Tour of Ireland, Stages 4 and 5

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Hello everyone,

The penultimate stage of the Tour looked to be hard. Not only was the course up and down, everyone was getting tired. We were going to try to break the race leader, if we could, and the four guys between us and them, only twenty-six seconds in front. We needed others to ride aggressively if we were going to be able to pressurize the race, otherwise Dunbar and his strong national team would control the race by controlling us.

We tasked Phil, Mike and Ian with trying to get away. The Irish team is strong but they have not been racing the smartest race they probably could have. They have been letting other guys ride up the road but chased us, all of us, anytime we did anything. I understand it, we have won this race the last three times we raced it, I get it but why chase a guy who is thirty minutes down? We would try to use this desire to contain us against them.

This week every day has been dry and sometimes quite warm, which has been fine with me but it does make it a bit harder to split the race. This day would be no different. From the gun Mike, Phil and Ian attacked and the Irish team gaining a little time but not enough to be considered an established break. Finally Mike got clear with one guy and started to move away. Quickly the guy with Mike got popped and Mike was alone. He gained thirty then forty seconds and settled down. On the climb to Windy Gap the pace of the field increased and reduced Mike’s gap to almost nothing. Once Mike was back the attacks started and that is where our race started to unravel. Against all odds first and second in GC, both on the national team slipped away for a small lead. We needed Jack and Jonny to react right away. Jonny was at his limit so he couldn’t respond. Jack saw the move but figured the field would not let them just ride away and he would go with the next move. There was no next move.

From there on the dominoes fell as expected. The two guys rode away to an additional one minute lead as we chased to limit the losses. At the base of Gallow’s Hill, which was the finishing climb, the lead motorcycle took us the wrong way and since we were leading the chase, it threw us off. The mistake was small and, in retrospect, not decisive since the race for the win was over. Jack stayed with the lead guys and finished forth in the group, sixth on the stage and actually moved up one place in GC to forth.

After the race I discussed what we did well and what we needed to improve on if we are going to win these tight races. I told Jack he needed to honor all the work the other guys did all day by giving his all when he knew it was the critical time. I got the sense he understood, so we moved on.

The last stage was a deceptively hard eleven kilometer circuit the guys had to do seven times. We had little chance to win the race but we could move up to third if Jack could get away from him for six seconds. The race started and all our guys were at the back. This has not been a problem since they usually get to the front whenever they want but it’s a bit lazy and I don’t like it. Shortly after the start we hear on the race radio that the yellow jersey is clear by a few seconds. In an instant Jonny was on the front controlling it and getting him back. The race was fast and small groups tried and failed to get clear. The yellow jersey, second place, third place and one random guy got clear. Jack reacted quickly and that was the break that would stay clear all day.

I wished some of the other guys would have tried to get across but they all seemed to be tapped out. A second group formed, about a minute behind the leaders and we had all the rest of the guys there and that’s how the race finished. Jack got second in the sprint, keeping his fourth place overall in GC. The rest of the guys finished in the second group and that was the end of our race.

That was not the end of our adventure, however. Gabriella decided the guys needed some culture and history so she took them to the fifteenth century Bunratty Castle for the afternoon. As if that wasn’t enough, she took them for a sunset viewing of the cliffs of Moher and that was the end of the tour. We had late night bike packing and dinner and we were off again. Jack and Mike headed to Belgium to race with the national team and the rest of us returned to the US. Jonny, Phil and Ethan will be all heading back to Europe in the next few weeks to race with the national team too. Our summer adventures keep on rolling along.

Thanks for reading,

Toby

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Alumni Update: Ben King, Stages 13-15

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Hey,

Stage 13: 200 km

I woke up with a sore throat and headache but it changes nothing.

Again tasked with making the early break for the image of the team, we followed attacks on the first climb. Despite feeling broken and twisted, Janier bravely jumped off the front. The effort cost him, and he fell behind. Jack Bauer countered in a move of six. Halfway up the climb he said over the radio, “Ben, I can’t follow. Go now if you can.” I sprinted off the front three times, but exploded like a bottle rocket.

Crosswinds beat us into the gutter for the rest of the miserable day. Team Katusha kept the break close. On the first of two 17 km finishing climbs, the front group was down to forty. I felt comfortable in that group, but ran out of water. It was over ninety degrees. The car was too far behind to get water. Two km from the top, I quit sweating and shivered. Desperate for a drink I dropped back until I found our car. I rejoined the group in the valley between climbs, but the damage was done. I rode my own pace to the top in 35th place.

I lost my roommate, Janier. It was a psychological blow to hear that the toughest guy south of the border had climbed off his bike.

Stage 14: 180 km

Here’s the profile.

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Seventeen riders escaped on that little kicker at the start. The rest of the day was fast. On the Col du Lautaret, a few riders were swinging at the back. Team NetApp lit it up on Col d’Izoard and there were bodies everywhere. I hung on to a group just 30 seconds behind the leaders. I had to switch off my fear sensors for the speeds they chased on the decent. I rode a comfortable pace to Risoul and finished 36th.

Stage 15: 225 km

We should have been in for an easy day when Jack Bauer got in a suicide two man breakaway for us. Instead a lightening storm caused crosswind chaos. A tornado nearby took down a few homes. Huge raindrops flooded the roads. Jack and his partner time trailed ahead of the panicked chasing sprint teams. Jack attacked with glory in sight, but as he lunged for the line after 222 km in front, the peloton swarmed past. Ramanus placed 7th in the sprint.

With three km to go, I slipped in a roundabout and slid 10 meters on my bum. The road was so slippery that it didn’t even tear my pants. I stopped at the feet of gasping fans, brushed my shoulders off, and continued. The doctor in our team car thought I had a concussion because I laughed when they passed.

The sickness, stress, and two weeks of racing had me on my knees even in a sprint stage, but next is the second rest day.

Thanks for the prayers and support,

BK

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