How it began
In the 2018 season I watched from a safe distance as Ivan was convinced by Rich to join Lucan Cycling Club and give bike racing a go. For the first couple of weeks I got my giggles from Ivan’s short lived weekly blog where he spoke about being ‘thrown out the back’ and usually being last. However as I was training with Ivan for our upcoming IM events I could clearly see the improvement in him on the bike. On the spins he and Rich would regale me with tales of their adventures on Thursday nights about lads ‘off the front’, ‘closing breaks’ and ‘sprint finishes’. I couldn’t help but be a small bit jealous of the joy and laughter which accompanied these stories.
So 2019 season I decide to try introducing bike racing into my already hectic schedule at the time. Why??
- To see what all the fuss was about.
- To show the lads I wouldn’t be thrown out the back every week
- To improve my bike strength in what was going to be a busy year of racing
- And most importantly.. show off my new bike
So the lads send instructions on how to join up. I go online to join yet another association Cycling Ireland and they ask me to choose a club. It is done on a map basis so I find Lucan and click the link, pay my fees and enter the league. I get an email two days later welcoming me to Lucan BMX club and asking would I be available to race as part of a team that weekend. Hahaha Turns out there is more than 1 cycling club in Lucan. So off I go to change it online and discover I must do a transfer request which both clubs have to accede to before they will send out my licence. As the season went on there was a couple of times I wished I’d stuck with the BMX club!!!
- The Inter club league consists of 4 clubs. Lucan Cycling Club, Blanch Wheelies, St Tiernans and South Dublin cycling club.
- The league consists of 20 races at different venues over different distances.
- There are 4 divisions Scratch, Semi Scratch, Semi Limit and Limit
- Top 6 riders across the line in each Division score points towards the league table.
- Your top 10 scores count plus there are 5 mandatory races included and these are in TT format: 10 mile TT, 25 mile TT, Hill TT, Road bike TT and club champs
- You must marshal in 2 races
- If you score enough points you are promoted to the next division during the season
So having read how the league works you can imagine how confused I was getting going. I missed the first 3 races of the year due to other commitments and fear so my first race was race day 4.This was a race local enough to me on the ‘Greensheds route’ around Drumree/culmullin direction on roads I knew so very little excuse not to go. So being quite nervous before hand I went early to meet Rich and Ivan who for some crazy reason I felt might be of some comfort to easing my nerves. Turns out they made it worse. So I land at the starting line with about 20 other lads and were off. The pace starts off decent enough but settles and I move around the group and sit in beside Rich. I tell him this isn’t as bad as I thought and that I was well able to manage the pace.
A couple of little breaks off the front and I even get involved in closing them down. Corners are hairy enough in the middle of a big group but I can look after myself so even this doesn’t faze me. I get up beside Ivan and begin chatting. I get no reply. I ask is there long left to the finish and he just says ‘a bit’. I figure there are no friends in racing. I end up at the front after a 2 man break heads up the road. I have rich on my shoulder and I ask him how long is left and he tells me 5km. The 2 lads up the road are close to a km ahead and I say if we don’t go after them now we will not catch them before the end! He says true and I put the head down and break away from the group. My heart rates rocket and I dig deep and give it everything.
With about 1km to go I catch the lad in second and whizz by him as he has blown up from his valiant effort. I can see the rider in first about 100m up the road and convince myself that I can catch him too if I up my effort and empty the tank for just 1km. Again I dig deep. I get up behind him about 50m before the finish line. I go out to overtake him. As I get alongside I look at him and he is looking back and I can see he is empty. I have him. I go into the lead but as I turn my head back around the my right a stream of riders who I have unknowingly pulled up the road fly past me literally in the last 10m and I finish 7th. This group includes my ‘friends’ Ivan and Rich. What could I do only laugh. Lesson learned and great fun.
As the season progressed I continued to learn lessons. I won my division in the 10 mile TT (as a triathlete should) I got a few more podium finishes as the season went on including winning my division around the mondello car racing track which was a great experience. Unfortunately I only got to 7 races and my 2 marshalling ones this season. I did have enough points to get promoted to Semi Limit for my final race of the season and finished 2nd in a sprint finish so a nice positive way to wrap up the year.
Ivan got promoted 3 races before the end of season and finished 9th in the league.
Rich ‘the bandit’ stayed in Limit somehow and with a huge improvement in the second half of the season finished 3rd in the league
What I’ve learned
Bike racing is so much fun!!! It is hard to describe the thrill of cycling at 40kmph in a group with the mind constantly concentrated on what is going on. The more you race the more concentrated you are on picking up the signs. At that pace you are still noticing a fella changing up gears getting ready to go for a break, a lad struggling needing to get a drink in maybe it’s time to go and kill him off. Lads ‘Sandbagging’ (IVAN) off the back doing no work so they have energy for the sprint finish.
I learned about bikes and gearing ratios needed for each course. When the course is released early in the week and you can have a look to see is it hilly or flat. What set up do I need. Is there a point where I could attack on this course and try to stay away?
I am a better cyclist and therefore a better triathlete because of racing of this I have no doubt. Bike racing replaces my Thursday Turbo. There have been races where I have had to hold above FTP for an hour just to hang on. I’ve had HR spikes early in races and been stuck up there for a full race. This is close to impossible to imitate on the turbo. Anyone watching my Triathlon bike splits have notice how well they have gone this year and I credit that almost completely to bike racing and the hill work I got done with Rich and Joe in Sardinia.
Bike racing will be one of the first things I put on the calendar for 2020. I will begin the year in a higher grade now as a Semi Limiter and look forward to the challenge and strive for another promotion. I also hope to get going at a couple of A4 open races and some stage racing over the year.
For those reading who are considering getting involved don’t be intimidated by this post. Every race this year I learned something. Ivan in his second year learned something every race. Rich in his 10th year learned more and more every race. Most race evening start with a coffee and a chat and a lot end with one too.
I love the chance to race with friends and in a group where although it is competitive the emphasis isn’t on winning or personal time. We can all rejoice in someone’s win and all laugh together at someone’s mistake.