Rás na mBan 2014 News

Rás Day Five - The End

posted 15 Sep 2014, 05:40 by Kevin Monaghan

(By Steve Franzoni)   
The final day arrived with a bit of a sledge hammer.  The morning after   the night before is always heavy on the head.  With the addition of yet   more support crew we decided it was best to head out and give the racing   girls a bit of "me" time, anyway that's our excuse and we're sticking   to it.  The support crew headed out for a few social ones joined by the new roadside cheer leaders, Aisling, Elle and local girl Suzanne who was guide for the night.  Not that we really needed a guide because we   all knew the venue, Yolo's had been talked about for weeks especially by   a certain mister Billy Cunnane who was in Ennis with us for the training   camp a few weeks earlier.  The male to female ratio seemed to have some affect on what he refers to as his "mental neutering".  Not sure what   that means? I won't tell all about the night out   but...there was plenty of much needed cardio, a bit of   what the team now refer to as "honey badgering" and a bit of cross   dressing to complete the night.

Lakeside Wheelers Rás na mBan team 2014
The next morning it was back to the normal routines.  Wake early, prepare the bottles, pack bikes into the team car and race bike into the van for   the transfer to the start.  Breakfast was the usual feast of porridge,   smoothie, toast and cornflakes.  Support crew heads were hanging a little low but the girls were all smiles.  Funny how the body starts to adapt to adversity during a long stage race.  That was starting to show in the girls results and determination.  All the Lakeside Team were getting better results as the race had progressed.  
  
Today's last stage was going to be as hard as all the rest even though   it was a slightly shorter 85km.  We were sitting third in the domestic   Irish team standing.  This was being calculated by the accumulated time of your three best domestic based girls.  Sonja, Michelle and Karen had to   make seven minutes up for second and twenty for third.  This pretty much   involved attacking the inevitable small groups that were forming in each   stage to make up those valuable seconds.  After the pre-race briefing the   picture was laid out and the plan hatched.  Attack, attack, attack.    
As the race started disaster struck, Sonja hit the ground.  As we drove assertively through the cavalcade to help we got to the crash site to   find nothing.  Looking up the road we saw the yellow Lakeside Wheelers   jersey moving rapidly through the cars.  To say Stuart and myself were   impressed was an understatement and soon after some serious honey   badgering Sonja had placed herself comfortable back in the peloton.    

Through the Cat3 climb the riders started to be shelled but with no sign   of our riders and lots of our competitors dropping off excitement   started to grow.  Across race radio though we started to here that the   main field was attacking, this meant big increases in speed through   hilly terrain.  Up front Jessie and Julie were helping a team out they   will be riding with next year and being worked hard by all accounts. 
   
During this period we lost our first rider Sonja, she battled hard the next few kilometres and with a little help she bridged across to a group which contained Karen and two of the Irish team with a good splattering of foreign riders.  They then put their head down and raced home.  Up front Michelle had dropped a chain and was in no-mans land crowning the   Cat1 climb of the day.  As we pulled alongside and assessed the damage  via a slightly sticky bottle (this was nothing compared to some of the   tactics we'd witnessed this week) the big decent beckoned with 20km to go.  I hope she doesn't mind me writing this, but descending isn't Michelle's strong point, however with a group just down the road containing major competitors to our team quest she took the task in hand and went down the hill like a women possessed.  Stuart and I were amazed and at one point I had to look away and rely on Stuart for feedback.  After some great work she gained contact and was back in a group.    

Safely in groups the girls road hard home chasing those precious   minutes.  Up front Jessie and Jules had worked hard for the Epic team   chasing down breaks and crossed the line exhausted.  The three girls were   in similar condition crossing the line Karen the new sprinter battled   for position crossing the line.  After the final tally up and the days   hard work had paid off and now were the second team.  A great effort guys.  Even better news came when we found out Michelle was 5th in the County Rider competition followed by Karen in 6th and Sonja 8th.    
Post race I cannot emphasise enough how well the girls did and portray how impressed I was with them all.  Firstly our visitors from the UK Jessie Walker and Julie Erskine joined our team, engaged our humour, interacted   and helped where they could.  Many thanks girls if your reading this.  A   5th and 6th in stages for Jessie was good for the Wheelers and Julie was   never far behind.  Of special note was Julie coming out of the peleton on   Saturday for a bottle, great fun for Stuart and I.    

Karen along with her husband the true honey badger Colin Robinson made huge efforts and helped moral more than they could ever realise.  Colin’s magic rubs kept everyone flying and even stronger later on in the week.    Karen raced hard and wore the Wheelers colours well a total addition to   the crew.

Michelle and Sonja our local heroes, performed brilliantly.  I don't think they appreciate right now how well they have done.  The pair of them are only really six months racing and to complete such a big task so soon is only testament to their grit and determination.  I am particularly proud of the two of them and hope next year will be as good.

As for our support crew in no particular order Paul Daly, Stuart Cox,  Billy Cunnane, Sharon Barrett and Lenny O'Mahony were brilliant all week   long despite all the pressures.  many apologies if I didn't say please or   thank you enough but I can assure you your help was appreciated by all.   
 
