It’s been a cold, wet, windy week in Dungarvan and therefore perfect to do my long-promised review of cycling in Mallorca last October (2016).
Marion and I flew to Palma on October 12th, and the one hour bus journey from the airport to Port de Pollenca at the northern end of the island was the beginning of some firm friendships.
Once we had settled in to the hotel, our next task was to collect our bikes and within ten minutes we were ready for road. As it was 4pm, we decided to simply cycle around town to be sure the bikes were right. We stopped for coffee and an opportunity to watch the world go by, seated outside in sunshine and shorts. Indeed, the little town seemed to operate at a slow pace too. Siesta was just over, and the locals were coming back to life.
Later, we attended a briefing for the 25 new arrivals, at which all was explained and queries were answered.
The evening meal was buffet service, and there certainly was no reason whatsoever for anyone to go hungry!
Day 1: As with dinner last night, breakfast was buffet service. Cyclists need to be fuelled up for the journey. Marion and I decided to cycle together with the easy group. This turned out to be a very social group, and we pedalled along through beautiful flat landscape while chatting with so many interesting people. The group stopped for coffee and cake in Muro, before returning to base for a mid-afternoon swim.
Day 2: to Santa Maria and back with a faster group @29kph approx. A great spin, fairly nippy. I dropped my bottle early on and was relieved that nobody came down trying to avoid it. Later, we stopped at a bike shop in Binnisalem. Guess what I bought?
Day 3: Binnisalem again, this time with Marion’s group. After 30k I had a gear cable malfunction and was unable to use the big ring. No matter, because the route was so flat, and the cycling was easy. We intended doing Selva Gorge after coffee, but the leaders decided against it because of the weather. They were right, as light rain turned very nasty on the return home.
Day 4: Marion took a day off, while I went with Tony, Sean and Siobhan on a short spin to the lighthouse at Formentor, stopping at a beautiful beach on the way to get a glimpse of Catherine Zeta-Jones’s house. Unknown to the others, it wasn’t the house I was really looking for. Later, at the lighthouse, the goat was incorrigible! Advice for visitors: the café at the lighthouse is really expensive.
This spin was very short and we were back before midday, so Marion and I went off-bike visit to the old town of Pollenca for the afternoon.
Day 5: full day in Alcudia, just doing the tourist stuff.
Day 6: The long-awaited highlight of the week was the Sa Collabra route, a 100k round trip including the famous descent to the little port followed by the 8k climb back up. It was very manageable, and nowhere was there any section as steep as some of our Waterford climbs.
Day 7: Return journey to Ireland. We were so glad that we did not have any late drinks with our friends last night. That really would not have been a good way to finish our first cycling holiday together.
Happy cycling, and stay safe out there,
About: – Páraig is the author of BurkesBiking. He has several international cycling events behind him, but Mallorca is extra special because it’s the first time his wife Marion has joined him. Very likely there will be repeats.
We all have families to return to. We have things to do and places to be the following morning. We live in fragile bodies, and things can change utterly in an instant.
I met with captain Murphy in Droheda. I had been promising this man that we would cycle together again. This promise has been on the back burner since our Endurance Challenge back in August 2014. So, when I got an reminder from Skoda about the Boyne Valley Classic I saw it as our opportunity to reunite.
Registration and pasta on Saturday.
Plans were made, online entries sorted, and I headed to the Wee County with my friends Anne, Mike and Declan to meet up with Tony and another of our 2014 colleagues, Eugene.
Unfortunately, the day turned wet, and later on it turned miserably wet. We took the decision to abandon the 150k route in favour of the 100k, and after the rainsoaked sportive we returned to Skoda Motors in Droheda worse than drowned rats.
That said, we did enjoy the route and the good spin together. No complaints there. We did complain amongst ourselves about the setup at the foodstop, where 5 (willing) volunteers attempted to serve nearly 500 from a single hatch. It was slow, painful and uncoordinated. The miracle at Collon it definitely was not! Jesus worked his first miracle at Cana, and they could have done with a bit of his help today. But, in fairness, this is the first year of this Boyne Valley Classic, and it’s very likely that this issue will be fixed for 2017. We were somewhat lucky because we completed the first half at a brisk 30kph average and arrived in Collon towards the top of the queue. As we left twenty minutes later, we were saddened to see many cyclists standing in a line stretching out into the rain.
I’m always one to seek out the bright side. Here are some positive memories:
We met with Stephen Roche inside and he was most generous with his time for chat and photographs, even while his coffee sat alone at his table
We got into a very well-organised front from Newcastle, County Down. Shimna Wheelers, take a bow!
