Riding the Ras had been a dream for me for a long time. It wasn't until one day late June chatting to a close friend about it they asked "What do we need to do to get you there?".
I knew I needed a team to ride for, so I asked around and within a few days Tony Orrell (Torrelli Brother Team Manager) put me in touch with TW1 racing, and the dream suddenly turned into a plan!
The race included 6 stages over five consecutive days totalling over 250 miles and plenty of hills. It would also be the largest and strongest field I'd ever raced in with top riders from across Europe and even teams travelling from Australia!
Stage One was a late afternoon start, which gave me almost a full day to get nervous! I’d been so focused on the training and organisation of the trip to Ireland that the scale of the event hadn’t sunk in and suddenly a few hours before the race I started to feel the pressure! My initial worry had been that I wouldn’t be able to cope with the pace at this level, but as we rolled out I realised that I had completely underestimated how frightening it would be to ride in a bunch of 125 women, all fighting for the position. Although I started at the front of the bunch, my lack of confidence saw me at the back. I was too far back and got caught behind a crash, I rolled in with a group of about 25, losing 5 minutes.
For the second stage I was focused on holding my own within the bunch despite the rainy conditions! All my concentration meant I forgot to eat, which would eventually takes its toll! There’s a lot to think about when you’re riding a bike full gas, way different to training and club rides. Now I was armed with more to think about for stage 3.
Stage 3, and now with more to focus on; fight for position AND eat. I was nervous about the positioning before and forgot to eat, but now I had a nutrition plan to go with my positioning. I had gels in my pockets and up my shorts, and a bar that I cut up into bits so I can manage it better. I decided to eat or drink every 20 miles. I went for a drink…and I was so chuffed that I got it with no fuss and managed to eat as well. It was only a small victory, but it filled me with plenty of confidence that I could manage it for the rest of the race!
The next stage was a short TT followed quickly by a crit which would make up stage 5. By now I had pretty tired legs, especially after the big climb in stage 3. This stage was only 4 miles, but it was a hill climb too. My new lesson by now was to steal ham, cheese and bread from the hotel so I had something else to eat that wasn’t a gel! By the time the crit came around, I was a little nervous again because it was wet and it was over 100 strong on the line! I don’t like crits back home, and I didn’t look forward to this either! But I Settled into the race and managed to finish upright and in the second group, which was good enough for me!
Later, during a post-race debrief over a few gin and tonics with TW1 team manager Lisa, she asked me how I would feel about joining TW1 for the 2019 season! I had really felt like part of a team with TW1 and I couldn’t think of a better team for me to continue my journey! This was the cherry on top of an incredible experience.
I can’t thank TW1’s Barbara, Lisa West, Brent Skinner, Tony Orrell, and Carl McCreddin enough for all the support during the race.
Thanks to VeloSkin for the support throughout the year, I really love using their products and I have been for well over a year now and it felt so good going to a race of this magnitude knowing I had my own support before coming, not every rider gets that and I'm really grateful to everyone involved for helping me get here!
I’m already looking forward to Ras na mBan 2019!