The final round of the Support your Local Bike Shop Munster cyclo cross league brought us to the premier county, that’s county Tipperary to those of you reading from outside of Ireland! The previous round had brought us to the Kingdom (co Kerry to the outside world) for the 5th round. I had a disappointing race there and could only manage 6th, I had hoped for more but felt very flat and this was confirmed over the next couple of days when I got a little bit sick. I blame this sickness for my lack of a blog, that sickness is commonly called laziness!! Upperchurch Drombane Cycling Club were the host cycling club and O’K Cycles of Clonmel and Carrick on Suir were the rounds sponsors http://www.okcyclesandsports.ie
Anticipation was high ahead of the last round as upperchurch cc teased us with pictures of the course in advance, this was the first ever race the club was to hold and they certainly put the work in to make sure it was a success. I arrived nice and early my little one had made sure I didn’t miss the start by waking me at half 5, she is very good that way. It was a lovely mild and dry day which made setting up the Verge stand a pleasure, the guys had the home straight erected the day before with a large tent for sign on and plenty of room for the teams and sponsors to set up this leads a bit more atmosphere to an event.
The underage races were first off the guys had set up a nice course for the kids so that mam and dad could cheer them on, great to see all participants receiving a medal. The B race was off next Mike Hennessy was denied again this time by an Italian kid who put 3 minutes into everyone else, the league truly is an international event with riders from Italy and Cork battling it out for the win (Cork is an independent republic according to its residents)
Once the B race was over I set off to do my warm up I planned to get 3 laps in to suss out the course and wake up the legs, lap one was nice and easy on my pit bike, this went without incident, I then switched to my race bike. Both bikes are exactly the same Planet X XLS frame with the race bike having a set of carbon tubulars as opposed to the pit bike which has a set of heavy duty clincher wheels. Approaching the steepest part of the course on my warm up I switched into my lowest gear and promptly shifted into the rear wheel and broke off the rear hanger!
This was naturally a pain in the chamois area made worse by the fact that I was at the furthest part of the course away from the start so I had no option but to throw the bike onto the shoulder and walk back to the pits, once I got there I swapped the wheels around and headed for the start line. I was gridded on the front row, the first corner was a long way from the line so we had plenty of time to battle for the hole shot. I eventually won the battle but Richie Barry, Richie Maes and myself kept swapping in and out of the lead for the first half of the lap. I was coconscious not to be at 100% until Matt Slattery made his move, he has being operating at a different level to the rest of us for the last few weeks so the best bet in town was to try to follow Matt for as long as possible! Naturally he made his move in the technical forest and run up section where he put a bit of distance into me and Richie Maes, after the run up there was a long climb I got around Richie but didn’t have the legs to make it to Matt he took a bit more time out of me by hopping the barriers when I ran. I tried full gas to get up to him as I knew if I could stick into him for a lap or so he would drag me away from the rest of the lads, he was 8 seconds ahead going through the line but that was as close as I would get to him all day.
In all rounds so far there has being a good group of us at a similar level batteling for the podium Richie Barry and I have had a ding dong battle all season in particular along with Mark Shannon, Trevor Woods and Simon Ryan. My focus turned to holding these guys at bay. Throughout the second lap Richie stayed at about 10-15 seconds behind, I was riding the course well making no mistakes and watching Matts Verge leader’s jersey disappearing further and further into the distance. On the 3rd time up the long climb to the line I made a full gas effort to get rid of Richie as I knew if he stayed with 15 seconds of me I would be a carrot for him to chase down. Trevor Woods was also not out of the picture and Trevor has developed a habit of catching me in the last 15 minutes of a race and then putting a minute into me. After the top of the climb I could see that I had put some time into Richie so now I had to make sure I didn’t crack and blow all my good work.
The course was held entirely on a farm and flowed nicely from the start line down to the bottom of the course where there was a number of technical features as we climbed back up the course. During the next 2 laps the status quo was maintained as Matt disappeared from view and I held Richie at a similar distance. Heading out onto the last lap I decided to back off a bit on the corners to make sure I didn’t mess up, this was probably a bad decision as I started to make a heap of mistakes getting my lines wrong and slipping and sliding where I had made no mistakes on the previous laps. Fortunately I managed to stay away till the line to grab second place despite Richie shouting some “encouragement” at me as our paths passed on the twists and turns near the line.
Upperchurch CC had arranged the prize giving at the local GAA hall (GAA for our foreign readers is a form of tribal fighting disguised as sport) where the prizes for the day were given out and also the overall league prizes. Matt won the overall from Richie Maes and Richie Barry with myself finishing 4th overall which was a very fair reflection of how the league had panned out. Trevor Woods and Paul Birchall were comprehensive winners of the M40 and M50 leagues respectively. Fiona Meade dominated the women’s league and The Focus Munster CX team won the team prize from Burren RT and St Finbarrs.
A huge congrats to Upperchurch CC on organising an excellent event and especially to Michael Cahill and Jerry Ryan. Also a massive thanks to the six clubs that came together to run the league and the 5 bike shops involved in sponsoring the league along with www.vergesport.com cyclo cross is alive and well in Munster