Prince Willie’s conjures happy memories within (the hill, not the person – time to rename this peak :) Two appearances, two victories – would three out of three be possible? I was keen to recover from defeat in Bray and my current nemesis, Tom Hogan, was back for the battle. I was well beaten in Bray, feeling particularly unfit after a recent injury spell. Two weeks later and I was feeling stronger.
The start was relatively calm. No Colm Hill this year to spice up the pace from the gun. Surprisingly Tom and I opened a gap within a short period. There were a few in the field who easily could have tagged along, but perhaps decided to play safe and race for third. Having been demolished by Tom up the hill in Bray (I almost went into cardiac arrest), my objective was to hang in until the top. This all went to plan, together up through the forest and along the Wicklow Way. I jumped into the single path up to the peak first to control the pace – didn’t want to make it easy on Tom to pull away. Felt very controlled up the hill, saving myself for the descent (mistake #1). To my surprise I actually opened a wee gap and probably had about 10 metres at the peak. Down the initial boggy hill and couldn’t hear anything behind – always a good sign, but then again it was bog so what was I going to hear?
I was quick, but cautious (mistake #2) down the hill. Perhaps a little too cautious as by the time we got to the gully beside the stone wall it was neck and neck. There was mutual respect down the dangerous descent through the gully and forest, with no one making a move – preventing injury a priority for both. At the forest exit it was race on. Initially I took to the front, but then on the fire road it was clear I was lacking speed training – Tom was pulling away. I caught back up briefly at the barrier, with Tom using the safe hand technique and I went for the clear jump to make time. Tom pulled away strongly again on the down section. I made a push up the sharp last hill and caught again, but Tom managed to get the apex of the turn first at the final gate (mistake #3). It was just too difficult to recover on the home straight. Tom deserved victory – he wanted it more – clear by his condition on the finish line. Really enjoyable race – thanks to all the organisers, particularly Eoin (although not sure about route change). Competition healthy – I’ll be back :)