I did not travel to Kilrush, The Grand Tours start was small and intimate, for family and friends and Racing 795’rs who were there at the beginning with Siobhan and Martin who shared those intimate moments of a small fledgling club…And now once more together with Siobhan and her family at the end. A dignified emotional moment and a fitting start to Martins’ Grand Plan….
You could feel the raw emotion in the air as the Kilrush Peloton rolled into Bunclody and its sea of Blue dotted with the red of the 795 jersey..There was a great sense of anticipation and excitement, that Martins Grand Plan was about to become a reality.
PJ and Frank who worked tirelessly from our end, clicked into gear, pulled the three peloton groups together, focused our minds…and after all the meetings, all the phone calls, all the texts, all the emails, all the restless nights. It came down to this, , this moment in the Mill Race car park,. Standing in a sea of blue, dotted with the red of Racing 795. We finally pulled out to cheers and waves and best wishes, and Yvonne’s camera clicking thousand snaps, a thousand memories…Three groups three leaders, an array of Captains we pulled out, and for the millionth time in our cycling careers hauled our asses once more up Carrighduff and out of Bunclody.
For George, Paul and Cora and the extended Mimnagh Family Martins Grand Plan had been realised…What a feeling.
There is a skill to cycling safely in a Peloton, there is no time for reflection, for dreaming..Everything focuses on the bike, the wheel in front, the bike behind and beside, the hazard calls, the sound of the traffic, the feeding, the drinking, the rolling over, the staying safe…and the stress of just getting everyone up the road safely.
For many it was just another spin, for others it was a personal journey, to honour Martin and Frank, for others just a challenge in itself to cycle a marathon distance, and for others it was a matter of just being there, being part of it all, just to participate in part of it, to cycle a bit, to rest a bit, but just to be there, to savour the moment….
And if there was one individual who captured the Spirit of Martins’ Grand Plan, it was Carol Anne, who a few months ago when out on her first training spin Frank told her to change gear, she went to take off her top…..but this weekend she was queen of the peloton, rolling over like a pro, tracking the wheel in front, calling the hazards, all with a lovely sense of humour and a happy smile….
Day 1 we pushed through familiar towns, the Peloton alive with the buzz of fresh conversation, On through Tullow, Castledermot, and the first of a million Bananas and homemade energy bars soaked in a vat of butter, clogging coronary arteries, but man were they delicious…Kilcullen, Naas and a Garda escort, Sallins, Clane, Kilcock, Summerhill…..The groups found a rhythm..and all the time the sheparded along by Captains and Leaders, protected by escort cars, bike mechanics, civil defence, amvulance, Garda escorts, Motor bike Marshalls, family and friends, as a sea of blue swept down country roads and small towns….
All day long we churned gears, sucked gels, wolfed bananas , murdered jaffa cakes, talked and gossiped, made friends, hauled stragglers back to the main group, barked instructions, called hazards, waved at well wishers, jeered and slagged Racing 795 buddies….And all the time the captains and leaders worked pushing, pulling, holding back, tired legs, tired bodies back to the peloton…
Martin would have loved this, he would have loved the challenge of racing in group 1, and putting it up to the flying Dutchmen. Of the easy steady pace, and banter of group 2, and falling back, encouraging, pushing the new comers in group 3…Today. His presence was all round…
And throughout it all, we drank and laughed and slagged, men about sharing a tub of chaffing cream, Emma,s HooHaa cream, men’s Dooda cream, Cazerian section scars and hidden tattoo’s, Laughed at Captains being head hunted by other Team leaders, of Flying Dutchmen, of Pints of Stella with an extra kick, of sullen taxi drivers at three in the morning, Of riding the club bike, taking on a whole new meaning, ,of Barry’s honeymoon suite, of Don’s general untidiness, of Liam Kelly sleeping in a skip Of me putting Mayo in my porridge,, Of Gel farts that would wipe out a small town, Of snorers and sore arses, Of Ollie’s vintage bike and tires that a rat chewed, Of Fergal’s jocks, and our smelly socks, of Tyrone and Mayo and the silence in the club bar….But most of all we thought of Martin and his legacy, and this wonderful weekend, and the fulfilling of his Grand Plan..
How quickly the weekend passed, Day 2 , pushing North, through the stony grey soil of Monaghan who burgled the bank of my youth its rolling drumlins, proving a bridge to far for some. As we edged closer to Omagh the good will cheers from passing motorists, an adrenaline shot to tired legs. Group 1’s 795 members, swept back out the road with shouts of encouragement in search of group 3, to bring them home…..
And what a home coming it was, Slane had opened its doors to us but, Omagh had opened its heart…what a moment, what a feeling…..Siobhan and kids on their bikes and trikes, slowly turning down the sweeping driveway down into Kilyclogher Gaa Club, flanked by George, Paul, Cora, Martins Mother…the O’Neills and Mimnaghs family and friends…Martins’ Grand Dream finally realised.
For Maritns and Siobhans children, the significance of the occasion perhaps lost, But hopefully somewhere in the muddle of suppressed childhood memories , when older and they manage to piece together this mixed up emotional year, this moment this day, They will realise that their Daddy, was a wonderful,l wonderful man, That in his short life he made such an impact, and because of him and their wonderful mother, This day, this strange and emotional weekend where over 200 cyclists and crew came together to cycle 280klims from his adopted home County of Wexford to his home town to honour his memory and realise his dream..to honour his own wonderful father….
And for Frank and PJ, finally an emotional dam burst, a job well done you brought us here, safe and together, in one piece, to Martins home town, place of his childhood memories, And to Paul, George, Cora and his extended family..You finished what Martin started..His Crazy Dream, his Grand Plan..His Tour de Frank……A fitting tribute…Well done all….