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Alex Araujo and the Dynamo Hang on the Front!

by Adam Tranter

Full results are now available

Stage 1.  Belfast (Lisburn) to Cavan Town, 188 km

We arrived in Belfast yesterday to beautiful sunny weather, and all the cyclists commented on how we lucked out on the weather this year.

Of course, this was the perfect set-up for the BBC weather report which showed sun in Scotland, sun across England and Wales, and sun across Northern Ireland, EXCEPT for a mysterious, oddly shaped patch of cloud and rain that more or less encompassed the precise route of stage 1 of
our race from Belfast to Cavan Town.

And so it was.  Light rain from the start, cloud, mist, and enough fog at the tops of the climbs, that the only way to see the rider in front of you was to look down at his wheel.

Luckily the day was relatively incident-free, extremely well organised, with Police (and Garda) escorts and rolling road closures the entire way -- all the more impressive given the route was 180km in length and stretched across 250 riders.

Lots of climbing, lots of lovely scenery, and lots of Irish hospitality and spectators along the way.


Along with a couple of Dynamo teammates, I managed to stay with the front group right to the end of the stage, which finished in a manic sprint in the town centre and was won by one of the members of the semi-pro ParkPre team from Italy.

We don't have the official results, which are done on electronic chips and will be displayed in the morning, but I think I'm sitting somewhere in the top 20.

The stats:  180 km, my avg speed 30.3 km/h, 2,200 m of total climbing on the day. Legs somewhere between jelly and soft rubber

Stage 2 tomorrow - longer, but a bit flatter.



Stage 2. Cavan Town to Galway.  194 km

A looooong gently rolling ride through the centre North of Ireland today, over VERY rough roads, from Cavan to Galway on the West coast. 200 km, with 1200 m of climbing.

It started off civilised enough, but the group was so big that after about 75 km, the hammerheads on the front decided to try to stir it up a bit and create some time gaps.

This resulted in some serious whipsawing but I managed to stay with the front group, as did fellow-Dynamo, Jamie, until disaster struck ...

... when we passed the 10 km to go mark, the pace really picked up, and before long we were down to only a dozen or so riders in the front group, the remnants of which were well behind us. 


The pace was blistering, and as we entered the outskirts of town, we went into one of those big  roundabouts going almost 48 km/hr.  Most of us took the outside line, one or two took the inside, and as we were just about to exit, a rider that had taken the inside line had too much speed to make the turn and crashed into Jamie.  I had already made it through and only found out later that he had crashed. 

It then turned out that because of our fast pace, we arrived in Galway an hour ahead of schedule, and the town officials hadn't had a chance to properly close roads and clear a path.  Even with the police motorcycles and the lead car clearing the way, it was just too manic, we called off the sprint, and ten of us coasted in over the line.

The average speed of our group clocked in at almost 35 km/h.

Jamie is pretty banged up, but luckily no broken bones. He's a tough rider and plans to start tomorrow's stage after scrounging up enough spare parts from the mechanic's truck to fix his bike.

By some miracle, I find myself in 4th place over all, with only a few seconds separating the top 5.  This will all change as we hit the frirst hilly stage:

A long hilly one tomorrow, which takes us south-east to Kilkenny.



Stage 3.  Galway to Kilkenny.  215 km

A viscious day of climbing today (can tomorrow really be harder?).
Route was over 200 km through some beautiful scenery and over some tough climbs. 

Today the pros showed why they are paid to do what they do.  In our front group we had the under-23 world road race champion, previous teammate of Lance Armstrong on the Discovery Team, Irish Cycling Team member that competed in the Olympic road race event, a semi-pro from the
Italian ParkPre team, and a local Irish pro.



There were a few breaks in the early hills, all of which were reeled back.  I helped chase one down before the big climb at the 150km mark, which left me a bit knackered, but I only lost a bit of time to the leaders on the climb.  They did an interesting thing at the top of the mountain: because the descent was so incredibly treaturous (25%, switchbacks, and greasy), they put the timing pads down at the very top of the climb and did a time check.  Then, they assembled the lead group and led us part of the way down the descent very slowly and safely. Obviously the right thing to do. 

