Stage 8 – Cootehill to Skerries - May 27th - 139K

posted 22 May 2012, 12:52 by Kevin Monaghan   [ updated 28 May 2012, 08:49 ]
Skerries Windmill
Although we all arrived down to breakfast once again weary and tired, we knew it was as good as over with the organisers having decided on a leisurely/ceremonial ride to the finish in Skerries. All we were short of was the champagne en route but leisurely or not we still had some more hills to climb as we travelled cross the Cavan drumlins which made for some beautiful scenery. I know we have probably had one of the best week's weather in the history of the Ràs but the scenery and landscape we witnessed in the last 8 days has been nothing short of breathtaking.
Unfortunately the calmness was soon came to a sudden halt as with less than 20 miles cycled the sound of carbon scraping concrete ran through the peloton and with 5 or 6 bodies lying in the middle of the road things did not look good. Thankfully it was not as bad as it initially appeared but we did lose two riders with nasty road rash and suspect neck injuries. Our own Dermot Hogan was lucky to escape with just a puncture as he collided with the falling bodies and to be honest I personally don't know how I stayed upright as my front wheel clipped a bike frame and then the shoulder of one faller. This accident naturally led to a short delay but once back rolling we settled again and very soon the Polar showed the miles slipping away and the signposts became more familiar.

For a Westmeath man I was never as glad to see one that read "Welcome to Co. Meath" as we had our fill of Cavan and it's hills. However the work was not yet over as we had four Categorised climbs to contend with but at this stage they were ONLY Cat 3's and with the finish line in sight they were less painful. Another gloriously sunny day was on the cards and as we approached our 5KM rendezvous point the spirits were high. Our run into Skerries was fantastic with huge crowds out enjoying the end of Ràs festival and once again the Wheelers were out in force. Libby, Jonathan and Rachel Nugent, Cathy, Dan and Martina O'Toole and Carmel Dolan all turned up to welcome us home and how satisfying it was to cross that line.

Would you believe our team manager resumed contact again during the week and apologised for abandoning us mid tour and asked if we would take him back so after a brief discussion we agreed to revert to our 1-1-1 formation with him looking after our racing tactics, Doreen concentrating on massage and Joe Joe managing logistics. Someone said he was only back as there would be no need for him at the "coalface" due to the soaring temperatures but we decided in the interests of club harmony to resume his contract. Alls well that ends well and there is no doubt that the four of us had a fantastic week and an experience we will never forget. I was told by one of the main organisers when I signed up that I would make friends for life and without doubt the camaraderie on tour was excellent, from the "Donegal Boys" who were great fun to "Dungarvan John" whose name is actually Mark but much to Jack Nugent's amusement I just kept calling him John. I know we will definitely cycle with these lads again and hopefully our clubs will benefit too.

On behalf of Dermot, Pairc, Jack and I, I would like to say a huge thank you to all our fellow Wheelers for your messages of support and for coming along to the stage ends, it was a great boost to us knowing we were in your thoughts. To Joe Duffy, who gave us extra special attention each day just because we were Wheelers we also say thanks and last but not least to our families who have put up with us thinking we were pro riders over the last few months when training.

Finally, I would like to include a include a piece form our manager who thought it would be a good idea from a sports psychology perspective to pick four riders from the professional ranks both past and present and twin them with us for inspiration purposes. I have to stress these are his words and his selections. Thanks for reading each day and hopefully you enjoyed the view of Race the Rás from inside the peloton!

Jack Nugent....Pippo Pozzato- darling of the Tifosi and also King of Bling.

Pairic Devine.....George Hincapie- steady as a rock, oldest pro in the peloton and sticks rigidly to a no drugs, energy drinks or gels policy.

Dermot Hogan....Jens Voigt- organised and wily East German pro who loves to give it a gingin.

Shay O'Toole.....Mario Cippolini- tall, elegant, handsome, undisputed team leader and sprinting supremo but full of drugs.