it doesn’t matter, no crashes today, and no breaks either, everyone just wanted to get home in one piece ! John Lally was feeling unwell the night before, so he decided not to start, he was dead right though, riding with a touch of anything in these conditions, could end up out for a month, I hope you are recovering well! Everyone else was sitting fine in the bunch, which got a bit smaller from 164 to 123 starters on the last stage. I was feeling good keeping close to Sean Lally’s wheel, reckoning that this man knows how to keep out of trouble ! but after 1 hour and a half in the saddle I found myself slipping off the back with 3 others, there was no way at this stage so close to home that I was going to ride back on my own. One of the lads from IMBRC came round me and I caught his wheel, I got a chance to recover slightly and I started riding through, within about 10 minutes we were back up the the bunch again, I kept moving up the bunch, there was no way I wanted to go South again ! when we got to Baltinglas the rain had stopped and the Sun was shining, I was sitting comfortably spinning at about 30 mph when we hit the main road, with 15 miles to go there were two guys up the road @ 45′ and Tim Ahern held the bunch off out there on his own to take the last stage, that was a great effort ! I was a happy bunny when I reached the finish in the Bunch !
I would like to thank everyone who came along, they made my first stage race a memorable one, The Lads; Sean Lally, John Lally, Keith Daly, Alan Duffy, Geriod Loughnane. The Great Support Crew; Terry, Johnny, Pauline, Mick. My Room Mates for the motivation and advice; Sean Tierney, Anthony & Owen McMahon and special thanks to Aidan Hammond who has helped me with my training over the last couple of months. It was great Team effort, and despite a few crashes we came 5th Team Overall. No Red cards need over the weekend.