I started cycling back in 2014 to try keep fit and at first I was the true definition of a fair weather cyclist. I would only be seen on my bike in the summer months. Slowly but surely I became addictive to going out on my bike, there’s something so free about being out cycling, you get to really see everything when you’re out compared to if you’re boxed into your car, also I think it’s great to free the mind and to unwind from the everyday things.
At first I was very hesitant of joining a club, I wanted to do it but I was nervous (and scared) of the idea of meeting strangers. So last summer when myself and Colette (my beautiful fiancée) were off on holidays I said that I would join a cycling club when I got home. I remember the first day I went out for a spin with the local cycling club, I was nervous going to meet them but once I got there all the nerves went away. They were an extremely welcoming group and chatted to me like they had known me for years. This was the start of it all, over the next weeks and months I became increasingly hooked on cycling. So much so that after a few months I decided that I would do some racing. This is my story of a year of racing in pictures.
The early days
Most of the early days were made up of lovely spins where I would be absolutely dying a death trying to keep in with the guys. But they were fun!
Starting to race
From here on in my training started to get more serious, I was more interested in power figures and my heart rate, rather than speed.
My first race was the Conor McCabe Memorial Hamper Race which was staged in Arklow. The night before I was very nervous. I had nearly talked myself out of going but Colette, my fiancee, told me to go and have fun.
It was awfully hard, the pace was fast and I struggled from start to finish. But it was fun (if only for times). I finished 10th and went home happy! 😀
I started to put in a lot of km’s over the winter period, most of which was in steady rides so that I would develop a good base for later in the season. So there was plenty of rides where I’d come home looking like I’d been rolling around in muck for the past 3 hours.
I also started being coached for the first time,which was weird at first. The reason it’s weird is because you get so much advice from different people and it’s all conflicting. So to have full confidence in what one person is saying was something I had to work on.
When you’re being coached you start to train a lot by yourself so that you can stick to the training plan.
Let’s clear something up, they call it the “Barrow Sportive” but it’s far from a sportif. It’s a race, it’s 3 hours of suffering in the cold and rain. But you learn a lot about yourself during it.
It was during this period that I had started to do really tough climbing efforts the day before club spins. Needless to say, I would suffer at the end of the club spin when the lads would start to push the tempo right up. It was quite disheartening to see me suffer at the end, I wanted to win the sprints etc. But I had fate in the coaching and knew I would come good at some stage.
One of the nice things about sticking to a plan is the easy days. For these days the goal was to keep my heart rate in Zone 1 so that meant I could go for spins with Colette or Elaine (Colette’s sister and my future sister in law). I really enjoyed these spins.
The day before my first race I took the advice of the other racers in the club and shaved my legs. It’s a weird feeling but it soon became a pre-race ritual.
The Dungarvan GP was my first big race and that’s not taking anything away from the Conor McCabe Hamper race, but open races are different story. There must be a good 100 riders in this race and it wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be (for parts). I travelled down to the race with Joe, it was brilliant to get all the advice from someone with so much experience. My plan was to race clever and attack on the last hill. I did that but I attacked way too early. I finished 25th, not too shabby for my first attempt. Joe finished 15h! 😀
That feeling after winning your first race is something that I’ll never forget. It was brilliant, Colette and all my family were so proud of me. My friends, club mates and work colleagues were all congratulating me. It felt brilliant but within a week those highs would turn to complete lows at the end of the Frank O’Rourke Memorial Race.
The Frank O’Rourke race had started well, I rode clever all day and come near the end I felt that I was in with a good chance to win the race. (That might sound cocky but I felt I was a stronger sprinter than most)
I’m still not 100% sure what happened that day but what I do know is this; I was in 3rd place with 100 meters to go, I’ve just got out of the saddle to sprint for the line, next thing I know the bike goes out of control and I hit the ground. Hard!
People have said that maybe the guy in blue spooked me or that my tube came out of the tire or that I was clipped. Neither is true.
As far as I can see my back wheel slipped on the white line when I put the power down, I lost control, I crashed. No one’s fault but mine.
This crash was a really sad time for me, I lost the race, I hurt myself, I ruined my gear but worse two people broke their collarbones from this crash. One guy tried to bunny hop me and it didn’t work, this resulted in his bike hitting another guy. Both hurt much worse than I was. It didn’t feel good to know that my mistake caused this much pain. It took me a long time to get over this and now, I have some scars that will help remind me of it.
The road to recovery started with some handy spins with Joseph.
