What a difference a year makes…. I read last years report I wrote on this event (Jan 2011 in the site archives), it made bleak reading for me, but not this year!
4 of us from SERC made the trip down to New Ross, Ronan met at my place, Paul and Gerry went together. Loading up the bikes in the pouring rain and the black dark…I was having one of the moments in cycling when ya ask yourself ‘what am I doing!!???’… the rain is in for the day and its cold, and your going to ride in it for the rest of the day!. I dropped a few subtle hints to Ronan about not going… he wasn’t picking up on any them.. so I just asked him.. ‘Look do ya want to go. cause I don’t!’.. he wanted to go, so I felt bad and jumped into the car and off We went. As we drove down we spoke about everything and nothing, but inside my belly was in knots. Last year I rode this and I took a hammering, one of the hardest days I ever did on a bike! Ok this year I had a good winter under me, and I was down 2 stone in weight, so i had to have improved. But me been me… if I didnt’ do better this year I would beat myself up over it and probably not touch the bike again for months.
We were one of the first to arrive again this year. We spoke to some of the lads from Barrow, signed on, suited up and headed on. The 4 of us decided to head on 30 mins before the main bunch. I like cycling in the rain, I just hate heading out in it, once I am out I dont mind. It was actually warmer than I thought, just as well, as both my hands and feet were now soaked through. We made good time to Waterford city, on the way we couldn’t figure out if we had a head wind or not… We were tipping 30kpm for most of the road to Waterford. The pace was good and I was comfortable. Up out of Waterford and onto the road too Mullinivat. 30km done , 70km to go…. I was feeling really strong, the 4 of us shared the work nicely and had good craic riding along. I recalled this time last year coming into Ballyhale, the road kicks up a little bit… I was out the back, this year I was at the front setting the pace… then the road dipped into Ballyhale and we put on the pace, singled out on the road with the hammer down, clocking 40kpm going through the village. On the off chance we thought their might be a large crowd out to cheer us on, there wasn’t, but we looked cool all the same. The parish priest however was standing at the church door waving at us, I was going to ask him to go back inside and have a word with the big man above and sort out this relentless rain!.. but I was too busy looking cool.
Knocktopher was next, we were flying, no time for a coffee stop this year, and we ploughed on. 40km to go and I was still nervous that I would ‘pop’, but growing in confidence now as the little drags that i was now racing up, I recall last year were giving me nothing only hardship. The small back road to Bennettsbridge was waterlogged to say the least. In patches the road was completely submerged in water, only thing to do was go straight through the middle and hope there isn’t a pot hole!, luckily we all passed through this safely. Bennettsbridge was soon in view and it was this time last year we were caught by the main pack. So with 30 mins less of a head start and no sign of the Main bunch, we had improved on last year for sure, another boost to the confidence.
I recall the road out of B’bridge is long open and draggy… I also recalled I was in real trouble here last year. But again with renewed confidence I took the front with Paul and set the pace, we topped out and started our descent down to Thomastown. 20km left. As we entered Thomastown, the first of the motorbike stewarts passed us and secured the roundabouts for the approaching main bunch. We new our time was up soon…. We snaked through the narrow streets and found the road for Inistioge. At this stage I was starting to tire, so took Ronans wheel and let the lads drag me too Inistioge. With one or two small drags I was loosing the wheel,I’d get back on.. loose it , fight some more , get it again and loose it again.. so I thought I’d slow up as I remembered I still had to climb up out of Inistioge, so I better leave something in the tank. I plodded along , and was passed by Nick Stynes in his car to tell me the bunch is 2 mins behind. Into the village itself and I could see the bunch behind me, onto the climb I got myself into a nice gear and started to settle on a pace that suited me. The bunch powered by me at the bottom of the climb. Ex-olympian, Ciaran Power was there, he pulled up and asked me too jump on his wheel and will drag me up to the lads, I wasnt able, I told him to head on, but to make sure he has a bowl of soup for me at the finish!. I stopped for a min, put in my i pod, had some U2 for company, fixed my eyes on the road infront of me, concentrated on my breathing… and before I knew it was at the top!. I couldn’t believe it, jesus I thought to myself, last year it took me days to climb this and I suffered a 1000 deaths doing it, this year, ya I was tired, but was up it in no time. 10km left..8 km of it down hill…. happy out, the Barrow wheelers van pulled up along side with Mick Doyle giving me a refreshing drink and some words of encouragement. I was nearly home. Just the last 1 km with the hard climb up to the finish. I suffered there I tell ya, but its an improvement on last year to only suffer in the last 1km, where as last year I suffered in the last 60km!..Finished…A full hour quicker than last year too, bloody thrilled.
The whole event was well run, marshaled and worth the effort to go too.. plenty of food for everyone. The route is good, nice and safe. Will def be back next year. It was down on numbers however, I reckon alot of lads looked out their bedroom window that morning and thought…’Nah!!!!!!’ I would have been one of them if it wasn’t for Ronan!
Next year, I am starting and finishing in the main pack.. thats my target, See ya next year lads!