There’s an old cliché in cycling, oft heard on Wheelers club spins, when our usual purveyor of trite catchphrases, Seán Power, utters it when he’s been dropped; “Some days you’re the hammer, some days you’re the nail.”
No sentiment could be more fitting for the Wheelers this past weekend, as Saturday saw a first victory of the season for Ross O’Keeffe in the A4 Ras an Ceatharlach, and with his brother Bryan and the aforementioned mouthpiece Seán crossing the line in 12th and 15th respectively, another fine day on the national scene for the club.
A stark contrast to Sunday, when a series of mechanicals and bad luck plagued the O’Keeffe brothers, as they took on the Clonmel CC 3 Stage – 1 Day in Tipperary.
Ras an Ceatharlach
On a fine and sunny Saturday morning, there is no better feeling than riding your bike. The race of the day would be Rás an Ceatharlach, and 4 Athy men would take on the event. Ross, Dave, Bryan & Seán all headed for Carlow for the A$ contest. Seán needed only 1 point to upgrade to A3, though knew his form might not be there on this day “I’m not in great shape, hopefully I’ll be able to do a bit of work for Ross and get him up there for a few points.”
The start of the race was fairly typical for A4 racing, no breakaways with any real impetus to stay away and a rapid pace being set at the front. For the duration of the first 20km there would be a visible train of pink through the peloton as the Athy men stayed together. A reasonably quiet first lap, there would be raised heart rates just before the finish line, as two riders darted up a gap on the inside, a gap that probably wasn’t there, and the all too familiar sound of a collision rang out. “I was in Seán’s wheel when two guys went down right in front of us,” Dave said, “to avoid the crash I grazed Seán’s arse with my knuckle, nearly taking us both down.” Though both Wheelers would manage to remain upright and continue to race. “It was a moment of madness really,” remarked Seán, “there was no need for guys to be pressing through gaps like that so early in the race.”
The second lap was where the curse of the Wheelers would begin to show itself, and as the peloton traversed the 20% climb at the halfway point of the lap, Dave’s chain would snap. “A brief moment of panic and high cadence ensued” as Dave would raise his hand and unfortunately that would be the end of his race. A difficult way to leave the race, particularly as it seemed he was in good form.
The third lap began in much the same vein as the preceding laps. There was no noticeable elevation in pace, as would be usual in these events. As the race left Carlow and headed across the back section towards Castledermot a breakaway managed to establish itself. Seán immediately responded and tried unsuccessfully to bridge – “I was breathing through my eyeballs, and the other lads in the small group wouldn’t work, so I sat up and went back to the bunch.”
It wouldn’t be long before Seán would be back at the front though this time a much more measured effort from the all-rounder, pacing the bunch as he set about chasing the break “I knew I had to get them back to get Ross in there.” As he dropped into a tuck he tapped out the rhythm on the front to the bottom of the steep section, where he dropped back.
As the bunch descended into Castledermot Seán set about trying to find Ross, but while they were alongside each other there were two bikes between them, Ross was boxed in on the inside “I looked for Ross – He was in the gutter as usual, dodging potholes” Bryan noted after the race. Badly positioned within the bunch exiting Castledermot, Seán knew his day was over “I just couldn’t move up the bunch. It swelled near the front, I just wanted to get in safely.” Bryan, however had other things on his mind – “I tried to move up the field coming into the fast finish.”
And a fast finish is what it would be. “I moved up the inside with 3km to go, got into the top 15 inside the last km” Ross described the frantic finish. “A gap opened with 300m to go so I gave it a dig and got to the front and sat back down. I gave it one more go, and just timed it perfectly.”
A fine victory for the Wheelers, a first since 2014, and no doubt the first of many to come for Ross. Further down the bunch, Bryan and Seán would manage to both get in the top 15, with Bryan managing 12th place, “I hadn’t even realised Ross had won until I seen Seán congratulating him” observed Bryan, a testament to the pace at the end.
Clonmel GP – 3 Stages 1 Day
Brand new to the calendar, was the 3 stages in 1 Day Clonmel GP. A chip timed event, beginning with a gruelling 1.2km Hill Climb TT with 300m of climbing, a 50km circuit race and the final stage, a 24 km road race culminating in with an 8km climb to a summit finish.
Only 2 of the team could make this race, and it was our ever present weekend race crew, The Nefarious O’Keeffe Brothers ™, who would make the ‘Trip to Tipp’ for the new adventure.
It began with a mechanical for Bryan, puncturing during his warmup, getting it repaired, then puncturing again just 300m into the TT. He was given a replacement wheel, but alas, the different configuration of gears would result in the cassette on the new wheel pulling his derailleur off and snapping his hanger. Day over.
Ross fared slightly better on the first stage, getting up the hill, but shipping 50 seconds to the stage winner. The second stage was where he would be looking for his result for the day, a circuit race through Clonmel. Ross was with the bunch and in good position with 300m to go when his chain dropped. A worse time for that particular mechanical, I don’t believe there is one.
The final stage would be where it would have to come from so, but unfortunately, most likely following his exploits the day before, Ross would be dropped with 3km to go to the summit finish. To add injury to insult, on the descent back down to the town, Ross came a cropper on a hairpin and went over the handlebars or the bike.
They say that some days you’re the hammer and some days you’re the nail. When you race a bicycle, one thing is for sure, you’re going to have a headache!!!