Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Ras de Cymru

Ras de Cymru 5 Day Stage Race
Newport University, Newport, South Wales

Wednesday 27th June – Sunday 31st June

Its been 6 months since we first decided as a new team that we would make the Ras de Cyrmu our main goal as a squad for the 2012 season and after hearing only a few weeks ago that our entries had been accepted, the time has now come for our assault on the UK’s only 5 day amateur stage race. Everything so far this season has been pretty much ridden and raced with this event in mind and its no lie that we hope to do very well here and cement our stake in the ground as one of the best amateur teams in the UK.

With all of us looking to be in our best possible form for this race, we have taken the last week or two nice and steady, or tried to at least! and apart from the TT I did on Sunday I have been trying to keep my legs fresh in the hope I would come in to this race in the best shape I could. Tony and Myseelf headed down to the race in his car on the morning of the first stage and arrived at Newport University Campus at just gone 11 in order to sign on for the event and also attend the compulsory safety briefing, First though we had to get the keys to our “digs”. The Ras is a combination of hard work by both British Cycling and Newport University, together they put on what can only be described as a mini Tour de France, it really quite brilliant.

We managed to enter the event early so we had the option of booking the on campus accommodation, this means that all four of us who would be racing; me, Tony, Mike and Adrian, would all be sharing an apartment, each with our own en-suite rooms and a communal kitchen. I missed out on the whole Uni thing so this is the first time I have stayed in the typical campus dorms and on first impressions they seem to be pretty good, small yes but hey have all the necessities; fridge, internet, bathroom, complementary biscuit's you name it.
Once all of us had unloaded and got ourselves sorted it was off to the briefing where after we had been given the low down on the rules and all the usual safety stuff,we were treated to a lunch buffet at the back of the hall. Its this kind of thing that makes it so great, how they manage to put it all on for what is actually a pretty cheap entry I have no idea but i love it. Lunch done it was off to sign on and get our race number and then back to the rooms to pin up and get ready for the first stage!

Day 1, Stage 1 – Prologue, 4.7 miles

As with most half descent stage races, the event begun with a lung busting, leg searing, heart crushing short distance TT in order to establish a race order and seed all the rider in there own position with there own overall time. Now although I am a pretty handy tester when I have good legs, I am suited only to the longer distance TT’s, 25’s and 50’s are my thing, anything short and I just lack the raw power that the bigger guys can call up IMAG0141on to help them achieve a good time. So with a sub 5 mile TT awaiting us I was not looking forward to it, worst still was the fact it finished on a 1km climb to the finish, something that should suit me but not at the end of this kind of distance.

Heading out to the start I wanted to get a good solid warm up under my belt so I rode Tempo for about 30 minutes and then threw in a few hard efforts to open up the lungs. With the first rider off at 15.16, our team was off pretty early as we were numbers 9 through to 12. Tony was off first with his 100mm deep rear wheel and taped up helmet for the aero advantage, mike was off second also with a taped up helmet, I was off 3rd and Adrian was off 4th.
The course was pretty flat and draggy all the way up to the turning where you were faced with a 180 degree turn off of the main road and straight on to a 10% gradient, The turn was horrible and the climb was a nasty little sting in the tail. As I began my ride I tried to hold back knowing that there was the climb at the end which could see some huge time losses, yet when ever I get going I always panic that I'm going too easy and push harder on the pedals. Its soon became apparent that although I thought I was holding something back I really wasn't as I found myself needing to recover on the smallest of downhill's. I approached the lethal turn and changed down in to the small ring before the corner and, as riders get penalised with a 10 second penalty if they cross any white lines on the road, I cautiously turned in way to early and began to drift very wide on the exit. I came so close to crossing the line that I had to slam the brakes on, come to a track stand, hop the front wheel round and then get going again all in an effort to stay on my side of the road. This standing start along with legs that were already blown to pieces made for a very painful climb.

Adrian 1Dan 4Mike 1Tony 1

I threw the bars from side to side in an effort to help my weary legs turn the pedals over, The finish line couldn't have come sooner. When I did complete the course, although I had crossed the line the hill kept going and I could barely turn the pedals. I could have done with my team helper come running up to me and push me onwards from behind! Every one found the hill hard work and quite a few riders were penalised for crossing the lines but pretty much everyone got round unscathed. Upon seeing the results this is where we lie after stage 1;

Adrian 9th with a time of 11.35 and 17 seconds down on the leader. Tony was 19th with 11.44 and 26 seconds down, Mike 23rd with 11.48 at 30 seconds and rubbish old me in 40th with 12.10 and 50 seconds down. In the team standing we seem to have done really well and are currently lying in second only 32 seconds down. The good news is that the team that are leading the team GC are mainly testers so once we hit the hills we should be able to move our selves up in to the top spot.

Dinner Time.
With the racing done and the showers tested, we headed off for dinner which is all included in the entry fee as is the breakfast. We didn't really know what to expect, a bit of pasta maybe, a dribble of sauce? oh no, It was enough food to feed a village!! Our trays couldn't hold the amount of plates we had; A bowl of salad, soup, bread, pasta with chicken and tomato sauce, vegetables, Jacket Potatoes and finally a bowl of rice pudding. After 40 minutes of plugging away we all finished and sat here holding our stomachs, struggling to move, we were crazy full. What breakfast will be Like I have no idea. Eventually we shifted ourselves to the bar where we had a quiz to take part in but I think we did pretty bad.

So now its off to the “digs to get some rest in before the 60 mile road stage tomorrow, lets see if we can nab that top spot on the Team GC!

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