Many thanks to our sponsors for the week Outdoor Escape for the bottles and support parts (and ME), Ed Tyrell at Grange Motors, Maxi Nutrition   for recovery drinks and gels, Sport Food Ireland for Cliff bars and   shots as well and energy drink, Santini for Easy-Up, C & F Automotive   for sponsoring the lovely t-shirts.
Next year bring it on!

Beast Of The Burren Tamed As Wheelers Take 5th on Day 4

posted 13 Sep 2014, 13:52 by Kevin Monaghan

(By Steve Franzoni)   
Day four of this year's Rás na mBan seems to have arrived very quickly. Time always flies when your having fun and I think generally speaking this years Rás has been great Craic. At dinner tonight, as even more support crew arrived, our party now numbers fifteen. We realised that every other team staying in the hostel sit quietly contemplating life over food, we however just take the mick and laugh way too loud. 

Some of today's particular gems included as usual Colin (Colombo) Robinson's stories which get ever more random and confuse poor Jessie, our star sprinter. Some new made-up names included grapping, which translates to eating grapes while being fanned as possible fantasy of Julie's. "Average handballs" which is a new term for people who sit a dinner looking very bored and devoid of humour. Nothing wrong with this five stages into this kind of hardship. Apart from the constant banter and support crew frolics there still appears to be some kind of race happening around here. A race which increasingly our crew of riders get more comfortable and confident in.

Today's stage started at 12 noon in Ballyvaughan and was aptly named The Beast of the Burren and it certainly didn't disappoint. The route travelled 105km through the best of the Burren's scenery and unfortunately the best of its hills. First up was a category three climb which was no sooner over before an uncategorised climb started which was twice as bad.
Tough Climbing for the Wheelers Women on Stage Four
Tough Climbing for the Wheelers Women on Stage Four

The next categorised category one climb was a steep killer out of Doolin. Unprepared because we thought the climb was further back down the road, all the girls felt this one was better tackled without any prior knowledge. Sonja even said if she knew what was coming she would never had ridden it at all.  After a relatively flat ish 50km the last climb of the day a category one was on very narrow twisty roads. The stage then finished with a 20km downhill run back into Ballyvaughan.

Spirits were good today in the camp heading into the stage and this showed in the results. Michelle Sonja and Karen battled hard and had their best day yet coming in after the main group but in strong company. We are all impressed. Our guest riders held fast in the main group and yet again fared very well. Julie was 12th and Jessie was a very respectable 5th. You girls will earn those Wheelers jackets yet.

On a more light hearted note Stuart's and my day - if not our week - was made by Julie requesting a bottle mid stage and Stuart having to drive like a madman through the peleton up to the main group.  On a less funny note for Jessie but on a very humorous and educational one for me, Jessie's 5th place earned her a drug test from the Sports Council. Jessie had made a mad dash for the toilet straight after the stage and we had a good wait with the chaperone will nature ran it's course. All the jokes were in my mind but we had to remain very serious to avoid any stage fright or further delays. 

Tomorrow and departure looms and I can't help feeling a little sad. Great few days so far with great company.  I must go now as Stuart is about to parade his high-heels for the group.

The ever-increasing circle of support crew members
Pretty in Pink! - The ever-increasing circle of support crew members

Busy Day Three With Two Stages

posted 12 Sep 2014, 15:12 by Kevin Monaghan   [ updated 12 Sep 2014, 15:15 ]

Stuart Cox's assessment of stage two at breakfast this morning was somewhat unusual and at first glance when seen in writing might sound dodgy - "She kept giving me the horn".  As we sat eating this morning at 7:15am, Stuart gave us his thoughts of yesterday's stage. Three and a half hours sitting with a crazy horn bleeping follow car behind us had sent him slightly mad. I did point out the many times he had followed suit but this fell on deaf ears. 

Action from Stage 4 Criterium
As we hit the middle day of this years Rás, the jokes and banter are beginning to fly round with ever increasing regularity. Our English and Scottish guests seem to be getting used to our ways. The honey badger mantra (check this animal out on YouTube) seems to have taken hold of the team and showed itself in tonight fantastic ride by all in the criterium. 

The many runs up and down the stairs (we are on the third floor) is now becoming part and parcel of our days, along with the early start to pack the cars and make breakfast. One interesting twist is the ever increasing number of support staff. At last count we numbered six and yes that is more support than we have riders. This is only adding to the banter and confusing Julie and Jessie more. It appears UK teams only have a few support staff. Sounds really boring to me. Think a few more are due tomorrow.

Today's racing involved two stages. At 10am the girls took to the road in 'The Race of Truth' time trial. After a good warm up the girls to the road on their own  in GC order. Sonja took off first closely followed by Michelle and Karen. A little later Jessie and Julie started their test in the same slightly windy and sunny conditions. All were hesitant and not overly optimistic at the start but when results appeared they had fared well. Of note was Michelle's 12 mins 29 secs effort which gave her a big leap in the general classification.

