Happy Racing with Conor
I attempt to write this from the back of the team camper as we slowly make our way out of the rolling Brittany countryside; the long 8 hour journey home ahead. Whilst punctuation and grammar may not be top notch, I feel like writing about the weekends racing whilst it is still fresh. My English teacher of a mother will have to bite her lip at my illiteracy one more time. Hopefully I can bang this out before the onset of travel sickness which I am slightly prone to when reading.
Kreiz Briez marked a change in fortune for me this year with 5th on the first stage and 11th overall. It is most definitely good to be firing again.
In the first stage I managed to infiltrate the winning break of 21 riders which was established early in the 170km hilly stage. We gained a maximum of 4 mins on the bunch and proved to be the race defining move. With about 40km to go, I found myself off the front solo after rolling away from the group while everyone was looking at each other. I decided to just go for it and not look back, gaining a maximum of 1 minute advantage on the chasing group behind. I was feeling good and starting to believe I could make it to the end when 4 riders bridged across to me with about 12km remaining.
From there it was a case of hanging on and surviving the games of cat and mouse to the finish. My legs paid for their earlier effort in the sprint however and I had to to settle for 5th. Close but no cigar!
In today’s fourth and final stage everything was to play for, with me and my teammate Jack not far off yellow. It was a 176km stage including the Mur de Bretagne and a variety of other slightly painful lumps in the road. I felt reasonably good at the start but went through a dreadful patch between 40 and 80km. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so hungry in a race before and spent most of my time scrounging for food and eating a shed load. About 6 bars, multiple frangipans and gels later I was feeling good again. I guess sometimes you have to throw pre race nutrition plans out of the window and just listen to your body to avoid the dreaded bonk. During that time my mind took me to a few dark places and I was having some motivational speeches with the voice in my head as I feared I wasn’t on for a good day. It is amazing where your mind takes you in a race and how mental strength can make a real difference. A race is neither the time or place for daydreaming but invariably I find myself doing it before I snap out and realise I’ve suddenly slipped backwards through the bunch and need to get myself back in position and concentrate!
Towards the end of the stage my legs were feeling better and better, thankfully. The break was coming back and after some Spartan words of motivation from Macca (team mate), it was time to attack and make a bid for victory. With 2 laps to go of the finishing circuit the attacks began and I found myself 30secs ahead of the bunch with a group of about 8. From there I gave it everything to stay away with the hope of a climb up the general classification and a possible stage result. Sadly we were caught inside a lap to go and the race came together for a sprint, but in that moment of adrenaline and that taste of potential winning euphoria, I was absolutely loving racing my bike. Obviously I wish we had stayed away and I could have actually got that real winning feeling, but it was a good confidence boost to be back up in the mix.
There’ll be more chances, I’ll keep on pushing and keep on working. I hope that I can feel it before the season is out, the belief in myself, after a long spell of self doubt, is back!