Rás Mumhan 2015
So onto the Rás Mumhan, and for me, what an experience! Wayne first asked me to ride early on in 2015 and after doing a small bit of searching the realisation hits that this is one of Irelands most prestigious stage races behind the An-Post Ras, which attracts top quality riders from teams not only in Ireland but also from the UK and across Europe.
A couple of weeks before the event the official rider list was published. This was another reminder that the Rás Mumhan wasn’t any old UK regional A race (my bread and butter!) which listed all 209 riders that would represent 35 teams – yes 209 riders!
The Champion System – VCUK team of 6 consisted of;
DILLON BYRNE – team leader and a very strong elite standard rider with experience of riding in stage races in the UK and in ireland.
MICHAEL ASHURST – another strong elite standard rider also with stage race experience and also a previous podium Rás Mumhan finisher after his 3rd place overall in 2013.
SEB BAYLIS – currently a 1st cat and the under 23 of the team. Super strong all round and one to watch in the climbs. Also has bags of experience riding stage races with appearances in the Suir Valley and An Post Ras.
LEE BALDWIN – Another 1st cat and certainly not shy at mixing it with the big boys with strong results at national B. Also one to watch when the road go up.
ALEX JONES – Finished last season a 1st cat also with strong performances at national B. Experience at riding stage races another rider who oozes confidence.
and myself – currently a 2nd cat aspiring to progress into stronger positions in national B races.
On paper this stage was dubbed ‘a very nice introduction’ and ‘a nice gentle warm up into the remainder of the race’. Whist 105km doesn’t sound a great deal for me it was fast. Very fast. The first 12 miles of the race were on large main roads with an average of over 30mph! (For those with power, Mike had an average reading of 340np for the first 30 mins!).
Despite the intensity I was relatively comfortable and, after a bad start coming out of the town, I was sitting fine around the nose of the bunch. However, the next 40 – 45 miles were narrow and undulating which is where I lost quite a bit of confidence. The bunch barreled up the first KOH of the day which literally split the race in half – unfortunately for me I lost my positioning sense on the narrow roads and was in the second split despite a gritty chase to try and get back on. Dillon, Mike, Seb, Lee and Alex however had made it over the climb at the head of the bunch and were in the thick of it for the duration!
Despite numerous attacks from the lads the race finished all together (the first split anyway!) with Dillon our highest placed rider in 32nd. Paidi O’Brien picked up the spoils after beating Harry Tanfield (JLT Condor) in the up hill sprint in Killorglin.
The queens stage – 144km and approximately 4,800ft of climbing.
As with stage 1 the pace was very fast to start with as all teams were desperately trying to get to the nose of the bunch before the first couple of climbs the route had to offer. Unfortunately this led to crash in the early stages which caught out Lee, Seb and myself – Lee hitting the deck in this instance. After a bit of a scramble Lee and Seb had the strength to chase back on up the climb to the end of the bunch. Myself on the other hand lost touch and couldn’t complete the chase back to the bunch; disappointing!
The KOH all riders were gearing for in this stage was the 2nd climb of the day, the Healy Pass. The ascent on this climb was hard but the team were well placed and got over the top all in good positions. The descent however was very alpine like with multiple hairpin pins to wind through which caught a couple of riders out. Luckily the weather was dry and no major crashes were reported!
The lads made it safely down the pass and then onto the next obstacle which was a 1.5km section of resurfaced (or un-surfaced?!) road which in its current state was very deep shale. This section did make it into the ‘danger’ zones of the stage as I compared it to racing on someone gravel driveway! The balls of steel Irish boys didn’t flinch on this section however it caught out a pocket of riders including Mike and Dillon who lost time on this section, but had the strength to chase back on to the main group – now still with 5 men in the lead bunch.
Coming into the last 10 – 15km the peleton was very depleted with just 40 out of the 190 that started the stage present. However despite the quality of riders all VCUK riders that were present were aggressive and attacked all the way to the finish. Dillon’s final attack proving the one doing the damage which saw him finish a well earned 4th place!
What a monster! 143km, 4,700 ft of climbing.
This race had everything; brutal pace, brutal crosswinds and brutal hills but Seb shown what he’s made of with a strong performance.
The race was in tatters early doors with the windy conditions but Mike and Dillon were always at the front instigating moves. Dillon was in a move mid race for about 5 – 6 miles which looked promising until team gathered at the front and start to reel the break in. When the race came back together a few riders countered with 3 escaping and riding hard to a gap of almost 2 mins – this break included Seb! Seb and a his breakaway riders made it over the big climb of the day, the Coomanaspig, all together until Mark Dowling attacked up the climb bridging across to Seb and taking a few others along in the process.
The lead group grew with about 30km to go making the coastal run very pacey! Seb rode well and finished in a well earned 16th place. Dillon, Mike, Lee and Alex not too far behind…myself on the other hand, struggling with the crosswinds and that horrible Coomanaspig climb!!
110km and pan flat.
If ever I thought that with this being the last stage the edge will be taken off and things will be slightly slower, I was wrong! Just as usual the pace was fast from the gun with attacks made by the usual teams all race – with Mike and Dillon always in the thick of it. The aim for a lot of teams was to get riders away in hope to make some time up in GC, however with moves always being chased down this was an impossible task.
The course was 3 laps of a long circuit then into the finishing town of Killorglin where we rode 9 small laps of the town centre which each lap went up the steep climb we finished with on stage 1. Yes, 9 times!
As we approached the end of lap 3 we now knew that the race would be decided on the town centre course. The bunch swung left over the bridge then the short steep climb began on to the smaller circuit. This caught quite a few riders out and position was the key to stick with the main race contenders.
Coming into the end of lap 1 we turned 90 degree left back onto the finishing climb when a crash caught out at least half of the front group, myself and Alex included. With the high pace on such a small circuit, for me that was pretty much race over as I struggled to bridge back across to the lead group.
The leap group was thinned down in the latter stages of the race but still included Mike and Dillon who rode superbly. Approaching the final sharp left hander Mike led Dillon out on to the final climb with Dillon smashing out a monster sprint to finish 2nd!! Outstanding ride and thoroughly well deserved. With the time bonuses on the line this pushed Dillon up to 9th overall – superb riding.
I’d like to thank all of the sponsors on the left of this page who made the event possible, including transport here there and everywhere, hotels and of course each and every piece of equipment we’re privileged to use. A special thanks to Wayne, Peter and to John Rigby – the stand in man behind the scenes who got our bikes fixed up after every stage!
See you soon!