Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wicklow 200

This is Allen Mc and Chris Cassidy at the end of the Wicklow 200 cycle.

We look far too fresh........

The last 8 weeks of training, the hill climbs, the sore arse, the cold wet miles were all for today.

The number starts with a 3 when the alarm goes off. Ahhh Jaysus, why didn't I go to bed earlier. On the road for 4.30am, didn't see another car for the first hour until I hit the N11. Enjoyable drive, I really like driving on the quiet country roads.

The carpark and grounds of UCD are festival like with all the brightly coloured gear and gleaming bikes. I bumped into Orla and Gilly at the check in. It took only a few minutes to check in and then back to the car to have a cup of coffee and sort the bike and clothes for the day.

Clothes, clothes, bloody Irish weather, what to wear? The forecast is for heavy showers but no rain so far although the roads are still wet from last nights rain. Base layer? (is it cold enough) rain jacket?(will it be that rainy) Shorts or tights? Overshoes? Decision made, short sleeved jersey under long sleeved jersey (no base layer) shorts, 2 pairs of socks and overshoes (what a mix). Load up the pockets with bars, gels and jelly babies and off to the start.

We headed off with a group at a comfortable pace, it was a real mixed bag of all sorts. Racers, a few mountain bikes and one or two rotund people (guessed the large ones were doing the 100) The group stayed together until Enniskerry, well, until the hill after Enniskerry. It was going to be a day of groups forming and breaking up and other groups forming. There is a sharp downhill to Powerscourt and we passed a car stopped on the opposite side of the road with its wing hanging off. I'm not sure yet but I think that the damage was caused by a collision with a cyclist.
A short, sharp, lung bursting, leg hurting hill followed, was this a sign of things to come?

We headed towards Glencree and turned up to the Sally Gap. This is a long, steady climb with no real lung bursting bits, The scenery was amazing and it gave me a real buzz to see the line of cyclists snaking along the road to the top of the Gap, I even risked a few looks behind me as I neared the top, to enjoy the sight of hundreds of brightly dressed bikers cutting a ribbon like line through the greenery of the mountains.

The descent, well now, the descent that was a totally different kettle of fish. As I've said before, I'm not too fond of fast downhills, especially on unfamiliar roads, so I was going to take it easy all the way down. There were nutters whizzing past at high speed, I really expected to find the odd rider upside down in the ditch. Then, surprise, surprise we caught up with 2 other guys, they were actually going slower then me and Al, we stopped for a quick pee break and then, yes, you've guessed it we caught the same two guys again, I can tell you this made me feel much better.

The route went through Manor Kilbride towards Lacken, now something odd happened along this stretch of road, I don't know if it was the weather, the power bars or something else but I strongly suspect that it was secret formula "jungle juice". Allen, who is normally content to sit at the back of a group, decided he was going to pick off every rider in sight. At one point he shot past a group of about 8 riders, I got delayed for a few seconds and had to jump out of the saddle and sprint at full gallop to catch him (I want some of that juice). As we went along we were picking up riders and we ended up at the front of about 20 riders. Allen drove the train for a good few miles and we dropped the others on the undulating roads through Ballyknockan, Hollywood and on to Donard. Somewhere along this stretch Allen's back popped, I'm not sure but it may have been when he did another Superman to avoid a van on a fast downhill.

At 55 miles Donard was the first food stop, we really fancied a cuppa and food. It was an absolute pain in the arse, there was a queue of 30/40 minutes to get 1 poxy sandwich. We won't make the same mistake next year. There was also a 10 minute queue for water. I was lucky enough to find out about another tap on the other side of the yard and that saved us the queue. We also bumped into a few of the Boards lads, TinyExplosions had to retire at Donard as he popped his knee.

Just a few miles outside Donard we spotted a guy taking a pee stop up a side road, Allen decided that this would be a good place for him to go too. I stopped at the junction to wait, a line of car came along the road and two or three of them turned up the side road. The first car had a few women in it. I nearly wet myself laughing when I looked up the road to see Allen with his pride and joy in one hand and his bike in the other caught in mid flow.He couldn't have picked a more public spot to pee even if he wanted to.

Lazy Bastards is the best way to describe the group that tucked in behind us on the way to Aughavannagh. Not one of the fuckers was prepared to do any work. At one point I sat up, turned completly around in the saddle and said "feel free to come through any time you like" only to be met with blank stares. What really annoyed me about these lazy bastards was that most of them were wearing club jerseys so the knew the score. Enough ranting (for now !!) The long hill before aughavannagh broke up the group.

Down the hill, across the bridge and here we go !!!!!!!!!
The start of the two biggest climbs of the day, I suppose that this is what the day is all about. I never had any doubt that I could cycle 200 kms on the flat, the doubts were about the mountains.
I glanced at the computer, 74 point something miles.
Low gear, steady away and just keep grinding. The incline is steep for the first half but eases off (slightly) towards the top. For the second half of the climb I have a clear view of the road ahead as it sweeps off to the left, the strung out line of cyclists highlights the ever raising ground, but it's not as bad as it looks. Eventually hit the top, there is a drink stop with power bar drinks, so stopped there for a few minutes.
The descent into Glenmalure was ok, it gets a bit technical near the end with a few tight bends.

The climb from Glenmalure to the top of the Shay Elliott starts very sharply, Allen had a gear problem near the start and had to stop, I had slowed down to near stalling point when Allen called that he was going down to get re-started, no, no don't do that, I was determined that we would complete this climb together and if he didn't get started right away I was going to have to stop too. Luckily he got started, clipped in and we headed on up the big one.
It took a while, its a hard slog but we got there and here's the picture to prove it.

At the start of the descent to Laragh I had forgotten to put my glasses back on, so Al went ahead while I tried to take the glasses off my helmet with one hand while trying to gently pull the brakes with the other and all the while trying not to shit myself as the bike got faster and faster. Allen hopped onto a wheel and disappeared at high speed (he's getting far too brave, I'll have to watch him). I didn't catch up until half way to Rathdrum.

I think that picture on the right of Chris Cassidy was taken on the downhill to Laragh.........>>>>>>>

The food stop at Rathdrum was a lot more civilised, no queue for the grub and warm enough to sit outside on the grass.

<<<<<< This is Allen with his eyes CLOSED !!!

The last 40 miles were tough, plenty of hill and a horrible head wind. Ahh, enough shitting out of me.

It was great to see Eddie and his missus at UCD

Had to stop for a quick snooze on the drive home..........

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