I am sitting here three days after completing the Ireland ride and wondering where I should start. There are so many memories and stories not even including the physical data from the rides for those who are interested in where and how we went. The pictures I have nserted are courtesy of the riders on the trip so thank you very much for sharing!
Day 1 - Manchester to Mizen Head to Bantry
The adventure began on Saturday the 9th June with an early flight from Manchester to Cork then a taxi ride to our first hotel in Bantry. Mark and I met early and got to the airport where we were charged an extortionate amount for a bacon sandwich each. The Ireland fans where already drinking at 07:00 ready for their trip to Poland. We went to the gate and where picked out of the pell-mell of people by Chris and Kevin, mostly due to the fact I was carrying my helmet and shoes in a carrier bag as I had forgotten to pack them! Julie arrived later looking a little tired as she has been at a festival all weekend and had only got back at 01:30 in the morning. We boarded our plane, which had propellers and reminded me of the plane from the Ducktails cartoon (showing my age again) and set off. Arriving at Cork in double quick time we got into our minibus and where on the way. From the off we could all see how undulating the Emerald Isle was going to be and this was setting the alarm bells off in my head... I hate climbing lol.
We arrived at The West Lodge hotel in Bantry and where first there. We got checked into our room, which was excellent and then went to sit down in the reception. Everyone arrived on the coach and there where around 60 odd people clamouring for room keys and luggage. All of this with a small 27mile cycle later on in the afternoon. Mark and I donned the lycra for the first time in the holiday and went down to reception to go and find our bikes. The bikes where being taken to Mizen Head, the most southerly point in Ireland, where we would meet them and ride back to the hotel. The coach drive to Mizen Head was horrendous 55minutes of small back country roads which undulated more than the Loch Ness Monsters back. I felt sick as a dog when we finally arrived but was happy to see the bike again and finally start the cycle ride. You can see the route and particulars on the Garmin data here http://connect.garmin.com/activity/188033632 I was going along nicely and getting acclimatised to the hills and narrow roads when I punctured with about 5 miles to go. Unfortunately I had given Mark my tube as I had presumed we would be riding together but had got separated at the start of the route. A gent called Richie stopped and repaired the puncture for me and this set the tone for the rest of the ride with everyone helping others and looking after their groups in great fashion. I rode in with Richie and finished after about an hour and a half. Not as fast as I would of liked but completed none the less. The scenery was spectacular on the way round as was the weather. I was regretting Manchester Airport securities decision to confiscate my sun cream, in case I made a bomb from it or perhaps squirted it in the pilots face so he couldn’t fly the plane who knows. I was a little burnt and it was only the first day. The ride really blew the cobwebs out and was a great start to the event. The evening meal was an indication of the way things would go for the whole trip, a three course meal which was very nice indeed and satisfied a lot of hungry riders. An early night followed again an indication of things to come for me. I do not do well on less than eight hours sleep and wanted the best start to the next day’s ride.
|Big Red Bike Ride Jerseys.|
|Outside the hotel in Bantry|
Day 2 - Bantry to Ballybunnion
Morning arrived and after the chicken alarm had been successfully dealt with by Mark and some lycra donned we left our room for breakfast. An early start at 06:00 for breakfast at 07:00. The breakfast consisted of cereals and toast with a range of juices etc or so I thought. Later after I had left I found out there had been a serving of a full English breakfast. To eager to get sorted and sort my bike out. I am kind of glad I missed it though as the full English became a habit in the mornings and by Saturday I was just eating them for the sake of it and not the enjoyment. We congregated outside and where introduced to our race marshal Brendon. Brendon went through the route and then said we would be best to split into groups. There were four groups altogether and opted to go into group two. I don’t think I could or would have wanted to maintain a high pace all week and wanted to be able to take in some of the ride. Group 2 where designated to average 15-16mph and would be under the watchful eye of a lovely Irish guy named Tony who was in his early fifties. Tony picked a couple of the more experienced riders to lead the group out each day, Keith and Chris and we were told if the lead pair exceeded 16mph we would receive some abuse from his cycle pump...I think he was joking but then again no one dared to exceed the 16mph limit to test his patience. Brandon’s favourite saying across the week was “lads its fairly flat today” I firmly believe that the Irish definition of flat is some way apart from what I would call flat. I certainly wouldn’t call a total of nearly 5000feet climbed on Day 2 flat. In fact I am sure the mountain we climbed wouldn’t call itself flat either. Again the views where amazing over Killarney National Park as was the weather again. You can have a look at the technical data here http://connect.garmin.com/activity/188033607 The descent on the other side of the mountain was great also and we went down single file to keep it safe. Later on we found out that one of the lads had fallen and used his face to halt his fall. The victim was Bernard who became good friends with Mark and me over the week and we had some good laughs with old Two-Face. He was lucky no broken bones even though he crashed at 37mph. Cuts to the face arms and legs but nothing serious. We rolled on through with a group of around 20 riders. There were some crazy Irish drivers overtaking on blind bends and hills but again that seemed to be a reoccurring theme throughout the trip. After the 2nd rest stop the group splintered up and I spent some time riding on my own. This was the first time I met Scottish James. Although we silently rode along for a good 5 – 10 miles it was the basis for a hello back at the hotel later on that night and the start of a good friendship. The last 10km where hard as so much energy had been put into the climbs earlier in the day and the undulating terrain had sapped the reserves significantly. We managed to team up with Chris and Keith and rode into Ballybunnion. The town itself reminded me of an English seaside resort lots of chintzy shops and amusements with a shed load of bars. The hotel was really nice as was the food again. We were ‘treated’ on arrival to the hotel with a live act on the steps of the hotel...I would like to say Celine Dion esq but it was not that close.
|Top of one of the first climbs. Tunnel led through to the other side at the top. Why they couldnt make the tunnel further down the mountain I don't know!!|
Watch this space for the next two days! Hope you enjoy this!