Monday, May 17, 2010

Mount Leinster Challenge

The Mount Leinster challenge last year was on a miserable, windy, rainy day and I cycled most of it solo.
It was such a pleasure to arrive to this years event in glorious sunshine.
The crowd was much larger than last year - somebody mentioned about 350 cyclists.
I signed in, grabbed a quick cup of coffee and joined the pack at the start line.

There is a neutralised start to the event, so the first 4 or 5 miles were at a nice steady pace. I had a relaxed chat with some of the guys along the way. I was wearing my gear and that encouraged fellow boardsies to introduce themselves.
I was surprised to notice the the group stayed together well after the neutralised start. I was delighted with this as I had plenty of shelter and although the pace was reasonably fast I was totally comfortable.

The peloton (group) - I'm watching too much European cycling - was particularly twitchy, with several bouts of sudden braking for no apparent reason.
The peloton took up the full width of the left side of the road and sometimes a bit of the other side too, so we were riding at least 3 abreast, often more. I was spinning along nicely on the inside - nearest the verge - when the guy in front of me crashed - I think he was trying to avoid a pothole - anyway, I watched him hit the road inches from my front wheel, at this point I had a vision of a mass pile up with me at the bottom of it, usually when a rider falls in such a tightly packed bunch there is a domino effect and several riders hit the deck. I'm not sure how I managed to avoid him without hitting the guy to my right or catching a wheel of a bike behind me but more by luck than design I squeezed past him. I met him later and both himself and the bike were ok.

The main group was still together when we arrived at Bagenalstown. We came to an unexpected stop on the way out of the town - guys scattered everywhere to take a pee, I've never seen so many lycra clad guys pissing with such abandon - traffic was parked on both sides of the road due to a funeral, we moved, stopped, moved stopped, eventually squeezing between the lines of parked cars and the line of cars heading in our direction up the hill. I nearly fell off the bike
with laughter when I reached the last car heading up the hill and saw that it was bonnet to bonnet with the first car in a long line of cars heading down the hill. Total gridlock, man.
The parked cars had a good number of UK registered cars and there were plenty of vans advertising paving and tarmac. I suspect all the pubs in Bagenalstown were closed for the day ;-)

I caught the main group before Fenagh and we all headed through Myshal, then the fun started.
We turned left for the first uphill section to the Corrubut gap, it's quite short and not particularly steep but some guys seemed to be struggling already, it was going to be a tough day for some.
A sharp right caused some problems because of loose gravel, rear wheels were spinning out, I thought I was going to have a spill there but just managed to stay upright. I heard that a few people came a cropper there. It wouldn't have taken a great effort for the organisers to have swept the corner.

The longer steep section to the Gap is a real lung buster, one guy I passed near the start must really love hill climbing, he decided to make the climb twice as long by zig zagging from one side of the road to the other.
I passed my mate Lar who was stopped half way up, taking off his jacket because he was too warm - too warm, yeah right !!!
After the descent from Mount Leinster I hooked up with Lar and Sean from Naas Cycling club and a couple of other lads and we stayed together into Kiltealy for the food stop.

The food was excellent, sandwiches, cakes, sausages and other goodies restored the blood sugar levels. At this point last year most rider decided because of the terrible weather to only do the short route, so I ended up doing the second loop over Mount Leinster on my own, not very pleasant in those conditions.
Lar suggested that I set off with the Naas lads, I must admit I was delighted with the company. We headed off in a small group of about 8 or 10 riders, we caught up with a few of the Slaney lads - more shelter - but seemed to lose them after a short while.

In Bunclody we turned left for the second climb to the Corrubut Gap, this time from the opposite side. From this direction the ascent is longer, with two steep climbs but not as tough as from the Myshall side. Riders started to drop off as soon as we started to ascend and I found myself with 2 of the Naas guys. I just sat in behind them, I didn't really have the legs to do any work with them, but in fairness they seemed pretty comfortable.
We turned at the Gap and headed for Mount Leinster (the nine stones) normally this a handy enough climb but my legs were starting to get tired, if the lads had accelerated even slightly I would have been dropped.

My longest spin this year was about 60 miles and that was at a snails pace, so after about 60-65 miles I was feeling drained. I was in a group of 8 or 9 heading back towards Kiltealy when I did something that I don't think I ever did before, I skipped my turn at the front. I was a bit disgusted with myself but reckoned I wouldn't be able to hold on to the group if I had taken my turn...sorry lads.

We lost some of the lads after Kiltealy and once again I found myself been dragged along by the two Naas guys. I have to say that if it wasn't for the lads the last miles would have been torture but as it was we picked up another rider on the way and the four of us finished together.

I was totally knackered at the finish, however, it was a good day, sunshine,nice food, good climbs and some very enjoyable company.
I'm looking forward to the next sportive.

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