On Fri morning last our Killorglin club men made the long trek to Ardara in County Donegal for the Rás Dhún na nGall one of the highest ranking timed A2/A3 Stage events in the country. Our club members who took part over the weekend were Micheal O’Shea, Edward The Rock Casey and Brendan O’Sullivan. Stage One consisted of 52.5km road stage which commenced at 7.30pm on Friday evening. Stage Two was a 2.9km Hillclimb on Saturday morning followed by an 82.2km road stage on Saturday afternoon with Sunday Stage consisting close on 100km of racing taking in three category two climbs and one category one climb, the infamous Glengesh climb to the finish line of the stage.
Our 3 Killorglin men Micheal, Edward, and Brendan were amongst the 180 riders who took to the start line at 7.30pm on Friday evening for Stage 1 a 52.5km stage held in extreme weather conditions, Met Eireann had a Yellow wind warning in place on that evening through to 9am on Saturday morning the riders having to battle gusts in excess of 80km/h throughout the race it certainly made the racing very challenging.
The pace from the start line was brisk with the first Category 3 KOM climb coming at the 10.7km mark the bunch at this stage were more or less intact although a number of riders were struggling with extreme crosswinds in the lined out peleton. At 15km there was a mass pile up in the bunch which was a deciding factor in the race Brendan was very unfortunate to get caught up in this crash with the front split in the bunch riding aggressively the fallen riders had a mammoth task to try and regain contact with the main field Micheal was luckily to the fore of the bunch and avoid the crash he also had a close call himself when his chain came off on the decent he rode tactically on the stage and read the race very well finishing in the main bunch.
Edward joined Brendan after the climb at the 31.8km mark and they lads rode well together to limit their time loss aided by 3 other riders, this whittled down to 1 rider at the 10k to go mark the strong efforts put in by the two Killorglin men really putting the other riders under pressure! Ed putting in an exceptional effort on the decent and upping the tempo on the climb before the decent.
Our Killorglin men had another great day on Stage 2. Micheal put in a fantastic time of 10.32 over the 2.9km Hillclimb course where the riders had to battle into a ferocious headwind. Ed posted a great time and along with Brendan they both jumped up a considerable number of placing on GC after the Hillclimb.
This Stage consisted of a 83km road stage which started in Ardara outside the Nesbitt Arms Hotel our own Edward Casey was on hand to give a detailed interview to Highland radio who were on site at the race headquarters. If the lads thought they had a tough day on Friday battling headwinds and crosswinds the conditions on Stage Three were really a forced to be reckoned with! Racing commenced from the line and the riders endured a fast lumpy passage through the first 15kms that led to the first climb Category 2 KOM climb at 15.8k from the total of 3 Category Two climbs that the riders had to traverse on the stage. The subsequent climbs followed at 43.1km and 68km respectively. Micheal had a great day finishing in the bunch of 58 riders retaining his over position on GC, Ed and Brendan continued their progression upwards in the overall GC moving up several positions.
On Sunday the riders departed the centre of Donegal Town in much improved weather conditions for the final Stage of Ras Dhun na nGall 2015. A stage just shy of 100kms taking in the infamous Glengesh Climb which took in gradients of up to 20 percent. The riders first challenge came at 2.8km a Category 2 KOM. Racing was hectic from the start line with riders looking to make an impact on their overall GC standings.
Our Killorglin men rode to the fore of the bunch on the Stage as line outs and an elasticated main field was a prominent feature of the weekends racing. The next KOM came at 26.8km with Micheal making a surging attack like a greyhound out of the trap aptly named Twinkle Toes by club mate Mike O’Shea the Errigal team riders rode hard to close down his advantage which unfortunately proved to be unsuccessful as they controlled and closed down any attacks that went up the road for the majority of the stage as their rider was in yellow.
The riders turned off the main road at the 37km mark in the direction of Glenties where they endured crosswinds which wreaked havoc on the lined out peleton Brendan along with Ed were unfortunate victims of these line outs as riders struggled with the ferocious pace. Brendan lost contact with the main field at this point but managed to regain contact with the tail end of the cavalcade which was in excess of 20 cars quite a spectacle for the onlooking public who came out in masses and lined out each climb in support of their local event. It was great to see cycling often times regarded as a minority sport getting such support from the general public!. Using the cars to his advantage Brendan managed to get back into the main field just before right turn for Glenties village a timely return to the peleton coincided with a greeting from club mate Micheal who had gone back to Neutral service for a bottle and assisted Brendan in his final leg of the effort to return to the main bunch.
The riders returned to a crowd thronged Ardara on the first of their two passages through the town on the stage and turned left in the centre of the town, the pace increased at a blisteringly fast rate on the fast technical roads as the riders faced into their third category 2 climb of the day at 68kms. Many riders suffering the effects of the arduous stage with weary legs from the previous 3 Stages. Brendan was among a group who just lost contact nearing the summit of the climb he fought hard to regain contact again using the advantage of the team cars, although nearly being taken out by one of the team cars as it veered into his path as he passed it on the outside on his approach to a sharp left hand bend. The bunch again had to traverse a second passage of the open crosswind section of the course, Micheal was well positioned within the bunch with Brendan nearly regaining contact with the main field, the effects of solo bridging through the strung out cavalcade due to their services being required of crash stricken riders taking its toll. With the bunch stalled and the rear of the peleton in sight it was unfortunate that it was short lived stall as they quickly regained their composure and continued at a frantic rate moving rapidly out of sight.
Ed was unfortunate to have endure a solo ride using the cars to his advantage in the earlier part of the race with the remainder of the journey predominately on his own he was unlucky to loose contact with the main field in the strong crosswinds. The riders completed their second passage through Ardara town passing the Nesbitt Arms Hotel the race headquarters on their right at the 10km to go mark with the ascent of Glengesh to come the remaining main field jostled for position prior to the onset of the climb, tough speed sapping roads faced the riders at the base of the climb after 97km of hard racing. The climb itself appeared a mammoth task to the riders, two steep switch backs at the 1km to go mark from where the riders faced a virtual wall from 300m to go sign. The crowds lining this section of the course were reminiscent of scenes of aple d’huez. Micheal afterwards commented that he was chewing the tape off the handlebars in the final section of the climb to keep his overall GC position of 31st place.
Brendan had a stormer of a race fought valiantly and clawed his way back into contention on several occasions finishing just ahead of Ed in 106th position on overall GC Ed put in a great effort over the weekend rode a fantastic TT and rode hard everyday as only “The Rock” knows how.
Overall it was a fantastic weekend of cycling where the riders had to endure extremely tough weather conditions and equally challenging terrain with top class competition. It was a brilliantly organised, safe and well marshalled event and we will most definitely be up for the challenge in 2016! Thanks for all the support over the weekend especially Aona and Tiarnach O’Shea. Hopefully more good club fortunes to report in the near future!!