Contributed by Fabio Calabria
Today was another good day weather-wise, meaning we missed the rain. Unfortunately, that might not be the case for Sunday’s stage.
The objective for today’s stage was to consolidate Matt Wilson’s lead in the King of the Mountains category. We had three King of the Mountain sprints today, with the first coming at 27 kilometers. Team Type 1 took control on the first KOM but, unfortunately, the KOM was not marked with a “one kilometer to go” sign. So we lost points to the other contenders, as one of them was a local and he knew where the finish of the climb was located.
Fabio and Mike Creed get ready for a long day at the office.
We had some excitement shortly after that when Matt punctured. Unfortunately, we were car No. 15 (of 16) in the caravan. But lucky for us, Mike Creed was there to give Matt a rear wheel so he didn’t have to wait for the car. Mike said he even gave Matt a good push and Shawn Milne and I waited to get him back into position. Problem solved.
There was a good gap – over 100 kilometers – to the next climb. At that point in the race, there were two guys off the front. They had gone straightaway from kilometer zero. So we just relaxed and tried to conserve until we got to the climb.
Team Type 1’s Matt Wilson was a popular interview after the stage.
The run-in to the second climb was very narrow and it was hard to move up. Valeriy Kobzarenko led out Matt and Shawn tried to follow to gap the guy in second place in the KOM standings. The final climb was only 15 kilometers from that one and it was twisty and hard and on very narrow roads. Once again, Shawn led Matt out at the 800 meters to go point, where it got really steep. Matt figured he was a better climber than the other guy and he actually caught one of the two breakaway riders on that climb.
Looking down from the top of the first climb resembled the view from an airplane.
For me, things went a little differently. On the second climb, I was caught on the back and couldn’t really help out. I didn’t really have the legs to help out either. As for the last climb, I got caught out a bit – and once again, I didn’t have the legs to help. But fortunately for the team, Shawn and Valeriy were riding really well, so Matt had two strong riders to look after him.
From the last KOM, it was 40 kilometers to the finish and, for the most part, it was also downhill. But it was into a headwind, so that made sitting on wheels a little easier than it would have otherwise. I just did what I needed to do with the lead group so I didn’t have to ride in to the finish on my own.
It was another picturesque day in the Stage 2 start city of Clonmel.
When the sprinters’ teams are on the front, it’s a case of survival. You’re constantly making sure you know where the wind is coming from so you stay protected and you move up when it surges so you don’t get caught at the back. I was just trying to ride small gears the whole time to save my legs.
Throngs of people crowded the barriers at the finish in Killarney.
As for the finish, we’ve all seen Mark Cavendish wind it up in the sprints this season and it was no different today. A huge cheer came from the crowd when he posted up for the win. I later heard that he had said he wanted to win a stage in every multi-day race this year. Now he needs only to win one time at the Tour of Missouri next month and he will have done it.
UCI President Pat McQuaid (left) and his brother, Darach (center) speak with Mark Cavendish after the stage.
Sunday’s final is a shorter stage but it won’t be any easier than the past two days. In fact, the climb up St. Patrick’s Hill in Cork– which is a 25 percent grade – promises to break things up each lap of the circuit (there are three laps). For me, it’s a matter of trying to help Matt as much as I can before we get to Cork. Once we hit the circuit, it’ll be a battle between the guys going for the overall classification.