Myself and Ais went out to the start of the second stage of the Ras this morning and while chatting to Mark Dowling I told him we would be on the road at the only climb of the day, he suggested that I could hand up bottles as it looked like being a hot day on the Ras. I needed no further invitation to be a part of the riders day so I grabbed a bunch of bottles from the team car as Brendan drove by in the cavalcade.
A couple of hours later we were trying to get ahead of the race to wait on the only categorised climb of the day when we got the update on twitter that Mc Crystal was up the road again. I’ve lined up beside Bryan a couple of times in races, I’ve even managed to hang around long enough in the front group once, and only once to watch him light up the afterburners. But most of my experience of Bryan’s racing is either standing at the side of the road as he goes by at an inhuman speed or on a twitter hashtag feed in a race big enough to have a Twitter hashtag feed.
He has the most spectacular, honest, aggressive and exciting style of racing. He’s eyeballs out, full gas just trying to kill everyone. I love the epic all day, balls as big as buckets way that he attacks races and the savage long breakaways he’s becoming known for. Even when it’s against all the best domestic riders and full time pro’s in the biggest race in the country he’s off the front not just once but twice in the break of the day two days in a row.
The heart break is that it didn’t quite stick today. Bryan and Eoin Morton set the race, the Irish twitter-sphere and Facebook alight today in an epic 100km breakaway with a lead that stretched out to as much as 7 minutes at one stage and Bryan, starting the day with a 23 second deficit was the virtual yellow jersey on the road, for 99km. The bunch finally organised themselves and chased him down and after emptying the tank he not only missed out on the stage victory but he missed taking an historic yellow leaders jersey in one of the most exciting race days I’ve ever seen on the Ras.
I am privileged and lucky to call Bryan a friend. For someone with his level of talent, ability and success he is the most bullshit free, down to earth guy you can meet. There’s a saying that you shouldn’t meet your heroes but Bryan dispels that myth.
He rolled up this morning to the start line all smiles and confidence and waves and hello’s. Lining up beside full time professionals who do races like this every week not just once a year. He didn’t place himself back behind them but right at the front with his deep time trial wheels on broadcasting his intentions for all to see. “I’m here to win” or bury myself and anyone who gets in my way.
I wish I had the legs to be there in a race when he really lights it up and goes off the front. I love the raw aggression and unadulterated desire to win, the confidence that says it doesn’t matter that I’m a part time athlete, I’m going to make you hurt today. I love the honest style of racing that never sits in waiting for the sprint finish but is always chasing down the win at the front, the hard way.
I know I and probably every cyclist dreams of having the legs and the balls to ride a bike the way Mc Crystal does, to win from the epic all day breakaway, to fight, to win, to empty the tank all the way to the line.
Unfortunately though we will have to satisfy ourselves by living those dreams vicariously through the exploits of Bryan and today Eoin Morton and all the other local heroes who go unnoticed by almost the entire population as they ride themselves into the ground to earn the honour of becoming a Man of the Ras.
I think it’s important that Bryan is recognised for what he is, a local hero and someone to look up to. He might have a big engine that gives him an advantage over the rest of us mere mortals but he trains damn hard and races like a working class hero. No frills, just eyeballs out, honest and brave and hard work.
Today he might have missed the win and the jersey but he became a little bit more of a legend and I would wager that he picked up a slew of new fans.