Two weeks later I was back racing in the Davidstown league. The first week I was back I finished in 2nd place. I didn’t take a good line into the final sprint and lost too much time to make it back. God, it felt good to be back racing! 😀
The week after was the final round of the league. It was between me and a rider from Gorey (Cathal Glackin), to see who would win the league. The odd’s were completely against me, I need to win the race and he needed to finish at least three positions below me. This would give me the overall win but however this wasn’t meant to be. I attacked all day but to no avail, the Gorey team marked me out of the race and come the end I was too tired to go for the sprint.
But 2nd overall in my first year of racing, I didn’t expect that and I was delighted with how I performed. 👊
I hadn’t raced in about 4 or 5 weeks so I decided that I would go to the Eddie Tobin Memorial race in Bunclody and see how the fitness is. My goals for the race was to complete it and that’s it. The last two open races resulted in me not finishing so I really wanted to finish one.
It was an absolute glorious day in Bunclody and it turned out to be a very good day for me. I finished 6th and got my first points! 😀
I’ve now started to get ready for Wexford Two Day. This means longer club spins and working like a dog during league races instead of my usual sit in and wait for the sprint.
The Bike Shop League had started so I decided to go one Thursday after work and try practice some race tactics.
My plan for the race was to do a good bit of work on the front (to try and split the group) and at some stage get in a break. That’s it, I wasn’t even to compete the sprint. So that’s exactly what I did and God was I wrecked when I got home! 😲
Next week at the bike shop league, I’d made up mind to attack more than I did the last week. If I got into a break good but if not I would help two of lads in the club to get a result. The break didn’t work but I did lead the guys out to finish 1st and 2nd so not a bad days work.
The following weekend I was in Gorey to race in the SERC GP. The course is very repetitive, roundabout to roundabout on the same road for two hours. The race went pretty ok till the last lap when out of nowhere there was a crash that I got held up in, the group got away and I had to chase it down. I did just that and sat on the back to recover for the climb to the finish. I recovered pretty quick and at the finish I had a good bit of energy so was well able to contest the sprint and I ended up coming 6th. I swear if the race had of been 20 meters longer I would of challenged for first.
For the next week I had been completely focussed on the Wexford 2-Day race. That’s all I was talking about and for a few days leading up to it I had been carb loading which is much harder than I initially thought.
The first day of the 2-Day was an absolutely miserable day in terms of weather but the racing wasn’t too bad and similar to most A4 races in which we’d tear up the climbs and then slow down on the flat. Not only was the weather awful but the length of the race was 97km, my longest race. In the end the race was decided by a bunch sprint, I got blocked in and managed to get out a bit too late. However I still ended up coming 7th so happy enough.
I went home after the race, got a shower, some food and put my gear on to go and do the time trial. I’d never done a time trial so I wasn’t too sure what to really expect. I wanted to do a time of around 6:30 on it and maybe even less but I only managed to do 6:40 (even though my Garmin was saying 6:30 when I went over the line). It wasn’t ideal but it wasn’t awful either so I knew I’d have my work cut out the next day.
Wexford 2-day: Stage 2 https://www.strava.com/activities/682837556
I went home that night after the time trial, got a bath and used a foam roller to loosen out the muscles. Next morning I was tired but still feeling ok for a day of racing. The last stage consisted of 100km racing with a very tough finish. Before the race I’d made a plan with some other Wexford based riders to help each other and make a break before Oylegate. When we got to Oylegate the break worked, 5 of us got into it and we grew the gap to 40 seconds. Holding a break for the last 20km of the final stage of a race is one of the toughest things I’ve ever done in cycling. It was horrible!! We held the break till the final roundabout when we were caught but the group, 200 meters to the finish line. 😢
After race was a weird feeling, I was sore and sad that the break didn’t stay away but happy of what I’d accomplished in my first year racing. 13th overall in the Wexford 2-day is not a bad result, albeit I wanted to finish in the top ten but I’m still relatively new to cycling, I’ve only been in a club for less than a year.
Those two days of cycling were brilliant, I got to meet new friends and even though the weather was awful, the racing was fun! That was my last race of the year!
My first year stats
- Total Distance: 7,883 km’s
- Total Time: 301 hours
- Races: 15 (one 1st-Place, two 2nd-Places, one 3rd-Place, two 6th-Places, one 7th-place)
- Points: 8
- Weight: 68kg (I was 76kg last summer)
- FTP: 280 watts (initially was 240 watts)