So with the National Road Race Championships on last weekend there was no racing to look forward too. With the prospect of a resonable crew from TCTC making there way down to Ballyvaghan for the Tour de Burren I decided to head down and make a weekend of it. The trip takes in a large swipe of the Burren over some 160km and is part of the An Post series.
So I awoke at 5:20 am on Saturday morning for the long trip to Clare. I met up with Collie in town where we packed
up the Transit and headed west. The crew for the weekend assembled in Kilmartins in Athlone with Myself, Collie, Paul, Ollie, Dermot along with guest stars Gill and Caroline who brought a bit of colour to the group. Collie was appointed road captain for the day, being one of the more vocal members of the group. With everyone assembled and fuelled we headed on for Clare.
The trip down proved uneventful save for the weather which was slowly deteriorating as we neared Ballyvaghan. We reached our B&B in good time and set about getting set up for the cycle. Bridget the proprietor of the Burren View B&B was kind enough to let us use the rooms to change into our cycling gear. With the wind howling and a threat of rain I donned the winter gear. Collie left his jacket at home and almost burst through one of my spares which was a tinny bit small for him. Luckily I had another large jacket which fitted him a little better. With everyone ready to go we rolled into Ballyvaghen for the start.
There was a large crowd assembled along the coast road outside Ballyvaghan for the 160km event. The lads reckoned that crowds were down a bit from last year. The weather certainly wasn’t playing ball with a strong wind blowing in from the Atlantic. At 9:30am the group rolled out and we headed west along the coast road towards Doolin. Prior to the roll-out we decided to stick together as a group and wait on top of each climb. The first 16km was pretty uneventful as we passed out several groups who were taking it a little easy. The first major test came after Fanore with the ascent of Slieve Elva. This climb was about 5km long on roads that haven’t seen tar since the 60’s. Myself, Collie and Ollie pushed on for the summit and got caught behind several slower groups on the narrow roads. We passed Jacinta on the way up who was also attempting the 160. We waited at the top for the rest of the group before descending back to the coast road.
The descent was tricky especially with a lot of in experienced riders around which made cornering dodgy. The road was extremely narrow an lined with stone walls. It was here that we came across a very bad accident. A member of the Burren Cycling Club had fallen off and was badly injured. There was a load of blood on the road and everyone was pretty worried as we shuffled past the ambulance. We later heard that he was air lifted to hospital and his injuries weren’t as bad as they looked. That incident left everyone feeling a bit down and we took it easy for the remainder of the descent. The next major climb was a cruel thing. We sped through Doolin and headed inland. There were a couple of signs warning of a 16% climb which were a little worrisome. We rounded the corner and were immediately faced with a wall in front of us. Cue lots of gear changing and cursing. Thankfully it didn’t last long as we emerged on the main road heading for the Cliffs of Moher.
It was at this point that the weather took a turn for the worst. The wind was bad enough but when it started bucketing down the mood changed for the worst. The road conditions got worse as we headed over the Cliffs of Moher and on through Liscannor. With no let up in sight I was completely soaked as we turned north after Liscannor and headed back towards Lisdoonvarna. The road continued up and down the whole way into Lisdoonvarna. The first food stop was greeted with a sense of relief. I was starting to get hunger pangs so I was delighted when I went inside where we were greeted by an amazing array of food. All sort of sandwiches, smoked salmon, cheese cake, chocolate cake, apple tart, fruit and copious amounts of tea and coffee. The mood in the hall was a little subdued as the rain bet down on the roof. Ollie was going downhill rapidly having suffered with a stomach bug the night before. My neck was starting to ache with the cold and wet.
With everyone fuelled up we headed back into the storm. Some of the TCTC contingent took the 60km route home. A few in our group taught about cutting it short but resisted. It was after the stop that events started to conspire against use. Alan (who we picked up at the stop) punctured a couple of km’s after the stop. Road captain Collie did a great job with traffic management. A career in the Traffic Corps beckons if the electrical business packs up. Shortly after this was repaired Paul dropped a chain. We had only just got the group together again when Dermot’s glasses took a tumble onto the road. The group pulled up alongside the turn-off for the 100km route. With Ollie going downhill fast he was turning for home. Several other members of the group also bowed out. The wind and rain proving too much. This left the 3 brave amigo’s Dermot, Collie and myself who were foolish enough to head on and finish the full route. I can’t say I wasn’t tempted to cut my day short but having completed the Wicklow 200 2011 in worse conditions I didn’t feel that bad.
With the group down to 3 we headed on towards Kilfenora. There were very few cyclists on this part of the route
and we must of cycled 15km before we caught a few riders on the road. The highlight of the trip for me anyway
was cycling past Fr. Ted’s house. The rain started to clear slightly as we headed further in land and we made good time with a nice tail wind blowing. The scenery around here was stunning and it was a pity the day was so crap. With 90km complete we headed up another steep little climb. Collie started to flag a bit here. I’m bolloxed, I’m bolloxed he shouted before he realised he had a puncture. This was typical of our day. We would get a nice rhythm going only to have a mishap where all the gains were lost. With the puncture fixed we ploughed on. The route continued in a northerly direction back towards Ballyvaghan.
After 120km we came within 20 yards of the B&B’s entrance. Lots of riders couldn’t resist the lure of finishing and many abandoned here. We ploughed on towards the famous ‘Corkscrew’ climb. This climb was about 5km long and consisted of a series of hairpin bends. The weather gods pissed down on us again which made the hairpins very slippery. We were setting a nice rhythm on the climb where a couple of lads from Killorglin joined us. Collie got competitive near the KOM point and put the hammer down thinking the top was close. It turned out that he was over 1km from the top at which point we had almost caught up with him.
With the Corkscrew ticked off the route continued back towards Lisdoonvarna. We could of stopped here for a second stop but with only 30km left we ploughed on towards the finish. Our little group was working well and we were motoring along the coast road. The wind was finally helping us along and we must of passed a hundred cyclists on the way back into Ballyvaghan. It was a little bit dodgy at times with the narrow roads and a lot of tourist traffic but we finally made it back into Ballyvaghen to complete the 160km Tour de Burren.
Garmin Stats:- Distance – 161.5km, Avg Speed – 27.1 km/h
The shower back in the B&B was a little taste of heaven after all the rain and road rubbish. It was then time for the main event of the weekend which involved a lot of alcohol and plenty of craic. Plans for a further meet up at the Ring of Kerry in 2 weeks have been proposed which should be another good weekend.
So thanks to Dermot for organising the B&B and for all members of TCTC who partook in the event. The 160km route was pretty challenging and the weather didn’t make it any easier. See you all next year (maybe).