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!