Congratulations to Fiola Foley on placing 8th in the Ladies Elite National Championships in Carlingford over the weekend.
Fiola is well known in rowing, mountain biking & adventure sports circles and has only switched to road cycling in the last few years, so placing 8th in her first road race championship is a magnificent achievement.
Race report from fiolafoley.com
Its been 2 days since I raced in the Irish National Championships in Carlingford in Ireland. It was a great experience and I am really happy that I made the trip home for it. There is something really special about riding with a bunch of Irish girls and I felt at home to see a few friendly faces in the peloton.
In the aftermath, I can’t help but think to myself – 8th place isn’t all that brilliant – I am capable of doing better, and yes, that IS the truth. But its also the truth that the National championships was really only my 4th ‘real’ road cycling race ever and my second elite race (the Berner Rundfahrt in May was the other one). Its my first official year of road racing. It was also only my 2nd time ever in a real bunch sprint and I still beat girls there who had up to 10 years more experience than me and are even professionals – so then I take it easier on myself and smile : )
The course was never really going to be in my favour. I knew that before I went home, so I did some more training on the flat instead of my usual ‘extreme hill-training’. That was hard! Peak pass-riding season is quickly approaching in Switzerland! I also decided to race in my local club colours – Killorglin CC. People from Kerry are renowned for being proud and when it comes to something like a national championships and being an Irish rider Killorglin CC made sense. Mary Concannon was such a help to get everything organized so I could race and get my UCI license and uniform on time.
Without going into too much detail about everything that happened in the race…one of the most dramatic moments was when I came down in a crash on the third (I think it was the third, you know how all the laps blend into one) lap. There was one sharp turn onto the straight that brought us into Carlinford and all of a sudden, the rider to my right literally slid sldeways and bounced pretty close to me, I was on the inside, already cutting it really tight and then I slipped too. Apparently there was oil on the road and it had showered pretty heavily (another thing you dont notice when you are racing) and it caused a few of us to come down. I got up straight away, checked my bike and began to chase to get back into the bunch. I had a little help from Fran Meehan’s Aqua Blue Team car and caught up to the bunch on the hill in Carlingford again. I was afraid of how much it had taken out of me but actually, I recovered pretty quickly. However, my handlebars were facing upwards, and no amount of shoving could get them back into the right position. This was not going to help should I need to go on my own or for a sprint.
What went on after that was pretty uneventful, there were some attempts at attacks and break aways but nothing major. It always seemed like the strong girls were just not strong enough and not willing to take the risk. Whenever they did, there was always another group of 5 riders who would chase and then the bunch would simply hang on to their wheels. Which is what brings me to this photo:
Why Didn’t I Attack!?
There I was, on the last lap, charging up the hill and still asking the question – “should I go for it? I know I have it in my legs. But is someone going to follow me? If I go on my own will I be able to keep the gap I’ve opened up or will I sabotage any chances I have of sprinting?” By the time I realised that Melanie Spath (behind me in this pic and who eventually won) and Olivia Dillon, the two favourites were actually suffering and I should have probably risked it – it was too late and we were on the downhill in a big bunch charging towards the finish line! I put this indecisiveness down to pure lack of experience and confidence in myself and my ability. I just haven’t been in that situation enough to trust my own judgement!
Ill never forget that feeling of being in a group of over 20 riders, at snails pace (by racing standards) riding towards the line. Everyone watching each other. It was like riding blind towards the edge of a cliff! I was to the left of Mel and I kept thinking, I should be on her wheel, not next to her, so when she goes Ill just go with her and I can come around her, maybe (thats what my uncle Fintan said). So I did that, only…my legs didn’t have it to sprint around her and with not being able to get onto the drops I did what I could to burst with whatever was left but it was definitely not my best ‘sprint’ moment!
Time for thanks
Seeing my Mom and Dad on the corner of Carlingford 7 times on Saturday, shouting my name, was actually what made my day. That, together with my super supportive boyfriend Philipp lending me his mega-fast and super-expensive Dura-Ace wheelset for the race and fixing my bike, and coming on countless boring training rides in the snow, in winter, and pretending he enjoys doing interval training with me.
And Uncle Fintan – you will be proud to know, that as I was riding in the bunch towards the line, I thought of your advice. I also never attacked from the front and I was always working my way around in the peloton and never let any of the strong girls break away. Your advice was invaluable! You should coach some more!
Cait Elliot has also been a rock of support and offered so much advice and put up with my whining and paranoia and Emma Woods from Killorglin was so good to put me up in Omeath, just down the road from Carlingford.
Maybe Ill have learned a bit more before next year – I’m already thinking Ill come back again and try my luck, now that I know I can race against the best!
Next up in two weeks Ill be at the starting line of the Engadiner Radmarathon, back in my Swiss team colours of Steiner Bäckerei Wetzikon Argon18! Looking forward to riding some hills now!