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2010 RaS: The Aftermath... Ginger Avenger Suffers

2010 RaS: The Aftermath... Ginger Avenger Suffers

Sometimes you have to be prepared to put yourself on the line. Be prepared to give more than you have. Dig a little deeper and push yourself beyond your limits.

Ultimately, you have to suffer.

Now, for those of you that came to Boggle Hole last year with Randle you are close to understanding it. But what I have just been through is a new sort of suffering. This pain was The RaS.

The RaS is 8 days racing with professional cyclists over 100 miles a day. It is going over mountains, riding in savage cross winds and dealing with a bunch of 175 riders.  Now, back at the beginning of 2010 when I was doing 400 miles a week it sounded like a good idea. However, a new job 10 weeks prior to the start got in the way of that and preparation thinned out to a weekly 10 mile TT and 30 laps around Mallory Park.

Before The RaS I didn’t realise just how important equipment was. I have never really paid it much attention before; I thought it was just about the rider. But riding at this level, where I was really at the top of my ability and beyond, the Planet X Nanolight with the new Carbon 50 handbuilt wheels really made a massive difference.

Luckily for me I had three things on my side, team mates, team management and equipment. I was riding in a Planet X team that included RaS legend Mark Lovatt and RaS stage winner Roger Atkin. Both of these riders helped me through the days and nights. Lovatt with his daily commentary on life, as if he was watching it from the outside, and Roger with his obsession with adult information searching and three word responses to every question you ask.

Before The RaS I didn’t realise just how important equipment was. I have never really paid it much attention before; I thought it was just about the rider. But riding at this level, where I was really at the top of my ability and beyond, the Planet X Nanolight with the new Carbon 50 handbuilt wheels really made a massive difference.

Riding at over 60kph, racing in and out of corners through towns and villages where the bunch is strung out. Sprinting up hills and over bridges; the new Nanolight was light, responsive and handled perfectly.  I was cornering with confidence, descending at over 70kph and rattling over roads fit for tractors not racing bikes. Net conclusion it is agreat ride with great wheels that helped this very ordinary rider perform way about his pay grade.

So, I’m not going to go into the gory details of the 8 stages as thereports are online. Read them if you want but let me describe a couple of things for you to give you a sense of what it felt like to suffer.

On day 6, I looked at the profile and wanted to last until the 7 KM climbs started at 100km. This would give me 35km to ride to the finishand I would make the time limit. So, when the road climbed for 4km just after the neutralised section and the speed remained at 45kph I was shelled out the back of the main field with around 40 other riders behind me. My heart rate was at 191bpm and my max is only 188! I felt like someone was crushing my lungs and standing on my back. I couldn’t breathe... my legs were turning 53x12 because I couldn’t pedal any faster and my calf’s where just riding cramped up.

The decision at this point is do I wait for the back group and ride with them and lose 40 minutes or do I chase the peloton. Backwards easy option... the chase was on. I chased back onto the main field over the next 3 km and rejoined with around 10km gone. 125km to go on the stage and I was already beyond my max. The cramp continued all day, the pain in my chest made me short of breath even in bed and my leg which was operated on following a car accident had gone completely numb.

Another vivid memory was climbing Wicklow Gap, on my own, watching the riders ahead go clear and having no protection from the cross winds. I could see the climb going on and on. My heart rate was 178 and I was going about 10kph... I couldn’t see the top; I had 60km to go. I wanted to cry out loud as my legs ached and the pain shot through my chest. All I could think about was stopping. I couldn’t take anymore. It had been 7 days and my body was ready to collapse. I had chapped lips. Peeling arms, sore skin and swollen knees. When would this pain end? As I rode harder than I was capable of I hit the wall... I had no bottles and no food. I continued on and longed to see the 25km to go sign so I could count down the final few miles. I was caught and passed by various groups as I couldn’t even hold their wheels. I was in a dark place thatI had never been to before in all my time on a bike. I finished the stage and didn’t speak for about 15 minutes. I couldn’t. I sat by the side of the road holding back the tears just wanting to be sick.

My lasting memory of the 2010 RaS will be the final 15km. The 8thstage was 155km with a finishing circuit of 13.5km which you completed twice. I was already empty. Nothing left in the tank... from the 1stkm to the last my eyes hurt, I was living on borrowed time and only the fact I had left my wife and kids for 10 days to do this gave me the heart to continue. I also felt as sense of duty to the boys in the team. I didn’t want to let Frank, Pat and Cruiser down... Lovatt summedit up by saying, “You’ll be aright kid, strong as f**k”. I wasn’t, he knew it, but I couldn’t give up now.

I raced hard all day. I kept on the wheels, climbed in big gears to save my legs from cramping. I was sprinting out of corners thinking I wasgoing to crack at any minute. I had to make it to the finishing circuit. We blasted through the KM as I tried to eat and drink. I had convinced myself that getting to the finishing circuit was enough,mentally the race was over. Then when I felt myself and my body give upon the 3 Cat KOM climb and as I dropped with only 15km to go I felt a sense of disappointment.

Sothe final 15km of the RaS I rode on my own. Lovatt’s words ringing in my ears about average speed I kept the average up, 45kpm on my own andchurning the gears over.

But, I had a nagging in my head. Had I really put it all on the line... could I have hung on for the last 15km..? Did I just take the easy option! Was this all I had come to, happy to finish at the back, trailing in 10minutes behind! Would I look back and be proud of just finishing, happy with mediocrity?

I had the overwhelming sense of unfinished business. I could be more, Ishould expect more, I should go deeper and beyond physical and mentalbarriers I have built up. I’ll be BACK... 2011 RaS hmmm!

7 June 2010

Comments

  • Tristan Grigalis

    just read this and the final two paragraphs make me feel seriously guilty about being happy to be fairly good and not elite. need to get my act together...