CRC Vitus race the An Post Rás 2012

Team Chain Reaction Cycles/Vitus were formed at the start of 2012, and the fledgling road team are riding in various British and Irish races throughout this season on board our brand new Vitus road bikes. 

Team Chain Reaction Cycles/Vitus were formed at the start of 2012, and the fledgling road team are riding in various British and Irish races throughout this season on board our brand new Vitus road bikes.
In this latest update, Team Manager Nigel Elder reports from the annual An Post Rás 2012, an eight-day stage race around Ireland.

The An Post Rás represents the pinnacle of stage racing in Ireland which attracts teams from all over Europe and beyond every year. This offers the local clubs and teams the opportunity to race alongside professional outfits and test their abilities at the highest levels of racing.
After some discussion with the newly formed Chain Reaction Cycles / Vitus race team it was evident that a couple of the lads were very keen to enter this race so we set the wheels in motion and drafted in three guest riders which would give us the required five man team. Once the entry forms were submitted it was game on!
The race comprises of eight stages over eight consecutive days and takes in some of the most spectacular scenery that Ireland has to offer, not that the riders get much of a chance to take in the views…
Starting with stage one on Saturday in Dunboyne the tour set off to Kilkenny, Gort, Westport, Bundoran, Buncrana, Killybegs, Cootehill and finished in the Skerries some eight days later! With some of Ireland’s most notorious ascents thrown in throughout the course of the race including Mamore Gap and Glengesh the scene was set for a hard week of racing.
As this was our first venture into the An Post Rás we were not quite sure what to expect, other than it was going to be a very long and tiring week, both physically and mentally.
When we arrived in Dunboyne on Saturday evening and checked into our hotel we were presented with four rooms, one of which was room 213! Now, being the superstitious type Conor McAllister immediately rejected this room and opted for one of the others. Myself and guest rider Bryan McKinney laughed this off and were happy to accept the room; to some this would have been a precursor of our luck to come over the following 24 hours!

Stage 1 – Dunboyne to Kilkenny:
Distance – 91.5 Miles (147.2km)

Once the flag had dropped we were settling in to the race, we were well placed in the cavalcade and could actually see some racing. The lads were out of sight in the midst of 191 other riders – all seemed to be going to plan. Some 18 miles in and the dreaded, “Attention, Attention” came over the radio! Crash, riders down….
We waited for a few seconds before getting confirmation that one of our riders had been involved. We rushed through the cavalcade to the crash scene to see that it was Bryan who had crashed! With his frame broken it was a case of getting the spare bike off the roof rack and getting his pedals transferred. In the rush to get him back on the road as quickly as possible we had dropped our car keys next to his broken bike as we were setting him off. When we returned to pack everything into the car the keys were gone! It transpired that the race doctor had picked them up thinking they were his which left us stranded at the side of the road for three and a half hours!
A case of bad luck or the superstitious ‘13’ phenomenon, I will leave you to decide on that one!

Stage 2 – Klkenny to Gort
Distance – 98.1 Miles (157.8km)
After an ominous start yesterday it was a great relief to get through stage two with minimal fuss. Bryan’s injuries were going to make this a hard stage for him but with true grit and determination he completed the stage within the leader’s time limit. The rest of the team had steady rides and were showing good form with Kyle Houston featuring in an early seven man break.
In the closing miles of the race guest rider Sean McFadden was involved in a crash but escaped unhurt to finish with only minor cuts and grazes.

Stage 3 – Gort to Westport
Distance – 89.9 Miles (144.7km)
The weather forecast for today predicted light showers and light wind, the overcast sky could almost have been an indicator of how some riders would feel by the end of the stage!
This stage was marred by crashes which took a heavy toll on both bodies and bikes. The first crash took down roughly 25 riders in a mass tangle of bodies and bikes with those who were fortunate enough to escape crashing being left to shoulder their bikes and run through the carnage in an attempt to get back into the race.

Team Captain Conor McAllister was our only casualty in this crash and suffered some nasty road rash and heavy bruising to his legs, arms and back. Once we got him back on his bike he continued to finish the stage well down on GC and in a lot of pain.
Kyle Houston managed to get through the first crash unscathed but fell victim of circumstances when he collided with a rider who was assisting a team mate further down the road. On a 35mph descent a group of eight riders were strung out when they came upon the riders changing wheels on the right hand side of the road. Without time to warn the following riders they peeled off one by one to avoid a collision, unfortunately Kyle did not have time to react and collided with one of them.

After waking up in the middle of the road Kyle got back on his bike to finish the stage, concussed and feeling somewhat distant he was carted off to hospital for a CT scan.

The remaining three riders described the events that followed as ‘dodging bullets’ with numerous crashes following in the remaining miles of the race, and Sean picking up more road rash after being involved in a crash towards the end of the stage.

Stage 4 – Westport to Bundoran
Distance – 84.1 Miles (135.4km)
As a result of yesterday’s crash-marred stage and following the doctor’s advice Kyle was forced to withdraw from the race which was more painful than the affects of the crash!
As was to be expected the peloton were a little nervous in the aftermath of yesterday’s carnage with only 153 starters out of the original 191!

Attacks were launched from the offset with An Post rider Ronan McLaughlin eventually breaking free to solo for the last 70k in a bid for a stage win only to be reeled in by the chasing peloton in the last kilometre of the race.

