2017 SKT – Look up to the back markers


Last weekend saw the 11th edition of the Sean Kelly Tour of Waterford. The weather was not ideal on Sunday but the vast majority of peoples spirits were high.

On Saturday the 12k family cycle saw over 1500 take part. It was fantastic to see so many kids of all ages joined by their parents, all out on their bikes.

Having worked on the Sunday of the event for the past 11 years, this year I decided to cycle the 50k with my family. Kate was not born when the event began but is now old enough to cycle the 50k, so off we headed with Laura and Ciara along with friends from Rathgormack and Clogheen.

The kids hardly seemed to notice the rain as it streamed down upon them and just got on with enjoying the day with smiles on their faces. A lesson given for the more seasoned cyclists amongst us.

A quick stop in Kilmac and we were back on the road for the final 25k. This was the part that I enjoyed most. The reason being as follows.

No matter how much you do on the bike there comes a time towards the end of a really hard spin that you let down your defences and you open up to the person beside you. It is so much easier to speak openly to someone when you are both facing forward and is part of the reason why so many very strong friendships are formed out on the bike.

Riding along against the wind with the rain pouring down upon us would seem like an un-pleasurable experience. But as my two young daughters got tired and weary, as they pushed themselves harder than they wanted to go they opened up.

They spoke freely about everything and anything, about things that made them happy and things that bothered them. They were at ease mentally and I felt close to them. As kids grow up, the distance between a child and a parent increases. It’s all part of the natural process. But when something is bothering them they may not feel comfortable talking about it around a dinner table or on a couch watching TV. That’s why it is so important to find an avenue where they can communicate freely with you. One of the best places to find that is out on a bicycle. Especially when the going gets physically hard.

When we got back in to Dungarvan Eamon Duffy was there once again to tell us that ‘The Fox was in the box’. Mission completed.

A very welcome cup of hot soup and a few sandwiches had everyone back in high spirits as they dried out.

Back at the car I ducked in under the boot and changed my base layer from sleeveless to long sleeve under my ONDA Ultimate Rain Jersey and headed off to join part of the 160k route. I hoped that by going straight to Rathgormack I might catch some back markers.

What I found was a constant stream of cyclists coming against me having abandoned the route and taking a direct spin back to Dungarvan without facing any of the main climbs of the day. There were groups of twos and fours and an entire club from North Dublin. Maybe their club clothing might need an upgrade for bad weather conditions. #ShouldaGoneTaONDA for the #ONDAWeather.

No sign of anyone in Rathgormack and then by the bottom of Tickincor I had given up hope of catching anyone. Then at the summit between Tickincor and Powers the Pot I met two lads from Wexford. They were a bit behind but they were determined to finish out the full 160k and I could do nothing but take my hat off to them. Whilst others with far more miles in their legs let the weather get to them these guys were smiling and were absolutely going to finish.

Up towards the summit of the Nire I could see a flashing light off in the distance which I figured for the broom wagon. On the descent I caught up to two more brave souls. We stopped in to Hillview for a very welcome coffee and sandwich along with a Wagon Wheel. The volunteers were still there hours after the first riders had passed through and were still looking after the cyclists. These are the people who make the event so special.

The two lads with me had a few extra dinners during the preparation period and were still carrying those dinners with them on the bike which meant that they had to work a lot harder, especially on the climbs.

One kg extra on a climb like Tickincor costs you 6 seconds per Kilometer per Kilo. So if you have a waif who dances up the 5k climb, imagine the effort required for someone perhaps 4okg heavier to get up the same climb. In time terms alone the difference is 20 minutes for the same amount of effort. But these guys rarely climb 20 minutes slower. Often they are within 5 or 10 minutes of the fast guys. Imagine how hard they are working to do that. and remember it next time you are on a climb beside someone who is a bit heavier.

I have to say that I always admire the back-markers on a sportive. Whilst the first rider home gets there in about 5 1/2 hours of saddle time and effort, the back-markers often put in 10 hours or more of time and effort. They also keep on going no matter what the weather is like. They are the hardiest of men and women and are an example to all.






ps : If you or your club want to find out more about what to wear in wet, cold or winter conditions you can email me at barry@seankellycycling.com or barry@thecyclingblog.com




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