Strawberry flavoured cement

Well the highlight of  Stage 4 today was without doubt all the school children out waving An Post green flags at us (it was like following The Ras all over again!). We started at Sneem National School this morning and every child was out waving and cheering us. There were big shout outs for Louise (Moriarty), “Number 37!! Number 37!!!” and she high-fived the whole school, to great applause, before we rolled out.

Then all along the road, and all around Valencia, every school we passed, flags and cheers, brilliant. I wish I could have waved back at you all, and I did my best, but I was hanging a bit kids, sorry. You cheered us up and lifted our spirits no end though, Thank You lots! And thank you teachers too!!!

And the stage? Well, I can’t deny that I am happy without how it went for me. It was windy out there, and it was no day to get caught out on your own (my abiding memory of this stage last year was being in a small group stranded out on the long bleak road from Valentia back to Sneem, it was windy, it was wet, we were down, it was a long day….). Most of the bunch stayed together today, over Coomaciste, out to Valentia, and around the island,……. and I stayed with them 🙂

Then on the last climb the pace kicked up and a few of us lost contact. We chased down the descent, I looked around me, there were about 10 of us, including my team mates Charlotte and Caroline. We could still see the back of the bunch, and there were only 5km to go, so we re-grouped and up-and-overed, and we definitely minimised our losses. We could see the lead group crossing the line just ahead of us, and as we sprinted in we can’t have been more than half a minute behind them, success (well in my book anyhow)!

Every time I race I learn something new. But there are lots of things I know about cycling that I don’t implement, and the biggest of these is eating on the bike. I am crap at it. I carried two gels around every stage of Ras na mBan last year, the same two gels, they had a great time. I have retired them now. I have been known to carry a bar on a 160km cycle and never even contemplate eating it. I mostly rock in from the end of  a stage with my two water bottles as full as they were at the start line (I call this weight-training, others call it stupid; and they’re right). I’d totally planned to get on top of this issue long before Ras na mBan rolled around again. But I didn’t.

Anyhow, this week I have been better. Stage 1, ate nothing, drank most of one bidon. Stage 2, TT, nothing needed. Stage 3……. well, once I was out there on my own I practically booked a table. I ate everything I could find in my pockets, anything to make the time and the kms pass. Today, by the time we’d climbed Coomaciste and hit the halfway mark I still hadn’t eaten. Then Charlotte appeared beside me like a nutritional angel. “Fiona, have you eaten? We still have 40km to go. Eat a gel, now!”. So I did. I pulled it out of my pocket during a lull in proceedings, I bit the top off and spit it out like a pro (and a litterbug, sorry) and I squeezed it into my mouth. Strawberry flavoured cement. Yum. I washed it down with a gulp of water and thanked Charlotte. And I did all this while holding my line and not even feeling nervous; it can be done Fi, cop on.

I am lying on the floor in Room 217 now, waiting for my leg rub from Carl. Orla is on the table chewing her wrist so she won’t scream……. it’s possible that this hurts more than the racing……. I’m up next, eeeek!!!!




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