Friday, May 25, 2007

Pots of gold? Cold Showers.

I've been officially "guttered" since stage 3 and it seems to only have gotten worse. Yesterday's stage five marked a return for typical Irish Ras weather... A ridiculous amount of wind and rain hit the peloton from the start along the coast and it shattered the field up the first climb. Normally this would not be a problem for me but I started in a rather precarious mood and that meant not dealing with raging cross winds and cold very well. I ended up relegated to the last group within about 20k or so. The roads were absolutely brilliant, though. They were picturesque Ireland - rolling and narrow through the hills and fields with with stone-wall fences spanning the vibrantly green landscape. The last 50 kilometers actually took us over some large exposed climbs. At that point my group was thoroughly drenched and miserable just pushing it's way up and over the misty mountains heading towards the coast which also meant plowing through a stiff headwind. The penultimate climb of the day was a narrow and roughly paved goat-path of a road. It was a Category 1 climb with a 20 percent grade (think the steepest part of Sugarlands road by the cemetery) for two kilometers. The guys running 11/23's were quickly spit out the back as well as anyone without extra soft compound rain tires. The caravan vehicles were spinning tires around all the switchbacks.

On my way up, many minutes out of contention, I noticed all the trickling streams flowing down the mountain beside me and thought, "Oh, I get the whole Irish Spring Clean thing now". Yeah, product of commercial brainwashing I suppose but I'll probably think about that stream every time I see a bar of Irish Spring soap. Over the top of the Cat one sent us sailing down an unbelievably sketchy decent. The road was narrow, strait and windy as hell. I must have hit close to 60k an hour. Luckily I was alone as the deep dish carbon wheels I was running were all but stable in the crosswind.

I finished the day soaked, cold and sore dreaming of a hot shower. Since foreign countries are rife with inconvenience that dream was quickly dashed as I was greeted with 30 seconds of luke warm followed by cold.

Today was an easy and beautiful 97k stage that took us almost all the way North.

Two to go. 167k tomorrow and 177k for stage eight on Sunday. I'm feeling rough but I'm still in it...

Hey Matt Marcus and Jason Cyr! Flipping good work at Tour de Lake last Sunday!

Time to roll into bed for me. There are a bunch of drunk Irish couples getting crooked in the lobby. I've found it tough and a bit funny just trying to understand the Irish accent since I've been here but when they're drunk, which seems to be often you can forget about even trying to understand them! Ok, I'm really out now. The hotel pub just started blaring Garth Brook's "achy breaky heart". You can only imagine what the people singing along sound like...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Counting Kilometers, lads...

Alright, so now I have finally landed in a B&B with Wifi. So far my first visit to Ireland has been greeted with unusually good weather. In fact the locals have said this is the best weather they've seen in the past 57 years of the Irish Tour.

The style of racing is pretty chaotic since the teams are so small, only 5 riders, and the routes lack hugely decisive climbs. The other mind bender, at least for those of us driving/riding on the right side of the road, is constantly having to think "left, left, left". Just trying to cross the road can be dangerous since one must go against established instincts. Look right, then left. Stay alive. The passenger seat in a vehicle is just as frightening as I question the ability of others to be on the ball while going with such an unnatural flow of driving on the left.

The roads take the us through some amazing scenery but the surface is "absolute shite" as the locals would say. Riding on the side of the field while moving up can be really scary as the edge of the road seems to just crumble away.

Stage one (157k) took us from Naas, just south of Dublin, to Templemore. I felt great for the most part and was able to push it over the cat two climb called "the cut" in the front of the bunch, just behind the breakaway. A bit of a struggle over the top with my left leg deciding to play it's "shut down" trick. Over the top I was able to recover on the decent and turn my self inside out at the front of the field to reel in the breakaway, witch we did by the finish. My first tempo day at the front of the field included about 50K of work. I was shattered at the finish.

Stage Two (147K) sent us from Templemore to Loughrea during which I was suffering the effects of the previous day having to chase up through the caravan on one occasion. I came around in the final 50k and was able to ride for the team a bit.

Stage 3 (171K) Loughrea-Sligo. Suffering. I was coming apart at the seams all day. my leg is not feeling so good and that is not a good thing during an eight day stage race. The final 30k was stunning as we finished along the west coast.

Today: (Sligo-Dungloe 136k) It's raining.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Time for Ireland.

It's been a wicked long time since my last post. Something about that first big stage race of the season (TOV) I suppose. Shocking! I'm jumping on a plane for Dublin this evening with the Kelly boys. The FBD Insurance Milk Ras starts Saturday.