Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ras de Cymru Stage 6 – The Climb to Glory

I will be completely honest, I and sitting here in front of my laptop wondering how I am going to be able to express in words the feats that took place as a result of the final stage of the Ras de Cyrmu 2012. Well I suppose I could start by setting the tone a little; 5 days ago we were about to start the biggest amateur stage race that the UK has to offer, riders and teams that have won this race in the past have gone on to become or already were well established teams with big rosters, sponsors and support. We all wanted to well, not only for ourselves or for the team but also for everyone who has been supporting of our ventures this year. We thought that maybe we would stand a good chance of taking the Team Prize and maybe even getting one or two riders in the top ten. If these goals came off then we could walk away happy and satisfied.
Race Leader Adrian Bird and 4th Placed Mike Kiss discussing
race tactics before the start of stage
5 days later and we find ourselves sat on the starting line of the final stage of this years Ras with the very realistic possibility of securing not only the team prize but also 1st, 2nd and 4th spot on General Classification and already we would have bagged a stage win in the TTT and Adrian won a most aggressive rider award on stage 3. A lot was on the line and we knew it, we had a plan and we thought it could work and help us to hold on to our potential glory. It was now or never, be the hammer or be the nail, it was all up to us.

The final stage was set to be the big show down with a 50 mile road stage held on tight, narrow, twisty lanes before finishing on a 6km mountain top finish that could be the cause of both ecstasy of devastation. which ever it would be we knew it would be a sufferfest! On the start line Adrian received his new Yellow Jersey as race leader and stage was underway quicker that he could get it on! The race headed out through the neutralized section and on to the first section of narrow twisting lanes. We all knew that we had to be up towards the front in order to keep out of trouble and react to any moves. Soon enough a break of 3 riders did go clear but none of them were a threat to our leaders so we let it go.

As the race progressed the break began to gain upwards of a minute and we weren't quite sure of how far back on GC they were, Adrian decided he wanted to keep the gap at around a minute just to be safe. Thankfully but all so quite annoyingly, today I was finally feeling good and as I had nothing to loose on GC because I was so far down, It was up to me to support my team mates and do the domestique duties. I was ordered by my leader to get to the front and bring the gap back down to a minute. I moved up to the front of the bunch when the road widened and and pressed on keeping the pace high and consistent. At this point we had finished our stint on the small roads and now we were on the open dual carriage ways again, I kept plugging away on the front as riders attacked out of the bunch and as they did I maintain my place on the front and in my world of pain and slowly dragged them all back. I had no help from any one else but I didn't care, In a stage sort of way I was really enjoying it.

Soon riders began to attack around me which allowed me to slip back in the bunch to get some food and some recovery. Soon enough though the pace had dropped again so just as before I headed to the front in order to pull for my leaders once again. This stint was hard work, on a slight up hill and in to the wind, I was really beginning to fade but I just kept thinking of doing the best job I could for the team. Soon we began to near the start of the 2nd king of the mountains prime and as I knew I needed to get over this in the bunch i slipped back in to the peloton. I was riding next to Tony who concerned that the pace was slowing way to much, I informed him that I would get on the front and pull towards the final climb one we had gotten over this one but tony decided to attack in order to raise the pace. This worked perfectly and Tony lead the bunch over the climb with me, Ade and mike all in contact. With this now out of the way i could once again think about bringing the gap back down to around a minute as it was now just under 2.

"I Ho, I Ho, Its Back To Work I Go..........."
We headed back down the same twisty lanes which we started on which would bring us the foot of the final climb. The pace was already high but I knew I needed to be at the front because Adrian was up these and was getting exposed to the wind. I shot down the side of the bunch and back on to the front where myself and a Mid Devon rider worked hard to ramp the pace up. We were flying, the bunch was lined out and we must have been riding in excess of 30 mph. I took my final big pull just before the Turing on to the climb where Tony and Adrian  took over from me just as I popped. My work was done, we had managed to get the gap down to 30 seconds at the foot of the climb and after all of my exertions I had nothing left, all i had to do now was drag my exhausted body 6km up in to the clouds and to the finish.

Tony, Adrian and Mike disappeared i to the distance along with the rest of the leaders. This select group stayed together until 2km to go when Tony attacked off the front, this was what he told me he would do and fair play to him, he did and he went balls out to the finishes line. Despite a final charge from the group Tony stayed away and took a magnificent stage win. Adrian rode away from the rest of the field in the closing meters and took second with mike finishing in the group of leaders. I crossed the line 3 minutes later and was greeted by hugs of success from my teams mates.

All of this was amazing but there was on thing that was now apparent; Tony was only 9 seconds down on Adrian at the start of the stage, he gained a 15 second time bonus by winning the stage and Adrian took a 10 second time bonus for 2nd. This means that there was no only 4 seconds that separated them but no of us knew for sure how much time tony actually won by over Adrian. If it was 4 seconds then it would be a draw for 1st place, if it was 3 then Adrian would win but if it was 5 or more then tony would win! It was an exciting drive back to the sports centre in Newport where we would find out.

Total Domination.
Back at the sport centre we were treated to a buffet lunch as we went through the prize presentation, Here are the results that we gained from this years Ras De Cymru:
2 Stage wins; Victory in the TTT & Tony’s 1st place on the final stage (and a second place from Adrian)

Most Aggressive rider - Adrian Bird stage 3,
1st - Team Classification by over 4 minutes,
3 riders in the top ten on Overall Classification
4th place overall – Mike Kiss
2nd Place overall – Adrian Bird
1st place overall – Tony Kiss

So as it turn out Tony won stage 6 by 6 seconds which means he won the overall and snatched the leaders jersey by 2 seconds from Adrian, 2 seconds!!!! After 400km of racing, countless hill and descents, rain, wind and numerous crashed, the winner was decided by a measly 2 seconds. I don't think that we could have asked for or even dreamed of a better Ras if we had tried. For our first ever stage race as a team and our first ever stage race of 5 days as individuals I think its fair to say that we did pretty well, In fact I think its fair to say we dominated.

For me its a funny situation, a mix of utter exhilaration but also deep disappointment and frustration. Of course i am over the moon with the result and the efforts of the team but I just wish that I could have been up there on GC and could have done more in the first few days to help the team more. I have a long way to go before I am back to normal and my condition doesn't effect me anymore but I am very hopeful that come this time next year It will be a 1, 2 , 3, 4 clean sweep by RPC/SubZeroBikesCo. Well done boys, it was a pleasure to race with you and a pleasure to on the same team as you. Thanks for a great experience.

I would also like to take this chance to thank the selfless efforts of those involved who make this race a possibility. This is the only 5 days stage race w have at this level in this country and its also one of the most well organized events I have ever been involved with. Thanks a million and see you next year.