So having drifted away from the racing scene for the last few years, I decided that I needed to get back on the horse this year, and get racing again. I figured that the longer I left it, the longer it was going to take to get stuck back in again, and rebuild the race fitness... Also, I knew that, although I’d struggle in the races having been out of the scene for so long, I’d get the racing ‘bug’ back straight away, and I missed that....

I hadn’t ridden the bike at all over the winter, I really only started back riding on a regular basis in April, which is far from ideal, but better late than never! So from April, I started doing slow regular miles. My initial target was ‘The White Rose Classic’ sportive event in Yorkshire, England (Ilkley CC's White Rose Classic) at the end of June. I had ridden it in 2015, and it’s a fantastic event. It’s really well run, numbers are limited so it’s not too crowded, and the 184km hilly parcours through the stunning Yorkshire Dales is beautiful, it’s a lot tougher than the Wicklow 200, I’d totally recommend it to anyone interested...

At the the White Rose Classic Sportive

So once that was ticked off, I decided to dip my toes back into the club/IVCA racing scene. My first foray was the CP on the Russborough circuit in July, and I managed to stay with the SS group for most of the first lap, before I was tailed off, my lack of racing fitness all too apparent...

The following week, I rode an IVCA 40km DMS, and surprisingly succeeded in staying with the bunch for the duration, even following some attempted moves off the front, as Diarmuid was up the road in a race-winning 2-man break.

The club '25 only served to confirm my lack of racing fitness however, but my expectations were realistic. I had got the ‘bug’ back, and was not disheartened by my slowest ’25 time ever!

So as I drove down to Monasterevin on Sunday morning for the IVCA Millennium Cup DMS race, I really didn’t know what to expect. It was a 4-lap 90km race, twice as far as any of my recent competitive ventures. I was woken by the rain falling, even before my 7am alarm sounded, and it didn’t stop raining all morning, but I was committed, I still had the ‘bug’!

We were given a 3 minute start on the scratch riders, which I was sure wouldn’t be enough over this distance, but our group of 18 worked well, I did my turns when I could, and ate and drank well. After the first lap, the gap had actually gone out to 3’20”, but over the next couple of laps, it dwindled away, until with a lap to go, the two groups could see each other, no more than 20-25 seconds between us. I was sure we’d be caught at that stage.

In the thick of the action (photograph with thanks to Brendan Culleton)

However, a quick glance behind as we turned on to the main road between Kildare and Monasterevin with 10km to go confirmed the gap had not narrowed any further, and I think a sense of belief crept through the group. We had lost a couple of bodies, but there were still around 14 of us in the group at this stage, and it was a case of all hands to the pumps. We rode hard all the way to the final 90deg left hander, from where it was a 600m drag up to the line.

At this stage, we knew we weren’t going to be caught, and the pace slowed considerably, nobody wanting to go too early on the uphill finish. I was just delighted to be there to be honest, and beckoned to Gavin Dodd that I’d try to lead him out. I had absolutely no notions of contesting for a placing myself, expecting to be swamped well before the line, so I moved to the front and took it up with about 300m to go. I went as hard as I could, given my aching legs, I started out of the saddle, but the wet conditions were causing my rear wheel to slip all over the place, so I had to sit down again. With 100m to go, surprisingly, nobody had passed me, but unsurprisingly, my legs were totally empty, and the line couldn’t come soon enough... A guy from Lucan passed me with 50m to go, but I managed to hold on for 2nd place. Gavin finished just behind me in 4th place.

The sprint to the line (photograph with thanks to Brendan Culleton)

I was shattered! It felt like the longest (and slowest) uphill sprint in history. I slumped against a nearby garden wall once I could unclip my feet.

I had mixed emotions afterwards, once I got my breath back, and the spinning stars went away.... Of course, it was great to be able to hold my own for 90km of racing, and great to be able to sprint (sort of) at the end of it, and get the placing, but I was also annoyed with myself, as I’m sure if I’d ridden the last drag to the line to win it, I know I could have got a better result!

I’m under no illusions about my current state of fitness. Race fitness doesn’t come that quickly, we weren’t caught by the stronger scratch riders this week, but it’s a step, and I’ll take it, and I’ll keep plugging away... The ‘bug’ is definitely back!

Well done also to Gavin on his placing too, and also to Terry Ryan on his impressive win in Race 3 and William Parnell on his 3rd place, and to Ciara Kinch on her 4th place in Race 2.