Ashbourne CP – Fred’s first Win!!

The second race of the IVCA 2003 Sunday League was held on 6th April. A seven group CP, it started in Ashbourne and took in Rathfeigh, Obertstown Cross, Ratoath, and Curraha for three laps, covering a distance of 77.3 Km.

In the days preceding the race I knew that I was likely to do well since I had enjoyed a good ride in the DMS the week before. While the results of a CP are influenced by handicaps, it is up to everyone in each group to ride hard, and I was prepared to do that. So I went to bed early the night before, and made sure I had a good breakfast with plenty of liquid the next morning.

On the Sunday, although most of Ireland enjoyed a super sunny day, the east coast was foggy and cold. This was to prove almost disastrous for me as I find it too dangerous to ride in a bunch when my glasses are continually misting up; I am unable to judge the distances to wheels, and my confidence generally as to safety is undermined. Within the first kilometre I was on the brink of sitting up and abandoning the race. However, by the time we got to Rathfeigh I noticed that the mist was not as thick, and I soon entered proper race mode.

The strategy for winning a CP is simple: every member of the group should cooperate in order to maximise the speed of the group so that there is the best chance of catching groups in front, and staying away from those following. Only when a group is ahead and is unlikely to be caught should the tactics approach those of a DMS. “Cooperate” here means: following the wheel in front, going through, doing a turn, then pulling over. Those who are not so strong on the day should still do what they can, while the supermen should ease back a bit – they will get the opportunity to display their form towards the latter part of the race.

I was in Group 3, which was let off four minutes behind Group 2, and eight behind Limit. From the off it was apparent that our group was completely disorganised, and the strategy described above didn’t enter the minds of most. There were some powerful repeated efforts at the front by Martin Doyle who did a disproportionate amount of work over the first two laps. Martin was one of the strongest in the group, and his contribution helped to keep the speed respectable, but he paid for this in the end. Paul Deans also was showing good form and enthusiasm, yet his sharpness at the finish must have been blunted by some attacks that didnt have much chance of success. I was concerned that we were not going to overhaul the groups ahead, but I refused to waste energy by closing gaps left by others. I even considered staying at the back and waiting for the group behind who I felt sure were going to get up to us. In the event, this did not happen. I noted Ron O’Rourke in our group as well. He has a good gallop if he can get to the sprint, and I was glad that I had fitted scud-proof spokes for this race!!

At the end of the second lap we came upon the first two groups which had by then coalesced potentially into what I term the Klingon Empire. Well, that was good: we were first on the road now, and all we had to do was to stay ahead of chasing groups and ride the Klingon Empire off over the last lap. The Emperor himself this time seemed to be Des Muldoon who was the only one who showed any interest in being towards the front. The colour of our group was green while that of the Emperor was blue. I found the sight of that “foreign” colour so obnoxious that I was determined that this was one race that Des was not going to win. This negative approach soon evaporated when John Duffy, of our group, began driving at the front for long periods. John is a remarkable guy and was probably the strongest of us all. He suffers from an ailment that gives him pain and almost sleepless nights, yet there he was on the last lap doing what Martin did on the first two; he told me after the race that he felt the speed needed to be increased. Thank you John! On drags, John stood up on his pedals and pressed even harder. When sitting down again on his saddle he demonstrated a disconcerting technique: one assumed that his speed would remain constant from that point. But it didnt; as he sank down, apparently relaxing again, he scooted off. Every time he did this I was forced to sprint to make up six or seven meters. I wonder did others also curse him for this. Given that John was prepared to stay in this position with nobody willing to come past him, I just tucked in behind him, and waited.

The finish is on the long straight coming into Ratoath. As we came towards it during the first two laps I had spotted a gate that was 140 meters from the line. I decided that on the run-in I would start sprinting when the gate was still about 30 to 40 meters ahead. This would involve a 12 second effort at an average speed of 53kph which I knew was achievable since I had reached 56kph in practise earlier in the week. John Duffy was still toiling away at the front with 400 meters to go. He slowed up quite a lot as showtime approached, and I was forced to come around him thereby hitting the front. This was the time to keep the head; I kept going at three-quarter speed, slow enough to stay relaxed, fast enough to prevent the rest from getting a surprise start. Then, already in the 52:13 when I came to my mark, I jumped. A wheel appeared to my right, and another one to the right of that. Both faded out of view perhaps 50 meters from the line, and I then entered that peculiar world of an impending win where the line is coming up fast in tranquillity and silence; no other cyclist is to be seen: the only movement is that of a flag being gently waved. It is like an effort during a training spin; yet a race is in the process of being won.

Was I pleased? Certainly, opportunities are rare, and they have to be grabbed when they come. Was I the strongest? Probably not, but I may have been the cutest hoor that day.