Saturday, 15 June 2013

Vuelta Bidasoa and the An Post Ras in Ireland

Hi Everyone

Here’s my story about two big races I have done recently in May. The 4 day Vuelta Bidasoa in Basque Country, Spain, which is a top U23 stage race based in Irun near the border with France. Then a week later I was racing for Scotland at the An Post Ras, the tough 8 day stage race round Ireland.

Vuelta Bidasoa

The bunch at the start of stage 3 
I was going good coming into the Vuelta Bidasoa in the first half of May. I finished the Spanish Cup Series on a good note, getting up there in the last round and climbing well.

Bidasoa is the river that forms the border between Spain and France. All the stages were in and around that area. I knew a few of the roads on the route from one day races I had done the year before. We had typical Basque Country weather, 2 days of heavy rain then 2 decent sunny days. My folks flew over to watch the race which was great, they were a bit unlucky with the weather though, but it meant I have some decent photos!

It had all the top pro/am teams in Spain and surrounding countries that competed in the Spanish Cup races and a couple of foreign teams like the Russia Squad.

It was a very mountainous race. Even the flattest stage on Day 1 had a few stinging climbs in it. It ended in a bunch sprint as I geared up to make Day 2 my day to get up there.

That stage ended up being a day of ups and downs...

Throwing of my gillet at the feed zone

I started the day climbing great and getting into a good position for the climb. It was pouring with rain and low cloud, one of those grim days. I felt good and attacked from the bunch to bridge across to six others going up main climb of the day.

We got a good gap as we hit the top but on to the descent more groups joined us till we had a big group of 40 riders. I got away a few times but didn't get the luck to stay away. Disaster struck when we went through a dark 4km tunnel where I hit big cat eye in the bunch at 35mph and lost the front instantly and down I went...

I was sliding for ages and got up before I stopped, my whole left side was ripped to shreds and I had a hole in my knee. Dropped riders and team cars were whizzing by me, nearly running me over in the near darkness!

I had still a bit of downhill before the last climb of the day and I made it back to the group. I was pretty raging from my crash and I attacked and got away from the group on the final ascent but a few teams pulled me back before reaching the summit, not wanting riders escaping.

The fast and wet run into Stage 2 finish

Plenty of pain

I went to hospital and got patched up and started the next day's stage which included the famous first Category “Jaizkibel” climb, which the pro race, the San Sebastion Classic, goes up.

Recovering from crash had taken a big bit out me, not the same power as I had the previous day. The legs didn't have it. When on the limit, the hairpin turns are a killer as there is always an acceleration or a steeper ramp at the exit of them.
I limited my losses the best I could on the big 1st cat climbs on stage 3 and 4. The latter stage had 3 of them!

On the Jaizkibel climb

Hard pace in the front group

Final climb of the Vuelta, steep and it was never ending!

It was a great race to do, savage racing on savage climbs. Me and a couple of my team mates from the race, did another race the next day to make it 5 days of racing. Another mountainous day, with laps of different climbs. I was pretty burst racing with fresh guys but hung on in there.

The race the next day, very tired.

The An Post Ras

I came home after over 2 and half months of racing in Spain to race for Scotland at the An Post Ras. It was an awesome race to do. I've never had much opportunity in the past to race for Scotland so it was great to get the call up. I have wanted the chance to race the Ras for a couple of years now. My injuries from Bidasoa were healing up well which was good. It was my first week long tour so I was in the unknown on how I would perform over 8 days.

The rest of the squad were Evan Oliphant, Ben Greenwood, Alex Coutts and Michael Nicolson. The team rode well, always at the sharp end of the race and Ben finished high up on GC. I want to thank Dave Brandie and Kenny Riddle for the great support they gave the team.

At the finish of the first stage, Dave Brandie handing out some coke. L to R: Ben, Michael, Evan, Alex and me.

We had great weather for the Ras but the road surfaces were awful, I would say even worse than the west of Scotland... Very bumpy at times and hard to get a decent rhythm. In the end you just had to power over it, takes a bit out the legs and a big change from the super smooth roads I was used to in Spain!

The first stages went well for me. After a pretty straight forward stage 1, day 2 was a brute. Over 100 miles nearing 30mph average! Quite undulating at the end as well. It was constant attacking the whole race. I made the split of the day after 120km to keep me up there in the GC, and after the end of day 3, I was still only 42 seconds down.

Up hill drag finish of stage 5

Typical bunch of the Ras, starting to get stretched out...

Unfortunately that night, I came down ill so I had to battle through the next day with a fever and sore throat, lost some time that day. It was the first time we had hit some Irish mountains roads like Moll's Gap and Healy's Pass in the south west of the country. The descent of that was a tricky one, many riders crashed out there.

The descent of Healy's Pass, very techinical..

The bunch on the first climb of stage 5.

I managed to recover from illness in the days afterwards. The legs though had their on and off days plus growing fatigue but I had a great final Stage on day 8.

I went for the win on the final stage, breaking away with Canadian National rider, Stuart Wight. We had to ride the first 20km flat out to get the gap. Brutal effort. When we had over a minute, two other riders joined us followed by one more, Azerbaijan Synergy Baku’s Christoph Schweizer.

In the front of the race with Stuart Wight, stage 8

UK Youth and the Belgium National team leading the peloton.

We worked well, getting over two minutes on the bunch. After 110km out the pack, the others had dropped away leaving it down to me and Christoph to drive it to stay away..

With less than 15km to go, on the finishing circuit at Skerries, along the coast from Dublin, UK Youth, the GC team riding for the winner Marcin Bialoblocki, and sprint team An Post Chain Reaction caught us.

It was great getting out in front in the race, the support from the side of the road when you get out there is great, even the police were encouraging us: “Keep it going on lads!!”

It was awesome riding my first Ras and longer stage racing like this. I would love to do more of this level of stage racing. 

Presentation of finishing the An Post Ras 

Good write up of the last stage here:

Good highlights of the final stage here: 

Thanks for reading


The route of the An Post Ras
Before the first stage

Irish roads in the south west

Moll's Gap Climb

Bunch on Stage 6

Bunch on stage 6

Picking up a bottle at the feed on Stage 8

Great support through the villages 

The overall GC winner, Polish rider Marcin Bialoblocki, UK Youth

Getting ready for Stage 1, Vuelta Bidasoa

Stage 1 finish in Irun

At the finish of Stage 1, fast day in the saddle.

The team riding back to the digs after the stage.

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