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Irish Tour 2017

First four days - more to follow

Irish Tour - Starting Saturday 13th May

DAY ONE.This year we were able to tie-in Simon's Newport Velodrome trip with the Irish cycling holiday – a welcome break on the 300 mile route to Pembroke Dock. Liz and Gill had showed no interest in “riding the boards” and Raymond, who has ridden on the track before, preferred this time to watch and help out where necessary with new riders as some were having problems getting clipped in to the fixed wheel track bikes. So, eight of us joined Simon, Phil 4, Julian, Jim M and Matt along with the three “Mylor Boys”, Andy, Mike and Jeremy making a total of 16 riders.

We were split into two groups, those that had been before and those for whom it was the first time.

We each rode three 20 minute intervals. Here are John's thoughts on the experience;

The first Irish day began in Wales; like it does!

A small diversion from the M4 into Newport, (welsh valleys boyo; not service station pagnall)

There in glorious steel concrete and wood lies the cycle nirvana; a big play track laid out like a flattened wall of death.

Undaunted by the DNA of the venue, a mixed team of FW took to the track, driven on by strong ambitions, weak anticipation, and curiosity .

The arena was short on witness's to this big occasion ; a small group of camp followers turned up to watch, knit and chat after shopping in the hot bed of Newport, (more French guillotine than tourist Wales)

Meanwhile the victims were being corralled by a welsh dragon and chased round the track!

The torture was broken into 20 minutes sessions with folk cowherd in the ring whilst the elite "we have been here before" team chased tails round the track.

Then there was that Stockholm syndrome moment, the herd actually liked the torture and torturer!

Yes, its a revolving revolution for wheelers...great fun, novel, training, and torture all wrapped up in the loop!

After getting changed we assembled for a group photo before heading West for a meal at a Weatherspoons near Swansea. Nearby was an amusingly named Chinese takeaway. Still laughing!

Once in Pembroke we fuelled the three cars and then gathered at the “Welshmans Arms” until they closed just after midnight. There was nothing for it but to make our way to the ferry and snooze until we were allowed on board at around 2 am where, once in our cabins, most of us got a good nights sleep.

DAY TWO. We docked in Rosslare just before 7 am and were soon on Irish soil. Though a fine day we'd abandoned the idea of going to the Ballyhoura Mountains for mountain biking, and instead drove to Lawlers Hotel in Dungarven where, as in previous years, we had a delicious “Full Irish” breakfast. Later, keeping to a leisurely schedule, we stopped in Mallow for cake and coffee, arriving at the Kenmare Bay Hotel around 2:00 pm. On arrival we were told we could only use one of the 3 “holiday homes” as the other two weren't quite ready but, just 20 minutes later, they announced the change overs were complete and we were all accommodated. This is our sixth holiday at this hotel and we were very much aware of the extra effort they took to have things ready for us.

In no time we had the cars unpacked and the trailer emptied of bikes and as in previous years several of us were soon off to Killmackologue Quay and “Teddy O'Sullivans” bar. It's a great route along the Kenmare River, a fast rolling main road section followed by a quiet lane around the shore to the Quay. It's just over 17 miles and really very thirsty work!

After a couple of pints we headed back, this time by the main road over the Knockreagh Pass. Ben was keen to get King of the Mountain points, which he did, so I waited for the others not too far behind, arriving at the bottom with Raymond who was bringing up the rear. We headed off slowly allowing time for the train to form for the long drag home. After a mile or so I looked back and there was no one there - so I pressed on. After another mile I sensed someone behind and, thinking it was my wheel sucker mate, I added a bit of pace. But it wasn't Ian who'd caught me but Raymond and after a short rest he was ready for some big efforts so, between us, we got to Kenmare and Foley's Bar in double quick time - and had our pints sitting on the bar before Ian, Ben and the others finally arrived.

Hungry, we finished our pints and rode back for pasta pie, ready prepared from Cornwall. Perfick!

DAY THREE. Some say it rains continually in the West of Ireland - and Manchester - and North Wales! Yes, they do have rain but in Kerry, in May, it usually stops and the day brightens. Not this Monday, our first full days cycling. The club has a saying, “ We never regret going”. So we went!

Liz has memories of that day.

Certainly it was too wet to continue any further and so it was plan B! Warmed by the steady ascent back up to Molls Gap and exhilarated by the long descent back into Kenmare it wasn't long before we were luxuriating in tropical temperatures in the sauna and relaxing in the pool. And we even had time to nip to the pub for a pint before dinner. That night Emma and Dene cooked us a very tasty fish stew and garlic bread. After dinner we looked at the weather and agreed that the following day,Tuesday, might very well be our best day. A day to ride the Beara Peninsula!

DAY FOUR. The Beara Peninsula never disappoints. Some, a little tired of the previous days travails elected to take a ride with Gill in the car to Lauragh and the start of the Healey Pass. The rest of us rode there via the main road and the Knockreagh Pass.

From Lauragh the climb is quite gentle, with beautiful views to Glanmore lake below and Killmackalogue Quay in the distance. It does ramp up a little before the summit and Dene and I arrived together distanced somewhat by Ben chasing his KOM points and who didn't wait at the top but got stuck straight into the endless switchbacks of the descent.

After a rest and one or two photos John, Liz, Dene and Emma went off after Ben with an instruction to carry on to Castletownbere where we would stop for lunch. I returned down the climb to meet up with Ian, Raymond, Chris and Nick. Nick was finding his form after much time off the bike and was relieved to finally crest the top and see the switchbacks below. What fun we had descending!

There is a post office and general store in Adrigole at the base of the climb were we always stop for coffee and ice cream, so, not breaking with tradition, we sat in the sun waxing lyrical about the stunning scenery and the fortunate change in the weather. The weather and scenery helped make the cycling bearable as we then rode along the very busy Castletownbere road - arriving to join the others at our chosen lunch stop, “The Lobster Bar”, around one o'clock. Here the crab sandwiches are a must – and so is the Guinness.

We'd had an early start and it was going to be a long day so we didn't stop for a second pint but continued on around the Beara Peninsula towards Allihies, along the now much more interesting and very much quieter roads.

This is my favourite part of the West of Ireland, with its staggeringly beautiful scenery. It has rich deposits of copper and the area has a long association with Cornwall, with Cornish men and their wealth of mining knowledge, building the familiar looking engine houses - one visible in the photograph below perched on the mountainside behind Allihies.

It's a roller coaster ride around the peninsula and some of the climbs are very steep but nothing too long and the sheer beauty of the landscape helps ease the pain! After the customary photo at the summit of the last long climb we rode on to Eyeries and from there everyone carried on at their own pace, the ride getting a little split up. Nick had a puncture and Chris and Ian helped out whilst Raymond escorted Liz. At Lauragh we got a message to say Dene and Emma were nearly back and that John and Ben were drawn once more to “Teddy O'Sullivans”. It would have been rude not to make the detour and join them! We rode the coast road home, a perfect end to our 70+ mile ride.


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