Face book is scary, my Forum posting found its way onto Facebook and all of a sudden the usual Saturday cycle turned into a badly organised event. With the Tour de Frank looming on the horizon, cyclists were coming out of the bike sheds from all directions. Throwing up a whole new set of logistical problems that I wasn’t ready for.(Where are you now Orla O’Leary when I need you and your motivational skills) God be with the days when a forum posting gave me Lorraine and Liam, and we hauled our happy asses up out over Carraigduff in search of a quiet coffee shop that served hot chocolate topped with marshmallows and cream……(those were the days).
And so it was a group of twenty pulled out of the town square in a strung out fragmented scattered disorganized Peloton heading for the Wicklow hills and Shay Elliott, a round trip of 136klms. Which very quickly I realised with a bit of help from Barry and David we needed to organise properly. And so we did, pull the group together, deploy a sweeper, leave no one behind and set a slow steady pace. Quickly the experienced 795’rs who came along for the ride, ended up helping to control, set the pace and babysit the stragglers, and stop the big boys who were straining at the leash from blowing the whole thing apart.. Tinahealy to Kilteagan the wind to our backs George M and I set a gentle 24k pace, keeping the Peloton tight till the mountains. David and Barry swept , hauling the stragglers, who lost ground on hills and minor bike problems, back to the main group.We pulled into Kilteagans sleepy village, 40k covered and already, one puncture and on our second pit stop, boy it was going to be a long day….with Sliabh Mann and Shay Elliott calling.
It was only then that I realized the momentous task that lay ahead for the organizers of the Tour to Omagh..the massive responsibility that it is, and the logistical nightmare that they face….
Sliabh Mann 459m above sea level, 255m ascent, descending down into the Glenmalure valley, before rolling back up towards Shay Elliotts memorial stone. On hitting the climbs we strung out as expected. Climbs seperate the men from the boys and as Brian Yates said, I never go anywhere without me Granny Gear….and he’s right in these hills Granny is king.
795’r’s came into their own nursing the Peloton along, stopping at junctions, chasing the pack, chasing the fading day. At the base of Sliabh Mann after a fast rubber burning descent, we came together again. The main group sitting patiently, refueling, …as Shay Elliott beckoned. Shay The first Irish man to wear the yellow jersey, the first Irish man win a stage in all the grand tours..at its 381m summit 3.2klm long the 33rd hardest climb in Ireland..there stands a small monument to his memory. Once again we strung out, Siobhan cramped and I took a tumble like the village drunk, the wrong foot at the wrong time, at the wrong angle in the wrong clip, and down I went, looking like Christy Browne full to the gills, thankfully, out of view of the disappearing group. Siobhan promised not to tell the boys….but now its out.When we finally crossed the summit we paused a moment at Shays memorial, I wasn’t sure if it was out of respect or that we were both glad of the moments respite, before the decent down to the bone shaking surface of the Laragh, Rathdrum main road, that John Dempsey slated in his recent Beast of the East report.
At 84k The Coffin Shed Coffee Dock, a hidden gem in the heart of Rathdrum and a welcome pit stop…The seasoned cyclists resigned now to the day drifting from them. Relaxed and refreshed and keeping a watchful eye on dark clouds gathering on the horizon, we headed out for Aughrim, the group now, like the tides, ebbing back and forth. George now racing a losing battle to be back in time tio head for Croke Park to watch his beloved Tyrone..Took of like Mark Cavindish with Dose of the runs… And all day long, Barry David and Jim again and again worked hard nursed us along, sheltering tired legs, encouraging,pacing, every little hill took its toll. On the out skirts of Carnew, Holts Way, ripped us asunder. We gathered once more on a bench in Carnew.our 5th Pit stop of the day. The Gods who till then had been kind to us, saw David Conway pulling out a rain jacket, and decided to empty its load on us there and then…forcing us to run for cover.
15k from home, the group dynamic changed, there work done, the Boys closed tight, the pace picked up, I slipped in behind, a small group of four…tipping along, sensing something was on, finish line in sight, I should have known, I’ve been here before with Jim Furlong, should have had the gears right, should have been concentrating. Because in the blink of an eye David Tully suddenly 10k from home, with a garden that needs weeding, stepped up out of the saddle, moved quickly to the front, and in an instant they were gone, 50m, 100m 200m and around the corner , three yellow high vis dots, a final burn out sprint for the imaginary line….
A strange long day,a real eye opener for what lies ahead in three weeks time. We will need all hands on deck from 795,.So Racing795 your time has come, time to step up to the mark, time to show what being a club is all about. Time to sacrifice that pure enjoyment of cycling hard out in a group of your peers, to mind Shepard, and control the various groups along the way….