We cycled, chatted, joked and at one point we even threatened to sing
We were very well minded by great stewards all along the route
The Gardai on traffic duty were the most enthusiastic I have EVER seen. (I think they deserve extra socks, seriously like)
We loved our Skoda medal-come-bottle-opener, socks and bike multitool
We loved Cagney’s pub across the road, and the very unusual ladies’ dress fashions
Did I mention the Skoda socks? Much sought after, they are. Most cyclists were looking for a second pair
How can I move from the specific to the general? What something might be worth writing about in general cycling terms? In this case, it’s a no-brainer. Safety in a big bunch is top of my feed after today.
There was one very nasty looking accident just ahead of us at 35 kilometres. I counted four on the deck or picking themselves up gingerly. Luckily for us, it happened within a group about thirty metres ahead of us. There was a gap, and the frantic shouts from the head of our group gave us time to come to a safe stop. It could have been very different, because our large group were clipping along at a fast pace and passing many groups. We would have been ready to pass the group ahead within a twenty to thirty seconds, and likely the number of fallers would have been higher.
Here’s my take on things:
Road was wet and wind was tricky
Most riders in these groups did not know one another
Most riders did not know riding styles or more particularly weaknesses of others
Many riders did not know the route
Based on the above, caution was to be advised. Certainly, no one was reckless and potholes were called. Riders were respectful and they understood usual group etiquette. But it’s very different from riding a local Sunday spin with one’s local club.
Upon coming to a halt behind the unfortunate accident, it was apparent that no one was seriously hurt. A few bruised bodies and bikes; so we proceeded towards the fateful foodstop at Collon, just a bit quieter within ourselves.
We all have families to return to. We have things to do and places to be the following morning. We live in fragile bodies, and things can change utterly in an instant.
With that, I think I should return to my focus on the bright side. We enjoyed the event, despite the major organisational flaws. The rain stopped shortly after we finished. Our friend Anne was singled out for a Skoda event interview, because she had completed all three during the year. Immediately, we journeyed speedily from Droheda towards Dungarvan, and strong sunshine broke through at Leamybrien.
Footnote: I have been asked why do I write of such events? Primarily, it’s for myself, to remember the details of the day. I suppose also, I like to think that somewhere within these reminiscences, someone else may be encouraged to participate in events such as these.
And that’s the beauty of cycling. You get to see all these lovely lovely lovely places. I have enjoyed it immensely.
What will you set your mind to achieve? Whatever it is, do what you must to get it done, and do not be deterred by misfortunate days. They are the testers.
Mahon Falls was called out-of-bounds because of adverse weather conditions. The elder lemons amongst us rejoiced whereas the newbies felt cheated.
There is no better way to start this post than by grabbing the report from the group PRO:
“There was a sense of nervous excitement amongst G3 on Sunday last. For some it was another chapter in the Sean Kelly role of honour, for others a totally new experience. Jitters out of the way it was a peppy 30kmh spin to Carrick aided by a tailwind. Then to the first major climb of the day as Tickonor lay in wait, but it was nothing to be feared and was ably dealt with. In heavy misty rain it was on to Powers the Pot and a difficult climb due to visability. 100k in the legs and a welcome stop in Rathgormack where we heard the devastating news that Mahon Falls was closed due to adverse weather. The elder lemons amongst us rejoiced whereas the newbies felt cheated. However it is hard to keep G3 down and they made the best of the situation. Up the Mahon Bridge and safely across the Mauma, it was a jubilant group who sailed home safely. A special mention must go to group captain Anthony who coordinated the training plan that ensured we all completed the course comfortably on Sunday. From all of us thank you and roll on the class of 2017!”
They Say it’s All About The Bike. No, It’s Not
On an event such as this, it’s all about the group. One for all and all for one. In running circles it parallels the Dublin Marathon, demanding stamina and perseverance. The group dynamic is critical in getting everyone to the finish line. There were times last Sunday where the elder lemons did their duty in minding and nursing first-timers. In turn, these newbies displayed true grit and acceptance of this one-for-all ethos so critical on this epic event. Our Group 3 had a mixed bag. There were young and not so young, experienced been-there-wore-the-tshirt bikers together with some who have come to this life-changing sport within the past twelve months. Everyone had trained consistently in the run-up and everybody subscribed fully to the group structure.
