‘He had cramped badly! All my Christmases had come at once’
FERGAL MAY punched the air at the thought of the A2 upgrade he had just earned himself at the Donamon GP in Roscommon on Sunday.
Flat roads, a small field of 60 and 80k distance made the Donamon Dynamos’ event a fierce come down from the previous weekend’s Ras Dhun na nGall.
It looked a walk in the park for the A3 points board leader, but preparations had been less than ideal and it took an extra drop of luck, as the rider explains.
He said: “I think it’s fair to say that my preparations for this year’s Donamon GP were first class. I looked after my nutriton on Friday evening with a prolonged trip to the ‘Taste of Dublin’ (mainly tasting wine and craft beer).
“I took a different approach on Saturday and went completely cold turkey. I even threw in a brisk 40k spin on Saturday evening to get as finely tuned as possible.”
With Roscommon being May’s homeland, he had recce’d the course a few months previously, enjoying the mixture of narrow roads with rough surfaces and wider, more exposed strips, with good surfaces. He felt it suited him and that showed when he bounced off the front on lap one of five.
“I had an ok gap but it was pointless being on my own out front so early so I sat up after 10 minutes and I hid in the bunch for the next hour,” he said. “As I rejoined the bunch Brian Reynolds from Lucan told me if anything goes it will be on lap four – wise words.
“A lot of attacks were popping off the front late on the third lap, but nothing was sticking. My legs weren’t great but I moved up to monitor proceedings.
“About 2k into the fourth lap on a draggy, narrow, rough section of road, I bolted and I got a good gap straight away with no real reaction behind me.
“I put the head down for a few Ks and at that stage there was no point in looking back too much, as there was no plan b.
“After 10 minutes Cathal Dillane from Galway Bay bridged across like a stream train. He was a welcome sight.
“The bunch were almost out of sight at this stage and it was clear that with a lap and a half to go we would have a 50:50 shot of staying away. We worked very well doing even turns for the next half hour.
“Midway through the last lap they had us closed down to 20 seconds but we pulled away again on the fastest section of the course.
“As we hit the last few Ks we had the cushion we needed and agreed to ride steady until the last few hundred metres.
“I was leading out in the last 200 metres and not feeling too confident of success, but with 150 metres to go I heard Dillane jump out of the saddle and simultaneously roar in pain.
“There was some choice language too; he had cramped badly! I couldnt believe it, all my Christmases had come at once.
“I had a brief look over my shoulder and I rolled over the line, having a chance to point skywards and enjoy the moment.”
The celebration was impulsive, but also poignant as it was a gesture to the heavens just six months after the sudden death of talented team mate Martin Vereker – a man with Ras ambitions.
May said: “I think it goes without saying for all the racing group this year that there is an extra motivation to try and win one or more open races as a tribute to Martin.
“Perhaps there was some kind of divine intervention involved, because one of the few ways I’d ever win in a two up sprint (against what I found out later was a proper sprinter) was if my opponent actually cramped.”
He added, in typical May fashion: “I had a secondary motivation to get one more point this season: to avoid the ignominy of appearing in another Sticky Bottle article in a few months time still being on top of the A3 rankings – it’s not a good look being on 14 points in March and still being there at the end of the season.
“Anyways, that’s 22 points so a trip to A2 beckons, where I’ll never have to write an article about winning a race again.”