Through sheer will and determination, Russia, off a set play, knocked a screaming header into the back of Croatia’s net with less than five minutes left in regulation. The stadium erupted, their emotions flipped 180 degrees in the flick of a second. I turned to Max and grinned. “This is why people love sport. It is in these moments, when the odds are against you and the pressure is on, that greatness rises into view.”
While we didn’t feel pressure, the odds were stacked against the DORNIER Racing squad going into the 2018 Junior Tour of Ireland. We had a young team with plenty of inexperience in international races. On top of that, I, an experienced racer, was in a brand new role as Director. However, similar to the Croatia vs Russia game, simply because the odds are against you does not exclude anyone from the sweet taste of victory. It takes grit, skill, determination, and a little luck and any David can fell a Goliath.
Stage 1 was simple - a 6 kilometer rolling time trial. No tactics here, just brute strength. Seth was our highest place rider at 21st of 120 racers - around 40 seconds behind the leader but more importantly only 20 seconds from the top 5. Now the real racing could begin.
That goal for stage 2 was to stay safe and figure out where we ranked in the peloton. It would be hectic. The first stage of an international stage race always is! But it would provide us with an idea of where we stood amongst all the riders. Early on we had some crashes and flat tires but the boys kept calm and got back into the main field using the caravan. The race ended in a bunch sprint and our two strongest riders, Lance and Seth finished on the same time as the leaders. Ride of the day went to Gino who crashed heavily with 20 kilometers to go and had to ride the rest of the race with an upturned saddle!
Stage 4 featured more climbs and more exposed coast line. The goal was for Seth to conserve his energy and for the other boys to give it a go. And we did just that. Our youngest member, Lance Davidson got into a strong 8 man breakaway. He picked up mountain points, put pressure on the leader behind, and made a name for himself riding like a hard man. With 20 kilometers to go, the break split, with Lance still in the front. Unfortunately this caused a change in the tactics behind and the breakaway was reeled in with less than 10 kilometers remaining. Another bunch sprint ensued and the status quo stayed in tact more or less. Ride of the day easily went to Lance for being aggressive and putting his nose out there going after a stage win. He also picked up quite a few KOM points! Unfortunately, in a moment of being his good natured self, Lance was passing an extra bottle he had snagged to his breakaway mates which caused him to go from 1st to 5th moments before cresting the largest climb of the day! Had he nabbed it, he would have been second overall in the Climber competition!
Stage 5 was our last opportunity to create any real time gaps in order to claw back those 20 or so seconds we needed for a top 5 overall. We were going to race for the stage win and let the GC fall into place. The goal was for Seth to be aggressive and the other guys to help him. Seth was confident in his abilities but in order to win on the final climb to the finish, he needed to be away from the leader of the race.
In the finale of stage 5, Seth was aggressive and put himself in several promising moves. The yellow jersey ended up having a flat tire causing a huge chase from behind. Several crashes and attacks over the climbs caused the race to splinter into about 10 different groups. Seth was always at the front trying to create an opportunity but was continually shut down. On the final climb, he stayed with the leaders until the last 100 meters or so when he lost the wheel. The gap to the front group was barely more than a few bike lengths but it was enough for the judges to penalize Seth with real time to the leaders instead of group time. Those 13 seconds would have lifted him from 11th overall to the top 5 like we had wanted. Ride of the day - Seth. He rode positively and aggressively when a lot of others were willing to sit back and wait for the race to come to them. After the stage I had a lot of other teams come up to me and compliment the boys on their aggressive style of racing.
At the end of the race we didn’t win anything. We didn’t get a top 10 in the GC or a top 5 overall. But the results sheet doesn’t show everything. The boys raced hard, they raced aggressively, they raced like they wanted it. They also honed their racing craft, using the caravan, feeding from the cars, paying attention to the wind, arriving to dinner on time. And I’m incredibly proud of them for the efforts that they put forth. Bike racing doesn’t always work out in your favor but they weren’t scared of a huge international race and gave it a go. That’s the biggest win in my book. (The End)
For a video of the 2018 Junior Tour of Ireland click here:
Photos: Susan Wienke
Thanks to Alder and Alexis for managing the team on the ground in Ireland. Thanks to the sponsors and the people of the Junior Tour of Ireland, especially Alice, for putting on a great race trying to thank you all for a sometimes thankless effort. Special thanks to our sponsors without which we could not participate in such a world class event:
Freedom Financial Solutions
B-LINE Natural Energy
Unknown Bike & Brew
DOS Ruedas Coffee