What can I say?! ….. the Olympics are over! I honestly feel like a lost puppy at the moment. I never thought too far beyond London because I was so focused on those six rides. It was a whirlwind and an awesome experience but was so different to what I imagined! London did an incredible job. Everything ran so smoothly.
I went straight from Mallorca to the athletes village with Andy and we got ourselves sorted, accredited and sussed out the food hall…priorities!! 24 hour McDonalds = danger! I had to focus on staying as light as possible so that was the hardest part.
The opening ceremony was so cool and to be a part of and it really is something I’ll remember forever. I was sharing an apartment with Dan Martin, Nicholas Roche, David McCann, a swimmer Barry Murphy and a badminton player Scott evans. They’re all really nice guys and it was nice to meet people outside of my cycling bubble.
So, race day came and I was pretty relaxed. I was 9th in the flying lap. Usually I would be content with this but as soon as I was finished I knew something was up. My legs hurt in a different way and I was just not feeling right. I had clocked up some good times in training but I was off the mark on the day. I went back to the village and chilled out for a while, trying to put the weird feeling to the back of my mind. Next up was the points race and it hurt like hell. That’s usually the norm but it was 40 plus minutes of pain, some self inflicted. I gained 2 laps on the field and finished up 6th. Again, usually I’d be happy with this but I was hurting too much too soon. Needless to say, Kluge (the German guy) rode awesome – lapping the field three times! I was just off the track and felt like I was back on within mintues…..well 40 minutes. I dug a big hole in the points race and just had no legs in the elimination! It probably didn’t look like it but I was trying so hard to get up and over the bunch but I was screwed and the only direction I was going was backwards! I was 14th overall….which even by with my record in the elimination was pretty bad!
At this stage I was a blubbering mess which I think RTE got on camera … I couldn’t hide my disappointment. It all hit me like a sack of shit and I realized that my perfect race that I’ve dreamed about wasn’t going to happen. Some people don’t like the Omnium and consider it an event of averages. But, there is a huge mental element to Omnium. If you’re lying first overnight, you gotta keep your cool. If you performed badly you gotta pick yourself up. For me, it was the latter. I had to put the bad elimination behind me and focus on my stronger events on day 2. Luckily, I’m used to this because my pattern during the qualification was going into day 2 down the GC and making may way up in the pursuit, scratch and kilo. A respectable result wasn’t to far away.
But, to quote a friend quoting Tyson ‘everyone steps into the ring with a plan….then they get a punch in the face!' My pursuit was way off my usual, I was 4 seconds off my PB. I was struggling the whole way through and no matter how much I suffered I just couldn't get on it. Next up was the scratch race. The game plan; attack and if that didn’t work attack again. A body bag was ordered and I wanted to be ready for it. The race was another average result but I gave it everything. Last up was the kilo, I did a 1.04 which I was happy enough with until I saw Clancy do a 1.00, hats off!
I think my biggest disappointment is that for the 11 previous qualifiers, racing against the same guys, I was finishing every race between 5th and 9th and then when the country tunes in for its first taste of track racing I’m that Irish guy that was 13th. I always said I wouldn’t go to make up the numbers – I was hungry for a podium or at the very worst a top 6 but it wasn’t meant to be. Someday I will look back and say ‘wow, what an achievement’ to be one of 8 Europeans to qualify for the games but for the moment I’m looking back saying, did I taper wrong?, was I getting sick?…..did that broken mirror in my room bring me bad luck?! One thing I can say is I could not possibly have trained any harder – Andy pushed me to the max in every single training ride and I raised my standards to the highest level possible. It wasn’t there on the day and there’s no point looking for it now.
Grace was in town and I needed her, she helped me pick my chin up and after the racing was over, we had fun in London and saw some cool places. We saw a boxing match, got to catch up with some cool people and had a nap during the festivities in Hyde Park….real party animals we are!! We went to the Oakley safehouse which was in a cool spot along the Thames where Scott and Brian built me up some cool custom radar lock glasses and gave me some nice casuals too, thanks guys, that definitely cheered me up. We also went out to the Irish sponsored house too to watch Katie Taylor's fight – awesome, a real inspiration! Congrats to all the Irish team who did a fantastic job in all their sports.
As I said in my last blog, I was so proud to represent Ireland and be part of team Ireland and if I inspired a small few kids to take up cycling that makes me even happier. This journey was about putting Irish track cycling on the map. It was about getting the next generation to get into the sport earlier and go places quicker and with more support and facilities than I did. Hopefully I partially achieved that goal. So, the plan for the moment is to take a rest, get a holiday in somewhere nice and then refocus on the next goal……. There’s always another goal!
Finally, there are so so many people who sent kind messages, cards and said kind words to and about me. Thank you to everyone for your help in getting me to London. A big thank you also to everyone at SINI, Cycling Ireland, the Irish Sports Council, Sport NI, the Irish Olympic Council and the sponsors of team Ireland and the sponsors who helped me. To Andy Sparks, the man with the plan…..thanks for kicking my ass all the way to London!