Second race of the day was the ten lap criterium around a 4km route. We entered this a little worried as crits tend to be crash fests. Jessie was gunning for another sprint and along with Julie are well used to this format of racing. Karen was very helpful with her advice having raced the route the previous year. This information became invaluable as this race proved our most successful with all five finishing comfortably in the main group and all seeing big movements in GC. 

The TT had been a disappointment but the crit had exceeded all the expectations of the Irish girls  and support crew. Later on during a private 'ME' or 'US' moment two of us said we were welling up with pride.  To every positive there's always a negative or a 105km stage over two Cat one climbs anyway - The Beast Of The Burren stage. Tomorrow's another day and after today's success tomorrow's race looks exciting for all. Let's hope we get some more positive movement by all in the GC.
Lakeside Wheelers Rás na mBan Team
Lakeside Wheelers Rás na mBan 2014 team.

Warming up ahead of today's time trial.
Warming up ahead of today's time trial.

Wild Atlantic Way - Epic Rás na mBan Day 2

posted 11 Sep 2014, 13:55 by Kevin Monaghan   [ updated 11 Sep 2014, 14:47 ]

(By Steve Franzoni)   
Another day of glorious sunshine in Co Clare and our holiday... Sorry start again... Waking up at six this morning, today's nearly two hour transfer required an early start. All hands to the deck straight out of bed. Breakfast needed preparing, bikes, race food and spare equipment packed. Our four man crew worked hard for the 8:15 departure to the furthest west point of Clare - Loop head. 

On arrival the Atlantic greeted us with glorious views of the spectacular cliffs and sea. Approaching the cliffs we were greeted by a very cow poo covered road (the same one we needed to ride back out on later). The obligatory walk out to the edge made most of us more than nervous.  As we prepped for the 12 noon start the team huddled in blankets as all the teams arrived. We happened to be an hour early.

Ready to roll out to take on the Wild Atlantic Way
Roll out didn't come soon enough and as the stage started Stuart Cox and myself couldn't help wondering whether today's stage with two category 3 climbs and one category 1 climb would be harder than it looked.

It didn't disappoint. The first climb before Kilkee was entered through narrow roads and managed to break the bunch early on. A virtual two way split left bodies all over the road. Our two British riders used their experience to hold onto the pack well with Michelle also in the fray.  Sonja and Karen formed part of the next group on the road. They held well in this group through the next climbs into the finish.

Michelle held the main pack until Lahinch where a tricky descent caught her out. Up front, Jessie and Julie battled to keep contact through the days big climbs at the Cliffs of Moher and out of Doolin. A small split saw them distanced at one point but some strong riding got them get back on and in position for the sprint in Ballyvaughan.  In the end Jessie took a very respectable 7th in the sprint leaving her very well placed for general classification and Julie was 11th.  The stage was won by DID rider Tayler Wiles.  Full stage results and general classification HERE 

Tomorrow there is an early 10am individual time trial followed by a late 1 hour long criterium style race.  It's 9pm now and Colin Robbinson continues his massage routines trying to keep legs fresh and there's meeting still to have. We will keep you posted.

Wrapped up waiting to start stage 2
Wrapped up to keep warm ahead of the start

Mixed Bag for Wheelers on Stage One (Joe Wogan Memorial)

posted 11 Sep 2014, 07:07 by Kevin Monaghan

(By Steve Franzoni 10th September 2014)   
Support Van
Day one of Ras na mBan ended up being a mixed bag of luck for the Lakeside Wheelers. The short stage covering just 61km turned out to be a bigger test than expected as the category two climb cut the peleton into small groups. Our girls fared well until half way down the descent Michelle O'Halloran took a tumble, quick to recover and get on her bike she made her way into a group after a roadside check from the race doctor.

After the climb it was a relatively straightforward lead in to the finish on good roads and time to reduce any time lost on the climb. The lead group held a good pace heading into the finish in Ennis and a sprint was inevitable.

In the main group our two UK based guest riders Julie Erskine and Jessie Walker stayed well up in the sprint. Next up was Karen Robinson who won was first in her bunch with some impressive sprinting. Sonja O'Mahony was next up with Michelle O'Halloran not far back having made good time back after her off.  the stage was won by Femke Van Kessel of the Netherlands. Full results are available here.

The first day proved longer than expected when after a late dinner, bike cleaning massage and chats we were in bed later than expected.

The support crews work seems endless. Up at 6am this morning to pack cars for the day, make breakfast and lunches, conduct meetings and clean cars (Stuart). You can't help but wonder how we will fare for the week ourselves. Chief cook and bottle washed Paul Daley prepared a good breakfast this morning but I'm still looking for my smoothie I was promised. 

Stage 2 cannot be taken lightly tomorrow (Tuesday 11th). 111km from Loop head southwest of Kilkee to the north of Clare in Ballyvaughan the route follows the newly opened Atlantic Way and as well as being very scenic will be a hard test of legs and body. Three categorised climbs including The Cliffs of Moher road will test the girls to the limit.

More later.

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