Attack after attack on the run-in to the finish, with almost all the same faces in the lead group as the prior day.

The finish into Kilkenny was nothing short of incredible. Closed roads, police, barriers, and the whole town out on a sunny Sunday afternoon. How to feel like a real pro. 

It was a two-up sprint to the line, but a rub of the wheels took down the Irish Olympian, and roughly ten of us finished within a few seconds of each other and the winner.

After losing a bit of time on the mountain time check, I've slipped a bit, but still expect to be in the top 10 overall.

After several visits to the Ambulance/First Aid last night and this morning, Jamie soldiered on despite a rough night in pain and with blood-soaked bedsheets left behind. What a legend he is.

Final stage through the Wicklow Mountains tomorrow and then Guinness Time in Dublin!


I was waiting around for the final results to be posted on the website before sending the final installment, but it looks like it will be a while before they upload them.  So here's the summary of the final stage:

Tour of Ireland Stage 4.  Kilkenny to Dublin, 208 km

This was the showcase stage for the Tour of Ireland.  200 km from Kilkenny to Dublin, through the very picturesque Wicklow Mountains, taking in some famous climbs, including the Wicklow Gap.

One of the toughest days I have had on a bike, not helped by the three long days leading up to it and the first day of hot weather, but mainly to do with a bit of stupidity on my part. 

Before the start, I had visited the ambulance to get my toe re-dressed (long story), and having woken up with a very sore throat, I wasn't moving very fast. So, I crossed the start line a bit further back in the field and as I made my way towards the front, I ran into some people I had met over the three days, had a chit-chat - you know, just being friendly.

Anyway, by the time I got towards the front (coinciding with the beginning of the first hill), and not seeing any of the usual suspects from the previous days' lead group, I was informed that they had all
charged up the road practically from the start.

As I was feeling very discouraged with myself for missing the break, Elliot, my Dynamo teammate pulled up beside me, and on learning the news, offered to help me try to reel them back in.  We set off just the two of us and before long, picked up some castoffs from the early break. More than two tough hours of chasing, much of it over the five early climbs, and we finally caught up to the lead group at the first feed station.

Then it was 5 more gruelling hours of climbing and very fast descending, with the lead group strung out to only a dozen or so riders, followed by a windy, rolling run-in to Dublin. 

Traffic conditions weren't great (afternoon rush hour on a Monday) so the lead car and police paced us through gently.  The finish wasn't appropriate for a sprint, so we were asked to cross the line as a group, which we did safely, capping off an incredible four-day event.  Again, the results aren't out yet, but I'm confident I finished in the top-10 or so.

The one thing I came away with (besides aches in pains in various places that I won't get into) is that I'm glad I pay to do these events, rather than get paid to do them (not that I would have any choice in that matter). 

What a gruelling lifestyle professional cycling must be.  Yes there's the ocassional bit of glory for the select few, but the wear and tear on the body, living out of a bag and a hotel room, all the highly processed energy bars, gels and energy drinks that go into your body and rot your teeth.  No wonder these guys do drugs to try and get ahead!

Alex Araujo
London Dynamo / UBS.com

Full results are now available





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5 Comments

Admin
2nd June 2011 10:46pm Admin wrote:

great read. last sentence wasn't required though
anthony

Admin
2nd June 2011 10:46pm Admin wrote:

Great account Alex, and a great performance.

Didn't you say there was too much testosterone in cycle racing!

I was behind Jamie who came down at the roundabout into Galway. It was an unfortunate incident but unassisted. There was no-one on his inside.

Hope to see you next year.

Matt

Admin
2nd June 2011 10:46pm Admin wrote:

Great sprint to the finish and what a tour....mtns of BC next ?


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