By Logan McLean.
Stage 4 junior tour of Ireland
127 gruelling kilometres was what faced the ERC team as we set our place on the start line. Stage 4 was one of the hardest stages in the race with a category 1 climb standing tall 70km into the stage. The corkscrew was notorious for its switch backs and steep gradients.
When the race began an American team called Hot Tubes, who also had the yellow jersey went to the front and began to raise the pace making it hard for riders to break of the front.
10 km into the stage, three Holowesko Ctadel riders broke of the front dragging with them a race favourite riding for the American Dornier team. The four riders quickly built up a lead of 30 seconds. I just felt that it was time to go, to counter this attack and try to bridge across with Mark Smith from the Leinster team, a rider from the national Irish team and a rider from Lux Specialized.
Within minutes we had reached the first breakaway group and now formed a group of 8 riders, we all began to push on. It was an amazing feeling being in the break as we were getting constant time gap checks from motorbikes and we were also being filmed.
40 km into the stage we manged to get a time gap over minute meaning team cars from the convoy where able to race up the road and support us as we tried to lengthen the gap.
Hot Tubes were chasing hard pushing the peloton to the limit. My teammates took advantage of Hot Tubes doing all the work and settled in to the bunch.
When I and the breakaway reached the “The Corkscrew climb” I put in a bigger effort on the front to try and collect some KOM points which were on offer at the top of the climb. I managed to sprint my way to second on the KOM collecting 12 points putting me in 3rd place in the KOM classification. I wish now that I had started chasing KOM points the day before.
Over the climb and after a quick decent the breakaway had thoughts of could we go all the way to the finish. The breakaway started on the Cat3 climb and again we took time out of the chasing peloton.
I picked up 3 more points after coming second over the cat 3 climb at 85km. Now it was a race to the finish, 2 riders from the breakaway where dropped and this left 6. We were racing as hard as we could go.
With 10km to go we had 33 seconds on the peloton with Hot Tubes and now Team Swift taking up the effort.
Sadly with 5km to go we were caught which caused great frustration and sadness, now I know how the tour riders feel, I was beyond gutted. I then jumped on to the peloton and rolled in with the sprint finishers losing no time.
Chris and Louie sitting middle of the peloton also got the same time as the winning Team Swift rider.
After the stage I learnt that Ciaran was feeling unwell and had to abandon after bravely starting the stage in hope that he would feel better. A really brave effort for Ciaran who isn’t as experienced in Tour races as Chris, Louie and Myself, Ciaran did himself proud. He then became part of the Jack and Victor support team looking after his team mates
I look back at this stage with what could have been if Hot Tubes weren’t as strong as they were, but I rode 110km with a small group at an average speed of 43.48KPH/27.04MPH on a lumpy course with 2 big hills, I did ride out of my skin.
I think possibly this was the hardest/fastest I have ever worked in a race and NOW I am really proud of what I achieved today and can appreciate all the training I have done.
I can’t keep thanking my support team enough, Aileen, David and Ali for what you did for Team ERC and Jarlath from afar.