Tour de Suir 160k, Sunday August 3rd, 2014
When I was very young , my grandmother told me the story about the stationmaster in Cahir, County Tipperary. Unfortunately he had a speech impediment and the town of Cahir became “Here”. As the train would approach, he was heard to call out: “Here ye are for where ye’re goin. All within for Here come out”
This childhood memory came back to me as I sat outside The Galtee Inn, in Cahir during the week, but it suddenly dawned on my that there isn’t a train station in Cahir. Maybe there’s part-truth there somewhere, though. It returned to my thoughts once again as we departed Clonmel Park Hotel at 8am for the 160k Tour de Suir 2014. Here we are, for where we’ re going…
I had been very fortunate to get breakfast! No milk in the fridge earlier, and coffee and bread is not exactly bike-fodder. No milk either for my usual scrambled eggs on sportive mornings. Nothing for it but to bring my bowl, spoon and muesli with me, and I thanked heaven when I found a shop open early in Clonmel. Chatting and munching prior to the start, I knew that my day was saved.
Stage 1 to Aherlow: While the general feeling was that the low turnout was a bit disappointing, we did not let it affect us as the 45 headed out towards Cahir at a very lively pace. The stiff westerly breeze made it all the more important to stay within the protection of the peloton. Time to Cahir was 27 mins @ 18.6pmh
The lead car pulled aside after Cahir and we were left to our own devices. I think the wise heads at the front made the correct decision to not be tempted into race mode, because of the long journey ahead. They were surely tiring from being in the wind and soon the group got a good up-and-over rhythm going well, bringing us speedily to Tipperary and on towards the first big Tour de Suir challenge. Average pace to Aherlow was 19.6pmh. That’s fast for me!
I was in the top four at the foot of the climb. Some veterans had given me a quick summary of the profile. It rises 475 feet in 1.4 miles @ 7%. This is deceptive, as there is a short almost-flat section before half-way. Up to 15% early on and a hurting 18& near the top. Time: 9m 10s. At the front I kept a strong tempo over the first steep kilometre and eased back into a flatter section. However, the last kilometre near the top put me in the red, and I had no choice but to back off. Once I recovered and got over, I enjoyed the downhill and waited for my group at the bottom.
Descending is a bike skill in itself, a skill I am beginning to master only recently. It involves three components (that I can think of): positioning on the bike, bike handling and confidence; and it is generally accepted that confidence is the key. On this descent, the road surface is not great, but I was glad that it was dry. The group ahead were out of sight and I was alone. This meant that I was more easily able to pick my line through the bends and be safer.
Onwards then on very undulating and unforgiving roads to a very welcome banana-stop in Galbally, where we assembled a larger possee to see us through to the next phase of the battle. Distance covered 33 miles. Exactly one third of the way.
Stage 2 to Ballyporeen. A group of 10, mostly Dungarvan-based, brought a good steady pace to the proceedings: Vincent Feeney, Frank Browne, Dave Byrne, Louie Dowley, Francis Walsh and mé féin, together with other strong and equally sensible group members. Before you could say “Are we there yet?” there we were, in Ballyporeen for more bananas! We timed it well too, as we enjoyed watching a heavy shower outside with warm coffee inside! Distance covered 51 miles. Still a long way to go!
(These athletes are slightly blurred after 100k on the bikes) Raining outside? Ah good….sure, the grass needs a bit of rain!
My mother grew up a few short mikes from here in a place called Kilcaroon, on mountain farmland. It is a place in the Premier County that brings back fond memories of boyhood summers. But, as the “Airplane” script goes…that’s not important now.
Stage 3: The final 49 miles was the Big Challenge, bringing us over the Vee, and on to Lismore and Cappoquin at a fierce rate of tailwind knots. The long drag up Millstreet to the Clonmel road was tough, and it was here that we began to look around to make sure that our buddies were ok. In reality, it’s not a drag. It’s a long hill. But because its only a little hill in comparison to the three big ones, it can be overlooked. Dangerous mistake! All hills are hard, and we hit this one after 130k. Safely up, we pushed on to Ballymacarbery and stopped to breathe deeply, eat, drink and sympathise with one another in advance. We knew what was ahead! Powers the Pot rises more than 900 feet over 3.5 miles @ 5%, but it has the advantage that it’s a constant incline, rather than varied steepness as was the case with Aherlow. However, after nearly 90 miles of cranking it along it must be given lots of respect. “Multo respecto”, the Romans would say about this. Twenty-two minutes later I crested the top, unable to shake off Francis, despite trying hard! When w all regrouped at a junction on the descent, it was with a huge sigh of relief. Finally, the windy descent (as in twisted, not with wind) on good surface to Clonmel was thrilling, and we arrived safely and without mechanical mishaps to the finish line, to be presented with our unexpected medals.
Pace 17.7 mph in old money
Verdict: A joy to be in a good working group all day!
Man of the Match: Louie Dowley, off the bike for nearly three weeks. When he needed to find an extra gear, he got it from somewhere deep! Chapeau, old chap!
Vinny & Dave…big engines need food and coffee!
Breakfast. A car-bootful of muesli
The three-day Suir Valley race, finished on the very same Power’s the Pot the following day and was won impressively by Mark Dowling. Well done, young man! Here’s a StickyBottle. report. As we crested the summit on our version of the race, there were no supporters to cheer us on. Just ourselves and some lonely sheep!
Mark Dowling. Winner, all right! (Photo: Dave Coleman DC Images)
Interestingly, in order to add a touch of race reality to the event, we were chip-timed, and I received this text shortly afterwards. I was tempted to reply indicating that it did not take account of our time eating bananas and drinking coffee, but it was a no-reply number. All is well!
Chip-time for bananas & coffee was 44:46. Must improve…
Finally, to round off one of my rather long event reports, I mentioned the story to Vinny Feeney about the day myself and Philip Cleary met a bull standing in the middle of the road just before Ballyporeen. Back about ten years ago, I’d say. We had been cycling from Limerick, and were suddenly stopped in our tracks. The bull looked dazed, and we ventured carefully past, hugging the ditch, walking inside the bikes for protection! Vinny laughed back, because I had forgotten one important part of the story…Vinny had been there with us that day too! Just goes to show… I would have remembered it if I’d been blogging back then.
Event reaction on the twitter-thingy:
Have you any stories of being attacked while cycling? Now’s your chance to share…
Have you an interesting story from childhood? Again, I’d encourage you to write it down! share for my readers, please.