Yesterday began like many of my Sundays. Porridge, tea and wholemeal toast for breakfast, get dressed up in bright lycra and at 8.54 I head out to the shed lift my bike down from the rack, pop in the water bottle and fit the Garmin, check the tyre pressure and have a quick look at the trees to see what direction the wind is coming from. At 8.58 I roll down to the main road and stop to take a look up the straight to see if Anthony O’G is on the way. At 8.59 I see the familiar green white and black of the O’Gormans bakery jersey and at 9.00 we begin our training spin. We both went through the Tony Ryan school of cycling where going training at 9 am is 9 am not five or ten past , or even 2 minutes past .
We head on down the road towards Carrick to meet the lads. A strong breeze is pushing us along and we reach Merck before we see the 35 man road train approaching. We turn and roll along up Ballinaraha waiting for the group to go past so that we can slot in at the back to get going again. We must have been rolling a little too fast as we hear the shout from behind to drive on and turn to see the whole group slotting in behind us. Not exactly what was planned but shure we drive on anyway. The wind is now in our face and our turn at the front is short and sweet . I now find myself in second position on the left hand side of the group, just about the furthest position to be in from your next turn at the front so I’m happy.
The group are now clipping along and as I chat to Keith Barry – not the magician, I am informed that the spin is heading towards Cashel and on to Cahir. This puts me in a dilemma. I was sick for the past few weeks and have a total of 4 1/2 hours in my legs for the past five weeks. Not exactly ideal preparation for ‘The Carrick Group’. To do the full spin would have me home in just under 3 hours, having only planned 2 but they would be almost passing my door at that stage so I decide to push on, but am conscious that I will have to engage the brain to avoid a hammering.
Passing Tesco we see a good gathering for the 10 O’Clock Clonmel CC spin.This is a great group for anyone interested in trying out group cycling and progressing along. They average about 24kph and are very conscious of looking after everyone along the way. All along the by pass there is a steady stream of riders heading towards Tesco and it’s great to see.
We turn right and face the first major challenge of the day, Ard Gaoithe. I look for a steady wheel, spot Maurice just ahead and slot right in behind him. Maurice or Moreese as he would be called on the Continent or ‘The Apprentice’ will be a good guy to follow on the climb. He will ride nice and steady, won’t be up and down out of the saddle and won’t let the wheel go so there’ll be no big chase over the top. The strong cross-headwind helps to keep the group in check and I now find myself calculating the best way to conserve energy but also show my face at the front and do a little work. 15k to Cashel in a group this size, ideally with the wind coming from the left I want to be on the outside right, rolling up along but not hitting the front too soon. The perfect scenario would be to hit the front just as we come into Cashel which would put me on the sheltered side of the group on the way back down to Cahir.
One of the two Vinnies (sometimes there are four) punctures just before Clerihan and there is confusion about what next will happen. Some of us turn and go back, some want to stop for a piss stop and some want to just roll along. The centre of a village isn’t exactly ideal territory to be taking out the weapons so a gate further on is chosen and the turn made after the tanks get emptied. A few k later normal service resumes and I slot in at the back right hand corner. This takes a little ‘drift back to check everyone is back on manouvre’ which is borderline acceptable and positions me just where I want to be passing through Rosegreen.
The conversation is flowing and Paddy from Cahir (not Paddy the plasterer, he’s elsewhere) mentions Willy, AKA Boxcar Willy, brother of The Karate Kid (former black belt Karate instructor) and Ussain Bolt (medalist in last years vets athletics 100m sprint) .Willy has a very rare picture over his mantlepiece of himself sitting between Merckx and Kelly. It was taken after the Feryn classic in Belgium a few years back when Kelly brought 10 lads from Carrick over to make their mark on the 10,000 strong Belgian contingent. At the meal afterwards Willy sat in for the photo and put his arms around the two greats and uttered the immortal words ‘Jaysus lads, between the three of us we won everything !’
Cashel is now approaching and I’m still nicely positioned moving up along the line getting very little of the wind. The only drawback to the plan is that in front of me sits Keith Barry-not the magician on his 48cm frame which is going to offer very little shelter to my 58cm frame with plenty of seatpost. Luckily he hits the front just as we approach the turn in Cashel and the buildings of the town offer a little shelter and I roll through as we leave Cashel with the wind now coming from our right rear. Mostly a cross-tailwind but all it will take is a slight bend in the road for it to turn into a tough crosswind so I don’t spend too long up there. Whilst at the front I push out towards the white line on the quiet wide main road. This gives the shelter of a slight echelon back along the group in the crosswind.
John Hooverman is next up beside me and is going well. Too long at this pace and I’ll be cooked but luckily he rolls through pretty quickly and Maurice is now up there too. The pace is fast with the wind varying from tail to cross and my legs are beginning to get sore. Fiddown Bob beside me is riding outside the wheels and I am presented with the ultimate sweet spot. Going well I wouldn’t in a training group but now I glide in between the 2 in front. With my front wheel now snugly ensconced between the two rear wheels in front I am cocooned in a pocket of so little wind that I barely have to pedal. It doesn’t last long but is still enough to give me a chance to recover and I am grand again.
Passing through New Inn the wind is fully behind us and the pace is fast but not fast enough. The roars go up towards the front of ‘drive it on’ and ‘throw her up into the big ring!’. The speed increases along with the whoosh of spokes sailing in the wind. Chains are whirring as shimano upshifts click and campag ones clunk. We are now hitting speeds of up to 70kph and the atmosphere is more like a bunch approaching the finish of a race than a training group 40k from home. Cahir appears quickly as I glide along the inside of the group conserving as much energy as possible.
Straight tailwind from Cahir and the hammer is really down when Cronin makes me laugh. He tells me about Ger G passing the ESB that morning with his usual witty banter and someone asking who he was. Quick as a whip Cronin pipes up ‘That’s the fella that discovered Kelly’, a question returns as to the similarity in age and the reply given is that Ger G was only young himself when he had a dream one night about Kelly winning all these big races and gave up the job to help bring him along and shure wasn’t it the best move he ever made !
Clonmel comes quickly and I’m almost home. Myself and Anthony drift to the back and bid farewell to the group as we swing left at our roundabout. All that’s left now is the hill up home and the big ring is forgotten in favour of the 39. I make it home feeling just about OK and get ready for stage 2, a seven year olds birthday party and am glad I was shy about meeting that wind all day .