Dunsany GP A4

Three laps of the 17km green sheds circuit before a tight right-hander for a 200m uphill finish outside Dunsany church. The weather was bucketing down and I definitely had a will I/won't I moment that morning. I put it down to pre race nerves and got some porridge and coffee in.

When I arrived I realised I'd forgotten my jersey (another head for home moment) but luckily I found Killian warming up behind the shelter of his boot and he kindly gave me his spare. I'm bigger than Killian so it fitted a bit like a boob tube, I was definitely aero!

The race was pretty uneventful. A small field of about 50 riders, the pace was tame, hands were cold and with the wet roads everyone concentrated on staying upright. There was a junior from the north who solo'd out the front on the last lap, but he was straight into a headwind and we were happy watching him work as he barely got more than 100m away. Had he waited for the turn and the following wind I reckon he'd have won 'cause I'm pretty sure he was the strongest rider. He was still pushing the pace right to the finish, but he was working hard.

Coming down past the golf course for the final stretch the pace really picked up, everyone was fresh and the crucial final right hander was going to decide the race as it was so close to the finish. I was about three back from the front and kept an eye over my shoulder.

As we neared the final corner a lad from Bray shot clear. He got well out in front and I was sure the rest of us were racing for second. A few of us came around together, I took it wide and slow before putting the head down for the sprint. Bray blew up and a few of us passed him. I was in front then and the line was close enough to maintain the lead. Chuffed with my first win!

The inevitable crash happened around the bend and I'm sure that took out several contenders.

Deenside Cup A4

In my new fanaticism for bike racing I've immersed myself in all things velo - the endless Facebook feed of ‘how to’s’ and race highlights. One particular sprint finish on Eurosport caught my eye recently – I can't remember the race (maybe Catalunya) or the rider as he wasn't one of the big names I'd recognise (think he was English) – but in the sprint finish this guy came from nowhere, straight through the middle of the bunch and blasted clear with a few yards to spare over the line. His bike handling was unreal. Hero!

I’ve learnt over the past few weeks that I can embarrass myself going uphill, I don't have the stamina to sustain a break, but I can hold my own in a sprint. So when I headed down to Kilkenny I didn't expect any result. The route profile was flat but for a chunky 4km hill a few k before the finish, so I expected the whippets would drop me, but this was the practice I needed.

Two laps of the 35km course, the pace started easy and the sun was out. I latched on the back to warm up the legs. Lovely day for it. We cruised for the first 20k until we took on the hill the first time around. No one pushed too hard and I was happy to see we all stayed together. I put this down to the headwind which was discouraging anyone who tried to solo out the front, and it wasn't steep enough for anyone to punch clear.

On the second lap we cruised around the course again, albeit with the pace gradually increasing. Everyone still together as we approached the hill, I positioned myself near the front for the inevitable slide and found some rhythm. I was holding my own in the shelter. At one point there was a bit of acceleration that I stood up for but I found myself burning pretty quickly, so I sat down and focused on my own pace, otherwise I'd be goosed regardless. Again the headwind was keeping us together and I crested with the lead group, so by then I had some confidence that I could compete for the line. For now it was a matter of holding position - the descent was pretty hairy so I wanted to keep out of trouble.

At the bottom of the descent was a tricky left – right through Castlecomer, I pushed towards the front so as not to lose position through the bends. Once through the town I found myself about 8 riders back, strung out in a line into the headwind. It was a straight run to the finish so I held this position, slightly to the right of the guy in front as I was anxious not to get boxed in. But about 300 yards from the line that's exactly what happened as the bunch swarmed around me and flooded the entire width of the road. B€&@&@KS !! I'd ballsed it up - couldn't see a way through to contest the sprint.

I pretty much resigned myself and then I swear I had a flashback to that Eurosport clip – your man weaving his way through from nowhere- so I buried it and looked to see what opened up. Others started to slow up and somehow gaps appeared. With the benefit of shelter I got momentum and was catching the lead. I just managed to pass him with inches to spare, but I could easily have been 10th as well.

Another day another lesson - I shouldn't have allowed myself get boxed in like that. I'll keep an eye over my shoulder next time. But it was also interesting to see how long a finish into the headwind can be, and how late you can leave it. Those out in front are at a big disadvantage.

Simon takes the sprint

Photograph with thanks to Stephen O'Shea