Always a popular event with the club a large contingent of Tullamore CTC members headed down to Killarney for
this years Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle. Well done to everyone who went down. Such was the crowd doing it I never met anyone from our own club which was unusual.
So after the successful trip to the Burren a couple of weeks back plans were quickly put in place to tackle the Ring of Kerry. Successful being the operative word considering the horrendous weather and tough roads that we endured in Clare. In typical 2012 fashion the rain was teeming down on Friday afternoon as myself and Collie left Tullamore in the trusty Transit. We stopped for fodder in Birdhill on the way down where we teamed up with Paul, Ollie and Gary (Collies’s friend). With the pit stop out of the way we headed for Killarney. It was noticeably slower once we hit Adare with a steady line of cars with bikes making there way to Killarney for the weekend.
We finally got into town round 9 and then proceeded to get lost in typical male fashion. Paul was struggling to get in touch with our B&B before finally locating it. With us sorted Collie was trying to find his place which after some comic moments with our rather eccentric landlord ended up being right across the road. Finally sorted we headed down town for a couple of pre event warm-up drinks. We met up with the rest of our group which included Dermot, Gill, Martie and Avril. With no official start time we had a good debate on what time we should set off. We finally agreed on a half eight start which was only some seven hours away at this point.
After a short nights sleep we got up to a rather un-satisfying breakfast. With only cereal and toast on offer we stuffed ourselves as much as possible for the day ahead. The landlord was proving difficult to shake with stories about Garda Superintendents and working conditions in a local factory. Seemingly you can earn € 900 a week for just sweeping floors. Needless to say I’m thinking strongly of looking for a job there.
We met the rest of the group across the road for our half eight start. However Dermot’s time keeping was a little off. Several calls confirmed that he was just crossing the bridge, which we happened to be standing beside. We eventually headed off around 8:45 am to join the 8,000 strong crowd who were mostly ahead of us on the road.
With only about 0.5km complete Ollie’s pedal parted company from bike. After some worried glances and several curses we luckily got the pedal back together and headed on our way. With a group of 9 in total we got the up and overs going and flew towards Killorglin. A group of guys from Middleton CC joined up with us and we were covering good ground. We picked up another crowd from Killarney who helped out also. With a nice tailwind we were really motoring and already passing out cyclists who had started well before us. Heading through Killorglin we were greeted by scores of people cheering us on from the side of the roads. This would be the case all day through every town and village. Fair play to everyone for waiting around and cheering us on. Its a great feeling to hear people shouting encouragement everywhere you go.
The one noticeable thing about the Ring is the varying abilities of the riders competing. You have guys (and girls)
who are racing every week cycling beside someone who is doing their first ever long distance event. Fair play to the guy who we passed near Cahirciveen in the straw hat and slacks cycling an iron horse. The mix of abilities does make for some hair raising moments especially while overtaking. After Killorglin the terrain became more rolling. Our group had mushroomed at this point but soon reduced when Ollie put the hammer down over a bit of a drag. We soon trimmed the group but it was getting harder to keep together as the numbers on route were getting larger and larger.
With the cloudy weather (and the speed) the scenery was a bit obscured but the descent into Cahirciveen was nice. An unofficial sprint point took me by suprise and five of the group belted into the town. We stopped for a bite to eat and some liquid refreshment in Cahirciveen. The average was hovering around 32.5km/h at this stage having made the town in under 2 hours. The next part of the route took us down to Waterville. The weather closed in a little as we headed south but it wasn’t cold so no big deal. The wind was still helping us along but the cyclist traffic was really something else. The reduced number of cars & buses en route was a big advantage but playing chicken with cars and buses has certain hazards.
The first major climb of the day came just outside Waterville with an ascent of Coomakista. With a howling tailwind we really flew up the climb passing by a huge number of cyclists. The top was quiet exposed and the wind was really blowing. We stopped on the top to regroup and get a couple of group photos. A nice descent followed towards Caherdaniel as we continued to fly past hundreds of cyclists. The only major traffic incident occurred near Sneem where an ignorant bus driver overtook the full column of cyclists and didn’t give two hoots about anyone’s safety. Thankfully it was the only incident involving a bus. With the weather still a little damp my Garmin took a tumble a few km’s outside Sneem. This definitely doesn’t help the sale price.
We stopped for a second time in Sneem where a welcome slice of apple tart went down very well. Again the locals were out in force cheering everyone on. Before leaving the heavens opened and prospects for the rest of the day were looking fairly bleak. Thankfully the rain stopped on the road outside Sneem where the sun made a welcome appearance. Our progress was slowly decreasing the closer we got to Kenmare as cyclists and cars took up all the space on the road. It was just a case of taking it handy until the traffic finally cleared.
We took a quick pit stop in Kenmare before tackling Molls Gap. Thankfully traffic was closed from Molls Gap to
Kilaranny so we could enjoy the final part of the cycle. The Molls Gap climb would decide the winner of the King of the Mountains. € 2 from each cyclists to the first rider who reached the summit. Game on. Sensing blood Collie took off like a man possessed straight from Kenmare. Ollie was quickly on his wheel and the remainder of the group sat back and set a steady tempo. Measuring in at almost 10km the climb is long and steady, one for the diesels. The 2 lads were really motoring up ahead and passing cyclists for sport. We gradually increased the tempo on the climb with each of us doing good stints on the front. With about 3km to go we were closing quickly on the 2 lads. Just before we caught them Paul suggested we should give it a big dig and fly past them. I was just about the do so when a large group moved across preventing my bid for glory. The 4 of us joined together and continued pushing towards the summit. I’ve never climbed Molls Gap so I had no clue where the top was. From looking ahead I could see the road cut through the rock and guessed that was the top. With a couple hundred metres to go I went for it but Collie was soon on my wheel and flew past to take the KOM prize. We’ll never hear the end of that.
With Molls crested there was only about 20 km left. We chilled out at the top for a bit where masses of people were enjoying the afternoon sunshine. The descent of Molls was pretty brilliant. If only there wasn’t hundreds of cyclists heading down at the same time. Myself and Ollie pushed it as much as we dared but stayed safe. The final run in through the national park was really scenic. A jarvey tried its best to knock me off at the park entrance. We finally rolled into the finish to huge crowds and a great part atmosphere. The group enjoyed a couple of relaxing pints in the Gleneagle before donning the threads for a night on the town.
Garmin Stats; Distance – 169km, Avg Speed – 30.2km/h, Distance Climbed – 1,508m