Showing posts from May, 2014


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.

"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

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…

Lesson three: The leprechaun's tips for rainy Ras survival.

On your next stage race or tour, Alan strongly recommends following these old school survival tips.  

Day 4: Charleville - Cahirciveen. The soul of the Ras.

The alarm goes off.  It's pouring outside. Still. Story of my life, eh?

I think of the story of a stormy morning long ago when Luxembourg D.S. Jean Goldscmidt famously opened the window blinds and said to Charly Gaul, just before he slaughtered the field in a similar deluge in the Chartreuse Alps to Aix les Bains in the 1958 Tour de France, "Up and at 'em soldier, this is your day."

Yup. D-Day jongen.  The day I'd prepared for for months.  Why I rode in this winter in snow and cold.

Today's the Ras queen stage.  Into the Ring of Kerry. To Cahirciveen.  A ten categorized climb, sawtooth stage profile. A road west into a green mystical landscape resembling a place that looks like a setting where Frodo would chase a different sort of ring.

I break the day into two sections in my mind. The four cat 3's before lunch are the focus now.  Take the climbs one at a time.

On the road, Paul and I are at the back.  It's miserable and pouring in the first hour.  …

Day 3: Lisdoonvarna - Charleville, 154km. Geek Watt Hill.

Transition day.  So they say.  On the agenda, two third category climbs, the tougher one first at Cloghoolia.  Cloghoolia.  Probably be a hoolie session alright.

It was not raining in Lisdoonvarna, but the skies were grey and it was coming surer than death and taxes.  Sure enough, on the descent out of town the rain came in sporadic waves.

The pace at the bottom of the first cat 3 climb gets aggressive. Alan's on the front again, wheel to wheel with a tall young early 20 something kid on a black Trek who looks a lot like Taylor Phinney.

Steep section now, into the small ring. Moment of truth.  A wall again. The surge and corresponding panic in the group is palpable. Trees still hide the terrain line.  How far to the top?  Audible breathing and chains.  Go around that big guy, he's going backwards through the bunch like he's falling down an elevator shaft. Maybe this wheel?  Nah, no good, he's a big tall fella who keeps surging and losing ground. The delayed response su…

Lesson two: Stay dry my friends.

When you're on the Ras, and it rains everyday, life gets stripped down to the most basic needs in Maslow's hierarchy.

In cold and damp Ireland, it's all about dry clothes.  So in hotels without laundry service, a little improvisation and ingenuity is in order.

This is the Philip Cassidy - Paul McCormack approved system for stage race laundry recovery.  An immediate sink wash. Wring out in a rolled up towel.  Then the piece de resistance...
A 20 Euro blow heater, set up in our hotel room closet.  Worked like a charm all week.

We had to take turns in shifts hand-wringing out the excess every few hours and shifting stuff around, but this was a lifesaver.

Day 2: Roscommon - Lisdoonvara 159 km. The rollercoaster.

Day two.  Awoke to more soft weather.  Or as we say in Boston, frickin' pourin'.

On the agenda was 160km west past Galway to the Atlantic coast.  An up and down coast road south before two categorized climbs up to the town of Lisvardona- the matchmaking capital of Ireland.

Both climbs were in the last 10 miles. The smart strategy would been to hold fire till then.
Of course the rain and good sensations in the legs put that plan out the window. Rolling out of town I found myself at the front.  Probably too much.

As we headed west, the road got progressively hillier. Through fields of green with ancient stone walls.  Punctuated by the occasional 21st century buildings.  It was a ride that seemed to toggle in and out of centuries:  mystical Celtic Ireland, interspersed with Celtic tiger building boom hangover.

We went through Anthenry.  Aaron McCormack, our Ulster pal also from Boston and I piped up in our best on-the-bike rendition of what's become Ireland's national s…

Warm up ride and Day 1: Dunboyne - Roscommon - 150 km.

On Saturday afternoon, Bikes assembled, we headed out for a spin in a bit.  Nothing strenuous, an hour and a half around to Howth head on the coast road where the Giro passed on the run in to Dublin on Stage 3 last week.

Only Howth head is a really steep climb with multiple ways up.  Got the ticker going a bit. Felt great.  Then it was up the coast to Malahide for a coffee stop.  Beautiful Saturday afternoon.  Coast road was packed with weekenders.  Despite the traffic, nobody ever beeped at us in annoyance.  They respect cyclists here.

Maybe it's the absence of pickup truck driving distracted and misinformed Americans.  Or maybe it's  the fact that there's still a Giro hangover in Dublin that has something to do with it.  Pink banners are up everywhere from Malahide to Parnell Square...

...well, almost everywhere.  here's a photo of 2 that "fell off the back o' the lorry."

Sunday morning came soon enough, and with it the end of the sun.  it was pissing d…