Charleville Park Two Day 2012 Report
Thanks to Andy Lakes for the report
At about four o’clock on Saturday afternoon, Brian Hayden rang me for a chat. He was very calm and friendly and asked if we had any news. At that time Brian, Paula and Adrienne were serenely sailing along in the A4 cavalcade, admiring the countryside. Their only worry was how they could get their race radio working so they could keep up to date with race developments so they rang Dave and myself in the A2/A3 race. Roger Whittaker was probably whistling gently on their car stereo.
What they heard from our end of the phone was like something out of the film ‘Aliens’, when the marines are being picked off one by one and are screaming into their helmet mikes. At the time of the phone call, we were hurtling down into a village at 55mph with a stream of bikes glued to our back bumper. I was screaming instructions out one window, while balancing a BLT in my lap (and I like to think I was chomping on a cigar). Dave was hanging out of the passenger window, handing out bottles and urging the riders to dig deep. At one stage Rob was so close to the car that I felt he was sitting between Dave and myself. Somehow a civilian, let’s call him Jimmy Charleville, had somehow infiltrated the race traffic and was blocking our route. In what was a preposterous decision, I decided we had to overtake him going downhill on a right hand bend in the middle of a village. At one stage the car hit a bump and we were momentarily airborne. Somehow we survived and Rob belted ahead back into the relative safety of the cavalcade while Jimmy Charleville pottered home, probably wondering what was the problem with those mad tourists.
A mere two hours earlier, eleven riders and a five-strong support team assembled in Charleville for the Grand Departe of the Charleville 2 Day. Brian, Paula and Adrienne were in charge of the seven man A4 group, Martin, Joe, Colm, Michael, Dermot, Marc and guest rider Damian. Dave and Myself had the A2/A3 group consisting of Eamon, Rob, Ritchie and guest rider Dave. What lay ahead was a weekend race consisting of two road stages and an individual Time Trial. Spirits were high amongst our riders. Eamon had made a miraculous recovery from his crash only two weeks earlier and it was a great relief seeing him, as he has vast experience with stage racing and had previously ridden to great success in this event. For all our other riders, it was their first taste of stage racing. I think in Marc’s case, it was his first Open race. A baptism of fire.
The A2/A3 race set off fifteen minutes ahead of the A4 race. In the neutralized section, some poor chap’s pedal fell off. We hoped it wasn’t a sign of things to come. It looked like a flat stage but there were some lumpy sections which had riders getting shelled right from the off. After a short lull, the attacks kept firing off the front and when we hit the day’s climb, the race splintered. There were groups everywhere. At one point, 40 riders went out the back. We tried to encourage riders and feed them as we raced ahead to catch Rob, who was our highest placed rider. After an epic chase, he rejoined the main group with about 500 metros to go. The rest of our lads finished closely behind. All safe and sound.
We hadn’t long to wait before the A4 leaders came into sight. It was fantastic to see Martin and Joe sprinting for the win. It was a small, select group and despite getting boxed in, Martin took an impressive 5th on the Stage with Joe in a fine 11th. Colm was our next rider in, followed by the rest of the team. Not bad for a bunch of ‘beginners’.
Brian and the ladies went back to provide post event rubs and food for tired riders while Dave and myself headed out with some of the riders to check out the TT course. We finished the day with a lovely dinner in the Cascada restaurant and went to bed, dreaming of bikes.
The managers woke at 6.30am and peered out at damp conditions. We considered letting everyone stay in bed for the day but thought better of it. We headed out to the A2/A3 TT and saw some good rides from the lads. After flying back for breakfast, we again set off to the A4 TT. Rob and Martin were our two fastest riders from each category and everyone did very well on tired limbs. Adrienne’s massage table was called into action again upon the riders’ return to the hotel.
Another quick turnaround was required before the 1pm road stage. There was less tension in the riders’ faces at the startline. The lads knew they were past the halfway mark and would be finished in a couple of hours. Very soon after the start, the roads became quite narrow and started to head upwards. The dreaded puncture was called. It was Rob. We belted up through the cavalcade to see Neutral Service pulling in. Then, miraculously, Rob set off again. It was a phantom puncture. He rode very hard to rejoin the group. Before we had time to catch our breath, the main climb loomed up ahead of us. It was a 5km effort and saw the field shatter as the pressure went on at the front. Our four riders were very close together and as we moved up towards the lead group, the group began to break up. While passing a gel to Rob, we failed to see Ritchie puncturing. He did well to control his bike on a descent and unfortunately he had a long wait till the A4 race came by, when Paula and Adrienne flew out of the car with a spare wheel. Rob and Dave caught a group and rode strongly in a desperate chase. The group had grown by the time Rob led them across the finish line.
The A4s were in an action packed race. St. Tiernans rode strongly on the front to discourage attacks as they approached the climb. Martin, Joe Colm and Michael climbed particularly well and help drive the leaders on. Martin was very unlucky to take a wrong turn but showed composure and quite a bit of talent by riding back across to the leaders. Two riders got away towards the finish and were followed seconds later by the group containing Joe, Martin and Colm. Michael followed closely behind and then the rest of the lads. Not to be outdone for drama, Marc punctured and jogged for a while before rimming it for five kilometres. There’s no stopping this man. We were delighted to see such a large group from the club all finish. Stage racing is hard and every one of the lads did us proud.
Well done and thanks to head coach Brian for his organisational skills and for helping bring everything together for the big event. Thanks to Dave, Adrienne and Paula for their professional work before, during and after each stage. Poor Dave had me shouting at him randomly throughout each stage but managed not to punch me in the face. Most importantly, well done to each and every rider who took part. You prepared for the event and every rider tried their very best throughout a very tough race. You did the club proud and earned the respect of your rivals. Congratulations and thank you. Here’s to more success for you all.