The weather man lied to us he said it would be dry today but it was a bit misty in Longford this morning but not too bad thankfully it cleared up as the stage went on. We stayed in Carrick on Shannon last night, I was delighted to be leaving the hotel it was like something out of the 1960's, well the last time it was updated was in the 60's!
It was really cool to have the yellow jersey in the team today its not many county riders can say that they have being in that situation so it was a nice buzz this morning. The plan was obviously enough to hang onto the jersey if possible, it was not as if we could leave a break go and put 4 riders on the front. We just planned to follow as many moves as possible and make sure a big group of 20 or so riders got clear as that would be curtains for Conor. The race was a bit nervous at the start with the mist falling as the roads were a bit damp so would be treacherous if there was a lock up. Mick Fitz was on duty straight away following attacks as they went, so seeing him doing that guilted me into getting involved!! The first few efforts I had to make hurt like hell as I was not 100% warmed up and following attacks in the ras is hard at the best of times. Early enough in the stage a break went, we were happy enough with that as we hoped it would calm the bunch down a bit, they never got a huge lead and were visible on the straight stretches or goal was not to let the bunch stall and for the gap to balloon out to 3 minutes or so, but fortunately this is the ras and the attacks never really stop!
After an hour or so the break came back and the speedo was edging ever upwards. I was generally keeping a good position in the bunch as it was important to be on hand if anything happened to Conor. I fell asleep at one stage and ended up about half way back in the bunch, there is always a few teams in the ras that you know you need not to behind I ended up behind one of those teams riders and sure enough as it lined out he left the wheel go so it was a good kick in the ass for me to get back up to the top40.
You can really feel the recession in the state of the roads in Ireland over the last few years the Belgium riders must go home and comment on how lovely and smooth the cobbles feel. There was not a lot of potholes today but one was not called and a few riders milled into it and brought a few other riders down, this happened in the top 40 riders but by in large the bunch was safe today, I think the fact the speed is so fast is keeping riders on there toes. There was not even a chance to chat to other riders today as it was so fast.
Mick and myself were still trying to cover as many moves as possible, if a move went and there was no response from the bunch we would jump half way across the gap to give the bunch something to aim at and ride across. Its taxing work on the legs but it was great the respect we were shown by the other county riders, a few times I would be drifting back the line after an effort and be pushed back in by one of the lads. Even the pros were giving us no problems in moving up as they knew we were trying to do a job as best we could. It was only down to the two of us at this stage as Martin and Mike both had mechanical's and couldn't get back on. Martin was unlucky as he was just back on when the road was blocked by a couple of cars so that was his day done.
Mick yet again saved the day and went on a bottle run I would not have liked the prospect of riding back up the bunch with a few bottles in my pockets. It was nervy all day as we twisted and turned a lot so there was a lot of times we would turn into a crosswind but fortunately it never got too bad.
After about 120k a decent sized group got out and Conor went with a Rapha rider and a Node 4 rider they sat on him as he rode for about 4k, then he saw another group chasing and he sat up and waited for them, they all rode together and got up to the front group which numbered about 40 at this stage. Mick and myself had a chat and said job done and were happy.
Our group rolled easily enough through the last 25k as always at this stage the county riders started racing each other and a few groups got out but most people were happy enough to roll into the finish where we had lost 4 minutes.
Up front Conor was isolated and tried to cover as many moves as possible eventually a group of ten got out but he got very limited help from his group despite the likes of Rapha and Node 4 having no one up front. Eventually he lost the jersey by 15 seconds and is now 12th overall which is by no means a disaster, there is a lot of racing ahead of us.