Once again there were a few minor crashes but thankfully without serious injuries. Our remaining team riders rode this stage in the same group following the early splits in the bunch due to the relentless attacks and fast pace being set by the pro teams. An easy day as it would seem which gave the lads some much needed time to recuperate from the injuries sustained over the previous days.

Stage 5 – Bundoran to Buncrana
Distance – 92.8 Miles (149.4km)
Today’s stage featured the first day in the hills with several ascents throughout with the infamous Mamore Gap in the latter stages of the race.
As if the profile of today’s stage wasn’t enough to make the riders suffer, Mother Nature had decided to crank up the heat! With temperatures in excess of 27 degrees this was going to prove an extremely difficult day…
In the opening stages of the race it was evident that the heat was taking its toll on the riders with the main bunch being split into groups.

Once we reached Mamore Gap the spectators lining the sides of the road and tight hairpin turns provided a scene that was reminiscent of the Tour de France or Giro stages with the occasional push from the crowd being greatly appreciated by some of the riders.


With the promise of another hard day to follow with Glengesh Pass to come it was a case of getting an early night and resting up as much as possible to get physically and mentally prepared for what lay ahead.
Stage 6 – Buncrana to Killybegs
Distance – 83.5 Miles (134.4km)
Following yesterday’s stage it was looking like another day of high temperatures and climbs. The pace was fast from the offset and the temperature was hovering around the 25 degree mark!

Today’s stage was relatively flat in the opening miles which meant the pace was going to be high, relentless attacks ensued with guest rider Bryan McKinney getting into an early 11-man break.

Further into the stage the heat was soaring and the riders were looking battle-torn and fatigued.

Conor was showing signs of heat stroke after a massive effort to stay with the front group on one of the climbs and had to ease off the gas to regain his composure and take on board lots of fluids.
This was a recurring scene throughout the race with riders struggling to cope with the climbs and the intense heat.

The scene on Glengesh was similar to yesterday’s ascent of Mamore with the sides of the road lined with spectators and riders zig-zagging across the road in a bid to lessen the gradient and make it easier on the legs.
The finish line was a welcome sight at the end of today’s stage, six stages done with another two to go and it would be over!
Stage 7 – Donegal to Cootehill
Distance – 100.3 Miles (161.4km)
The penultimate stage and an undulating route with only two climbs on this stage. From the drop of the flag the race was on with relentless attacks and the speed reaching upwards of 48mph in the opening miles.
Sean and Conor were in fine form today and managed to make the break and settle into the front group behind the break. Guest riders Bryan and Ciaran were suffering today and had been dropped early on in the stage after being caught in the strong crosswinds that had riders forming echelons across the carriageway. This forced both lads to sit in with a small group of riders who suffered the same fate with their goal to make it through the rest of the stage inside the time limit.

Conor and Sean managed to keep out of trouble until the last few miles of the race when they decided to move up the group towards the front in a bid to break free. As they were moving up the outside Sean got tagged by another rider and ended up on the ground with two other riders. He was immediately back on his bike and pushing hard to make up the lost ground when another crash happened just a few hundred metres in front of him. Thankfully he was able to avoid this and continue to the finish.

Both Ciaran and Bryan made the time limit so it was with great relief that all remaining team riders would be starting the final stage.
Stage 8 – Cootehill to Skerries
Distance – 86.6 Miles (139.3km)
The final stage and a tough route would inflict even more pain on those already suffering. As the overall GC was still very much in contention it was all to race for and as expected the pace once again was intense from the offset. Attack after attack was launched in a bid to split the race.
Eventually a break formed off the main bunch and managed to pull a gap of approx two minutes on the chasing bunch. Once again misfortune struck a blow to Conor as he suffered a mechanical and needed to be put on a spare bike. When we finally made our way through the cavalcade and got him transferred onto the spare bike he had lost a lot of ground but in true fashion he pulled out all the stops and charged his way back through the cavalcade and regained contact with the back of the main bunch.
All our team riders were tenacious in their approach and with steely determination they dug deep and stayed with the main bunch through the race until they hit the Skerries where a loop of the town and beyond would be completed twice providing a spectator-friendly finish for the race and the spectators themselves.
Throughout the race guest rider Ciaran O’Sullivan had dodged bullets and had managed to miss all crashes and only suffered a broken spoke and a puncture, today he was to suffer his biggest blow that would threaten his chances of finishing the race! On the start of the first loop of the Skerries he snapped his chain which left him stranded at the roadside. Once we had recovered his chain we set about getting his bike back up and running, with time ticking away a spectator stepped forward and offered up his bike for Ciaran to finish the stage on! Without hesitation we set the saddle height and Ciaran was back in the race being able to finish the stage.
With all of our lads across the finish line it was time to pack the van and reflect on the previous eight days.
When all is said and done we survived our first foray into the world of professional stage racing, learned some valuable lessons and met some wonderful and colourful people along the way.

For those of you who have never experienced the An Post Rás then I strongly urge you to get this into your calendar for next year either as a competitor or spectator, either way you are assured of a great spectacle and fabulous experience that can otherwise only be found on the Pro Tour circuit.

This has been a fantastic experience for the team and has given the lads a taste of competing at pro level racing. Next year we will be back better prepared and ready to take on whatever the An Post Rás has to throw at us.

Chain Reaction Cycles/Vitus official race partners:
Vitus Bikes
Zipvit Sports
Dennison Commercial
Oneten Apparel
Uvex Helmets
Forme Coaching

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