The First Time Is The Sweetest
Huge congratulations are in order to DCC members Carol, Benny, Tomás, PJ, Ray and Brendan as part of our Group 3, and to Paul, Ed, Chris, Johnny, Áine and Judit who completed the event with style in other groups. Ian also gets an honourable mention, as he was unable to finish because of a mechanical… cycling can be a bitch! You are all now enrolled in the SKT 160 band of warriors along with the dozens, if not hundreds, of cyclists who conquered the Comeragh Challenge for the first time. I know that the first is the sweetest, and it’s very likely that you will be responsible from here on for encouraging others to follow you. You may even have to cajole and tell a few white lies to impart a firm self-belief in your chosen would-be comrade! You will be the ones who will assist in looking and minding future first-timers.
I completed my first Sean Kelly 160 in 2007. Unfortunately, it was back in my pre-blogging past and the details are lost, but what stood out for me was the support and you can-do-it attitude I received from others who rode with me back then.
This is now our wish for you: go on to better things if you choose. Give the gift to others. Be sure to mention that it’s not all about the bike.
With this in mind, I contacted some of our 160k first-timers, and asked for their feedback. I leave it to the reader to take in the following, in the sure hope that these quotes will encourage others to take on major challenges in years to come:
My memory is the butterflies in my stomach coming in the road. It was almost an energy or anticipation like before playing a county final or starting a new school, can’t describe it. On the spin round it was unbelievable: the camaraderie between the group, the more experienced cyclists seemed to have a sixth sense as to when we were struggling and there were words of both encouragement but also techniques provided at just the right time. What I also noticed was that that it wasn’t always from the same person passing on the advice but actually came from a combination of every cyclist in the group at varying times. The feeling as we worked as a team was unbelievable. Coming down from Colligan was unbelievable, and coming in from the “Nissan Garage” as the streets got busier and hearing the sound of the announcer giving a big shout out to the DCC contingent was surreal. Only then did the achievement hit home. SKT 50K in 2014, 100K in 2015 and 160K in 2016. Progression due to DCC.
My goal for the last 12 months was finally going to be realized. Prior to the event I was racked with self doubt. Despite having trained hard and consistently over the summer I could not imagine putting it all together on the day. But there was no need to worry. As soon as I clipped in the nerves disappeared, the miles flew by and the support and genuine bond from my cycling family contributed to one of the best days of the year so far. A remarkable experience that I will never forget.
Don’t you just love “one of the best days of the year SO FAR”? I think there are further challenges ahead!
I am very happy to have achieved something that not too long ago was way beyond my wildest dreams. It is something I would never achieved without the encouragement and support of my comrades-in-arms and friends in Group 3. On the day everyone looked out for one another and it was some thrill to arrive back into town as a group.
My legs were good last Sunday. I was properly prepared, rested and fresh. I can safely record this as the most satisfying of my six Sean Kelly 160 tours. A recent regret of mine is that I’ve not done the Dublin Marathon, but I’ve realised that I have completed its cycling equivalent. As marathon runners tell me, apart from the elation of a first finish, the feeling of a best marathon also lasts a lifetime.
What Did We Learn Today?
Here’s my take on items of note. Perhaps we were aware of some of these, but nonetheless they are worthy of a mention.
Group cycling is the bees knees
Ticincor is not to be feared
It would have been good to have a spoke fix-it-me-bob
Weather is irrelevant
Uphills are part of life
You can complete this even with a wobbly wheel
We can do Mahon Falls whenever we want (but not on Monday)
A light on the bike is sometimes useful, even in summer
A story shortens the road
An after-burger shortens the road
Insert your own comment here
Happy 10th Birthday Sean Kelly Tour
I was surprised and delighted to receive an invitation in the post last week to a very pleasant function on the evening before the spin. I had been on the Sean Kelly Tour committee for the first two years, and my contribution was acknowledged, along with several others. My very special thanks to all involved, and especially to Rosarie, Karen and Johnny in Waterford Sports Partnership, to Sinead who is currently heading up the organisation of this massive event, and of course to Sean himself. The little sip of champagne worked its magic for me, as I had good legs all day.
Thanks And Appreciations
Finally, I want to place on record my grateful thanks to the many many individuals who gave their time to assist with marshalling and catering. This event is not only about cycling. It is truly a community event.
Secondly, to the guys and gals from Naas who joined with us for the day. I always like cycling with ye because ye have an attitude very similar to our club. Thanks for coming along.
Finally, to Dungarvan Cycling Club. Without this fine club, our cycling would be very different. Thank you to all who help to make it better.
Last word to Mr. Tutu:
Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring” – Desmond Tutu
Following on from my recent post about the 2016 Sean Kelly 160k Tour, here’s a selection of further feedback from Dungarvan Cycling Club members who took on the Comeragh Challenge for the first time.
