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Ras Epilogue: Eating the wolf.

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Okay, so it's Thursday night, and we're all in a crowded hotel bar in Clonakilty.  And I mean all of us.  The real Ras is in the same hotel tonight.  

There's a quite mighty craic. Alan bumps into Emma O'Reilly and gets caught up after many years, a world away from Boulder, Colorado.  Paul chats with former Irish Olympian Seamus Downey, his wife, and their friends.  Seamus tonight is the proud father of An Post rider Sean Downey, who's kicking ass and taking names in the Ras this year as the top Irish rider, sitting 6th on GC.  They're reminiscing with anecdotes and memories of Paul's late dad J.J.  Lots of the Race the Ras guys are here too, all having a great time.  I'm sitting with Aaron and Brian McCormack, and we're enjoying that ever-so-perilous 'just one I promise' after dinner pint.

Slouching at stools at a high bar table next to us is a group of skinny, tan, clean cut and identically
tracksuited 20-somethings.  Not a Guinness in s…

Day 8: Newbridge - Skerries 107km: Skerries, Sun and a 99.

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One more day on the rocky road to Dublin. 

In Mullingar last night, I rested limbs so weary,
Started by daylight, Next mornin' light and airy,
Took a drop of the pure, To keep my heart from sinkin',
That's an Irishman's cure, Whene'er he's on for drinking.
To see the lasses smile,

Laughing all the while, At my curious style, 
Twould set your heart a-bubblin'...
On the rocky road to Dublin  One, two, three, four five.
Hunt the hare and turn her down the rocky road,
And all the way to Dublin, Whack-fol-lol-de-ra.


This road to Dublin will be a promenade. Piano piano.  (I hope.)
There's an 'end-of-term' feel about the gathering at the start this morning.  Still cool and wet, but sun is predicted (finally, I'll believe it when I see it).

The entire Race the Ras team gathers for one more dedication, and a big group team photo. Today's smiles are a marked contrast to the grim faces of yesterday.


After what we've covered, today's 100k will be lik…

The power of random coincidence, and why we're here.

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It's day two. A rainy morning in Roscommon.

Rain jacketed guys are huddled with their bikes under small doorways on the main street to stay dry. Paul and I are on our bikes and circling, impatient to get this show on the road.  Tired of waiting around in the rain.

The moderately paced group goes out 15 minutes before ours.  "C'mon Eddy O, lets go!" says Paul as he gets out of the saddle and sprints onto the back of the train.

"Paul, that's not our group...".   I circle back.  My pal diappears with the group.

Later maybe just under and hour or so into the ride, I see Paul standing with a group of folks by the side of the road.  He's talking.  He rejoins our group again.  I don't think much of it at the time, figured he was doing some Race the Ras PR chatting with the other group for awhile.

After what seems like a decade later, that afternoon back at the hotel while he sprays second skin on his road rash, he tells Alan and I the story of his e…

Day 7: Carrick on Suir - Baltinglass 147km. A gap too far.

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The mood around the Super Valu parking lot in Carrick on Suir this morning is somber.  It's raining and cold.  Again.

My roommate Aaron McCormack got hit hard by that stomach virus last night.  Staying up drinking with Alan seems now like it might have been the lesser of two evils, but not by much.  "We shouldn't have drank so much, bad for the adrendal glands.  I'd never have done that if we were racing." says Alan.

Well, it's all more water under the bridge now amigo. I feel great this morning. Fired up.  Get on the bike.  It feels like there's no chain today.

There's only one more big obstacle in the Ras.  A 3 stepped climb up and over Mt. Leinster.  As we're not doing the big Wicklow climbs this year, I've convinced myself this substitute won't be too bad.  About 30 minutes or so of hard effort.

With about 600 miles behind me, I'm getting cocky. I've avoided getting sick. My legs feel good, better every day in fact. The rain…

Savage roadman.

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I was quite fortunate to meet and get to know a lot of impressive bike riders on Race the Ras. But if someone asked me to pick my 'man of the Ras',  there would be no contest.

It'd be Niall.  No doubt jongen.  By a long shot. 'No one else in the photo' as they'd say in Belgium.

I met Niall on the road on the first day of the Ras. He looked totally euro pro, Assos shorts, kit all matching, bike clean and impeccable. Pedalled great, smooth on the bike, perfect position. He was familiar with most of the climbs we'd be doing.  He knew their savage nature, and counseled us yanks to respect what lay ahead.

Niall was also patient. For being the total idiot I am, for the next few days I mis-remembered his name and kept calling him Colin.  He graciously let me off the hook, "Eddy, my name's Niall."  Sorry Colin ;)

Wrapped up in my own personal pain cave at the finish in Lisdoonvarna, word filtered in later that Niall had been taken out by someone spri…

Day 6: Clonakilty to Carrick on Suir, 168km. My Irish influences named John.

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So meet the boys from Kerry, and meet the boys from Clare
From Dublin, Wicklow, Donegal and the boys of old Kildare
Some came from a land beyond the sea
From Boston and New York
But the boys who beat the Black and Tans
Were the boys from the County Cork.


I'm riding through County Cork this morning.  My uncle Johnny's land.  
John 'Uncle Johnny' Jeffers showed up one October day at our Boston family home, back in 1970.  He wasn't really my uncle, although we called him that. A cousin to my grandmother, close enough. A few times back in those years, uncle Johnny came and stayed with us quite awhile, with his 'own ones'.  He used to go back and forth between Ireland and Boston a lot, never could decide which country he belonged to or wanted to stay in.  Pensioned from the postal service I recall.  Sometimes he'd visit us, sometimes relatives in Everett.  We gladly squeezed him into our tiny house, without question. 
As I ride this morning through the flat headw…

Mick.

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Every once in a while, you meet someone who reminds you what really matters in cycling.

During the Ras, Micheal was that man.  He was a constant source of friendly, encouraging chatter throughout a hard week.  The colder the rain, the harder the route, the bigger the smile of sheer delight that crossed his face.

Every time I'd ride alongside him in the bunch, or in the queue for sandwiches.  He'd greet me by name with a clap on the back.  I don't think anyone in our group was having a better time.

What I loved most about Mick was that he explified what really matters in cycling. His bike was not a superlight carbon fiber steed, but rather an average off-the-peg, white alu road machine with mid-range grouppo and ordinary clincher allow wheels.  He'd usually wear shorts, despite the cold.

His only concession to the rain was to cover his stocky torso with a large, red, and often billowing windbreaker that looked more Aldi than Assos.  On the front, in the wind, that red …

Day 5: Cahirciveen - Clonakilty 169 km: Lazarus rises.

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"The bad news Eddy O is that it's raining.  But the good news is...I'm back."

Paul stands before me in his cycling kit.  It's 6 am.  Ready for breakfast and a long bus ride back to
Cahirciveen.

I can't believe my eyes.  Before I went to bed last night my throwaway mobile rang.  It was Dave Mann, trying to reach Paul.  We'd switched phones by mistake earlier.  I figured I'd give Paul the message, but when Alan and I went into his room, it was dark. A delirious man in bed was coughing, moaning at us to keep the lights off.  He sounded like he had pneumonia, like he was ready for the hospital.  That plus the stomach thing and constant trips to toilet.  I left ready to call the coroner.

Now this morning I drop off Alan's dry clothes and the blow heater and can't believe what I see.

He's up. And hungry. "More rashers and sauso please. And more bread."  Appetite?  Check.

We're on the bus for almost an hour.  It's cold and m…