Pic by Seamus Connolly
I left for Ireland last Thursday for the championships in Monaghan, right up in the north of Ireland. On Wednesday I packed up all of my 2011 team kit into a big bin bag and put it in the garage. Maybe I was lacking a little bit of confidence? I don’t know, I just didn’t expect to be coming home and unpacking that bin bag with a huge smile on my face!
So as you can guess my weekend in Ireland went pretty well. Actually thats an understatement. It was probably the most successful weekend I’ve ever had! First I battled through a long, boring day of travelling involving a taxi, a flight and then a long drive up north to my hotel which was in what has to be the definition of “the middle of nowhere”.
I arrived on Thursday, quickly unpacked my Specialized Shiv and went for a spin around Friday’s TT circuit. It was just as I’d hoped really. I’m not really a fan of a bog-standard drag strip TTs so I was pretty happy to find an undulating course with a few corners, pot holes, and bad roads thrown into the mix! The weather was foul, and was forecast pretty much the same around the time of the race.
So after an easy morning I was soon enough drawing up my usual master plan. So warm up done and all of the usual shenanigans out of the way and I was on my way. I don’t normally like to look at watts [power output – ed.] too much but this was a 40km TT with a tough finish so I needed to make sure I had something left for the last few kms. I started steady and gradually picked it up.
Well I thought I did, in fact I actually held the same watts throughout the race. It was just my perception of effort that got harder! I battled through the wind, rain and pain and managed to finish pretty strong through the final kms of the race.
Maybe too strong? Did I get it all out? Could I have gone a bit harder at the start? These were all the questions going through my head. Looking at my watts I thought I’d done a pretty good time but no way on earth did I realise just how good that time was! It was only when I took my numbers back that somebody congratulated me! “Congratulations, Matt.” “For what?” I replied….. “You won!!”
WOW, I really was shocked, the two guys below me on the podium really are super bike riders and can go pretty goddamn fast in a TT! How I beat them I don’t know! Happy days!
Next focus, recovery! After too much caffeine, a bad night’s sleep and a tough old race I was feeling pretty crappy on Saturday. After a little look at the RR circuit I spent 99percent of my day in bed eating and sleeping. The circuit looked good to me. Not too hard, not too easy it was just right for me so I was feeling pretty happy! After yesterday’s ride and seeing the course my confidence was growing and so were the nerves. I don’t normally get nervous before a RR but this was different. I was defending champion and I started to feel a bit of the pressure.
Anyway I slept good, ate good and woke up on Sunday feeling ready to rock. The normal pre race routines were done and dusted and the flag quickly dropped. The race was underway!
I’m not going to bore you with a blow-for-blow account of the race [Oh go on – ed.], all I’ll say is it started pretty full on and after about an hour’s hard racing the selection was made and all of the strong guys where in the front.
Every pro was present and we soon realised the winner would definitly come from this select group. My tactic today was simple, follow EVERYTHING! This way I would never have to chase, if I wanted to pull I would pull, it would be my choice. If I missed a group I would have no choice but to pull.
This plan worked well, I saved as much energy as possible throughout the race and did what I had to to get to that last decisive moment in the best possible shape.
It was craziness at the start, some sort of calm mid race, then the real race was upon us. One lap to go we hit the final climb and it was crunch time, the in-form Dan Martin attacked full gas and I was the only guy who managed to hold his wheel. Jesus, we went hard!
Once we realised we had some daylight we both committed 100%. Full gas all the way to the last 1km, we managed to pull out a slim 30 second advantage over the chasing group when we hit the final KM! A bit of messing about and the sprint was under way, I wanted to ride from the front so I took control and hit out with about 200m to go. The finish was slightly uphill and was pretty tough. I committed 100% and gave everything I had to the line.
With 50m to go I could sense Dan coming alongside me. A last-ditch lunge and the race was over. Who won? Who won? Nobody knew! It was just too close to call. The photo finish was being examined and after what felt like an hour I heard just what I wanted to hear. For the 2nd year running, and with a national skin-suit already on my back, I was announced champion again! Boy was I happy!
What a weekend!
Another year in shamrocks! Wow!