Monday, June 21, 2010

Cycling in Connemara sunshine

Last week was national bike week in Ireland. By pure coincidence I was invited to take part in a charity cycle ride in the west of Ireland by an old school friend with whom I had recently re-established contact. This seemed like the ideal way to celebrate the week.

This was by far the longest distance I had ever attempted to cycle in one go and so I was quite nervous about how my body would hold up to the strain, especially because I have not been cycling much at all recently as I recuperate from a rib injury. I decided to be a little bit chicken and I opted out of day 1 and day 2 of the cycle which were in County Clare. I only attempted day 3 of the cycle which was a tour around Connemara starting and ending in Galway. The route distance was 100km which  might not seem much for an experiences cyclist, but was quite daunting for a novice like me.

When we started the cycle at 8am in Eyre Square, the sun was just beginning to warm up. There was hardly any traffic on the roads at that hour of the morning and the bunch of 40 cyclists got going without any incidents. On the previous day, many of the group had taken a wrong turn and added a lot of unplanned miles to their journey. Since I am from Galway, Stephen had asked me to cycle at the head of the group to ensure that we didn't repeat the mistake and take wrong turns in Connemara. He told me that I was not to push the pace too hard in case the peloton got split up and whenever the pace drifted above 20 Km per hour he came up and reminded me to slow down.

We continued at this leisurely pace until we reached Maam Cross where we stopped for a refreshment break. Shortly after we left Maam Cross a few cyclists decided to take the pace up higher and they went on ahead of the group. I was mindful of Stephen's instructions to keep the pace gentle so that all cyclists could stay with the group, but I realised that there was a left turn coming up that the leading pack might miss if they didn't have a local with them. I caught up with the leading group and advised them of the correct route - unfortunately we then had a big gap to the main peloton who ended up going a few miles astray before the accompanying car advised them of their error.

When we reached Costello we waited for the rest of the group to catch up, but when they didn't turn up after a few minutes wait the leading group decided to head towards Galway at an average pace of about 30 Km per hour. We were on schedule to finish the cycle well ahead of schedule when we came to big obstacle in the form of Paidraicin's pub which looked very inviting with crowds drinking outside in the sunshine. It took us almost 45 minutes to negotiate our way past this obstacle, but it was very enjoyable and allowed us to get the group back together again to finish outside Leisureland with an overall average speed of 25 Km pr hour.

We then travelled back to Dublin where we had a very pleasant celebration dinner in Browns of Sandymount and also had a chance to have our picture taken with the Lord Mayor of Dublin. The cyclists from both Ireland and Wales were all very friendly and we made many promises to get together again for more cycling trips before they boarded their ferry home.

I was wondering which part of my body would be most sore when I woke up on Monday morning. I suspected it would be either my tired legs or my sore bum which has not yet become accustomed to the saddle on my new racing bike. Much to my surprise the only part of my body to be in pain was my arms which were bright red with sunburn!!!

There are pictures from the day saved in a Facebook album.

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