These events have grown significantly over the last few year's for a number of reasons. Bike to work schemes, more leisure time available etc,etc. I've not ridden many of them but from what I can gather the format is pretty much conversational pace for the first third, flexing the muscles and testing the water in the middle and all out racing for the final leg home. No eyeballing, no prizes, no politics (well almost), tea, cakes and sandwiches provided by the promoting club adding to the feel good community buzz.
|Pat Morrissey of Fermoy Credit Union getting the 2012 Tour of the Knockmealdowns underway|
Last weekend was my first sportive since the same event last year. It starts on my doorstep (literally) and promoted by my own club. Waking up to clear blue skies on Sunday I felt much more alive than I did the previous Sunday on the road to Cobh. The novelty and relief of a day not pounding the roads was something worth looking forward to. After pretty much a year away from all things cycling I was surprised by the increase in the number of Fermoy jersey's, a lot of whom I did'nt know. Proof of the increased popularity of cycling and these type of events in particular. Not so long ago the club was being held together by a hardcore group of 4 or 5 cyclists meeting on a Saturday and Sunday for their 100k's all through the winter in preparation for the baptism of fire in Tralee at the end of February. Riding in a bigger group these day's is far easier to face and more beneficial for everyone. Apparently there's over 50 members at the moment with a number of different groups leaving the town park at weekends, all of different abilities from racing to touring.
Another refreshing surprise was the absolute no mention of a disgraced Texan that won heap's of Tour's de France. Professional cycling is as far away from what we do in our spare time as the American is from regaining his popularity. People are tired of hearing it, what came out last week is what most of us had come to know for a long time, if there's big money the drugs are going to be there, the problem is not going to disappear now that he's gone. The next heir to the throne will have a similar CV, and the one after that and the one after that. It's a culture that's embedded in all top level sports, pro cycling get's a lot of bad press and deservedly so, understanding why it get's more bad press than any other sport is beyond me though. Take any top level tennis/soccer/swimming star and the question marks are there too. On the drugs front the Texan was marginally ahead of his rivals. That attention to detail that makes all the difference. Small things like rigging up the tour bus to facilitate large scale intravenous 'recovery' parties after 6 hours racing round the alps. The curtains were pulled for the boy's to rest, it must have been a hive of activity in there, I wonder did they sleep at all for the three weeks?
Where he really stood out from the crowd was his domineering bullish attitudes to those around him. A serial bully, if you were'nt prepared to tow the line (take drugs) you were out. If you dared speak out you were torn to pieces. Must have been a right pisser to have to spend three weeks around France in the back of a bus with him.
|No earpieces here, team tactics decided on the road!!|
Phew! I didnt think that whole thing bothered me, not so, it seems. The Vee was looking well on Sunday. Greeted by clear view's across Tipperary and Waterford at the top, we were more concerned about the descent into Clogheen. Back in the day, well before hard shell helmet's were the norm I was descending the other side of the Vee when I broadsided a ram at 50kph. When I came round, two of the lad's were looking a bit concerned and the others were jumping on my old peugeot trying to straighten it out so as I could ride the last 20 miles home. The ram, I'm told just got up and carried on his way. The incident has left a mental scar and as I descended the last sheep strewn miles into Clogheen on Sunday my finger's were never far from the brakes.
|The view from the top of the Vee looking down on Co. Tipperary, a nice reward after the effort to get there|
I must have enjoyed it, hard to keep the smile off my face, early predictions from a few bystanders were that I'd be back racing next year. Stuffed in a few fig roll's and we were off again. A stiff headwind on the way home was'nt a problem for the seasoned 'pro's', I was starting to feel the burn on the quads with an hour to go. No bike miles, and the road starting to take it's toll, the climb to Glocca Maura on the old Dublin road finished me off with the help of a few old road warriors.