I only got into cycling a few years back having given up the soccer and hurling I'd played growing up in Limerick, like many others do, in my mid 20s. I then had a few lazy years of travelling and partying before deciding on arrival home from New Zealand in 2010 (approaching 30!) that I'd get fit again and do some adventure races. I learned to swim too and had a go at triathlons before realising the bike was really where it was at and I decided for 2014 to give it a go and leave the other messing!
I had done a couple of A4 races the year before as training and to pick up enough points for an A3 licence but hadn't any real big race experience. My first attempt at Ras Mumhan especially was a right shock, getting dropped the first day after just 20k. But I got stronger as the year went on and having followed the Ras for a few years I fancied stepping up in 2015 if I could convince a few others to get a team together and get the proper training in place. This is where A1 coaching and David Brennan came in, David actually on both counts! I had raced against Dave locally and liked his style, taking the bike seriously but being good fun off it. And when Anthony Walsh gave us a coaching talk in Westport at the end of the 2014 season and suggested Dave as my coach I didn't have to think twice.
The structure was the most important thing Dave brought to my winter training, I would have been very haphazard before with big miles one week and some random gym work the following week, often overdoing it and getting sick. Putting a real consistent plan in place that I could fit in perfectly around work and life commitments was the key. The training started steadily with the Ras as the main goal and I got in good consistent blocks with thankfully no illness or injury getting in the way and was much stronger coming into 2015. I did have to get used to not tapering for the early season races, but the main goal of the Ras was always highlighted.
In terms of a Ras team our Westport Covey Wheelers and Dave's Castlebar CC had come up with a very suitable collaboration, as Dave's vast experience and our willing newbies went well together. A lot of hard weeknight turbo sessions were put in but weekend spins with the lads kept it all fun. When Ras Mumhan came back around I was happy to find I could now manage the speed of the first day and finish comfortably with the front bunch...a big confidence boost before my Ras debut and proof I was doing the right training. The rest of the build up to the Ras was great, plenty of hard speed sessions put the final touches to my form and Dave was always there to listen and adjust the training when necessary.
The Ras itself was a massive buzz; all the big bunch, close quarters racing and lineouts I had hoped for and feared! After 3 good opening stages, we found out in the crosswinds in Galway & Mayo what the pros could do but kept a great team atmosphere all through. I did pick up a bit of an annoying injury and didn't go as well as I'd have liked for the last few days, but getting to the finish was always the goal for my first Ras. It really is like no other race we get to do here in Ireland, the excitement around it especially with two 'home' stages this year in Mayo was unbelievable and I'm very thankful to David and the A1 team for getting me there.
The crowd on the laps of Skerries and the medal presentation on the podium afterwards was a pretty cool way to finish out the week, with a lot of friends and family coming along to see us reach our Ras dream.
- Richard Meaney – Westport Covey Wheelers & Mayo.ie Ras Team – Ras Dream 2015