Apprehension about the weather, nerves regarding adequate preparation and fear of not finishing pretty much describes my run up to the Sean Kelly 160 as a first timer! The day itself passed both quickly (Dungarvan to Carrick) and slowly (Powers the Pot and Mauma) and included a few unexpected mechanical challenges thrown in for good measure. I joined various cycling groups from around the country at different stages of the day and this made all the difference in terms of moral support, communal suffering and of course a bit of banter to distract from the pain in my legs! After what seemed like days on the saddle, I had climbed the last climb and all that was left was for me to experience the euphoria of the Colligan descent, the glorious speed bumps coming into Kilrush and the sense of achievement, a feeling that can not be described until you have completed the SKT 160!
As I joined DCC earlier this year completing the 160k was all but a dream. As my cycling progressed and with encouragement from group 23k I took on the challenge of the 160k on the SKT. As the big day arrived I was crippled with doubt. Were people right? Was the 160k just for the pros? But as I headed towards Carrick with fellow a club member, the buzz that is SKT took hold, all doubts were forgotten and we took on the beast that is Tinkincor. Remembering advice from the seniors that unless you are Chris Froome slow and steady allows you conquer Tinkincor without unclipping or grinding to a halt. The banther and chats to other groups along the way, saw the kilometers quickly come and go. Words of encouragement from other cyclists were aplenty as we conquered Powers the Pot, Mahon Falls and Mauma Road. I never thought I would feel so disappointed not to be allowed cycle up to the top of Mahon Falls. As we crossed the finish line the sense of achievement was unreal. All the hard work in training had paid off and a dream that seemed impossible no longer the case. Thanks to DCC for the support, advice and coaching, but most of all the fun and new friends.
Any other first-timers out there who might like to send your feedback report? Please make contact with me, and I’ll be happy to include you here!
Despite the rain and heavy traffic Marion negotiated this stiff test with style, and rather than stop at the summit, we continued on the beautifully scenic descent towards Lisdoonvarna once again.
Friday June 17th:
Our previous Tour de Burren was back in 2013, so a return visit was overdue.
We travelled to Clarinbridge near Galway early on Friday morning as mam was “transferring” to my sister, having been with us in Abbeyside for four weeks. Lunch was at our usual favourite spot and we then drove South to Kilcolgan. Marion drove on to Lisdoonvarna and I chose to cycle.
I had a good tailwind heading towards Kinvara and the pace was high. But I decided not to push hard in order to enjoy the view along the coastline to Ballyvaughan. I knew it was mostly uphill from there. The wind came across from that point and a light drizzle started.
Slow and steady I went up Corkscrew Hill and descended into Lisdoonvarna, having enjoyed a lovely 50k on new roads.
Following a nice pasta, we met up with several other club members and topped the evening off with a few beers at our hotel. All was ready for the main event the following morning, and the forecast for the day was reasonable.
Saturday 18th: we arrived in Ballyvaughan in good time to allow us a relaxing 45 minutes before the gun.
Weather was warm but cloudy as we started at 10am and immediately hit the first climb of the day, cresting at 10k. What was notable on the climb was “Dutch Corner”, a group of approx 20 cheerleaders, upbeat music and a real Tour de France mimic. Thank you to everyone. It was unforgettable.
Onwards then downhill mostly to Kilnaboy before turning West towards Lisdoonvarna for food and coffee.
Our cousins Tim and Noel passed us just in time to get ahead of us for the sandwiches, enjoyed al fresco just before the light drizzle started.
The drizzle continued for the rest of the afternoon as we sped onwards to Liscannor and the climb to Cliffs of Moher. Despite the rain and heavy traffic Marion negotiated this stiff test with style, and rather than stop at the summit, we continued on the beautifully scenic descent towards Lisdoonvarna once again. The rain lightened again and almost disappeared as we headed along the stunning coast road to Ballyvaughan. Marion kept a good strong pace all the way. Unfortunately, the rain returned, heavy this time and as we crossed the finish line we were drenched, but happy. There was no cold, and we had enjoyed a great day biking together.
Later that evening we met up with Patrick, Linda and Paul to dissect the day, and finished it off with good food and a few beers back at Rathbaun Hotel.
Distance: 101k @19.5kmph. A huge achievement for Marion. Chapeau, girl!
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!
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!
Tour de Suir 160k blog by Pat Burke. Managed to hang on to this 28.5kph group for 162k! http://t.co/53Iqusk2jz
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!
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!
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.