The Season Begins !

Yesterday in Tralee the domestic racing season got underway with ‘The Lacey Cup’ . Run on a handicap basis this race always proves to be an interesting but very tough contest . Speculation was rampant before the start as to who would be going off in what group  , as a number of elite senior riders have  gone over the age threshold to be now classed as Veterans . That is forty and above .

It was decided to send the likes of Martin O’Loughlin off with the ‘B’ group just two minutes ahead of the scratch participants , rather than to include him in the vets group who received an eight minute advantage .

An early breakaway from the first pack off saw Maurice Hartery and Sean McElroy in a group of four to be the first to summit the long climb of  gleann na gealt .

In the bunch behind Martin , Hugh Mulhearn and Sam Bennett were already in a group of seven who had forged ahead . They were shortly joined by Derek Burke and Sean Lacey who had broken away from the scratch group .

With the remainder of the scratch group now closing fast with speeds approaching 60 kph on the flat with the favourable wind , Martin and Sean Lacey attacked  eight kilometres from Castlemaine. Hugh tried desperately to get across to these two upfront but one man on his own wasn’t going to be able to close up on two very strong riders sharing the pace-setting between them .

The gap hovered around twenty seconds with the likes of Micheal Concannon and Big Ben Kenneally doing some big turns to keep them in sight . Then with five k to go Big Ben dropped it down into the eleven cresting the final climb and closed a twenty second deficit in only four kilometres .

One kilometre to go and three riders dangling precariously in front of the chasers who could smell the finish . It was going to be a test of nerve to see who would crack first . Local boy Lacey wanted desperately to win the race named after his grandfather and it was this desperation which led him to the front for the final kilometre . This played right into the hands of former team-mates O’Loughlin and Kenneally who have been training well together all winter long . The sprint began and all of the standing starts practiced out near Kilmanihan paid dividends as Martin took the gallop from Brian ahead of Lacey in third .

Sam Bennett riding for the first time in his new Dan Morrissey kit took home the cup for best unplaced junior and Geoff Mac  joined him on the podium for the unplaced vets prize .

Ray Clarke was unlucky to puncture near Castlemaine and Ray Power was even more unlucky to be involved in a pile up . Cuts , bruises and a swollen hand were all he had to show for his trip to The Kingdom . Hopefully he will make a speedy recovery and be all set for next weeks exploits in Broadford .

Captain Chaos once more lived up to his name . In order to be fresh for the race he went down the night before and stayed in The Earl of Desmond hotel . Before signing on he left his helmet etc. in team manager Seamies’ red Audi 2 litre tdi avant A4 . After signing on he rode out to the start two miles away . Seamie was already out there driving the team Murphy and Gunne silver BMW 320i touring . After procuring Seamies keys and riding back to get his helmet etc. he returned to discover that the race had already begun . A frantic chase ensued but with all guns blazing up ahead he was never to catch sight of the race  again .

After the race , just past the finish line the Murphy and Gunne riders could be seen all huddled around the team car in eager anticipation of the arrival of their team captain . This display of team comraderie had more to do with the fact that all of the kit bags were in the A4 , whose keys were in Morgans pocket , than an actual bonding experience . Captain chaos strikes again !

The first race of the season certainly delivered on speed and excitement along with a certain amount of drama . Roll on next week to see what happens next !



Win the Woodcock and see the World !

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Back in the late eighties and early nineties the Irish cycling season began on the first Sunday in March with the Jack Woodcock Memorial race in the Phoenix park in Dublin . Riders the length and breadth of the country used to train obsessively throughout the winter months to ensure that they would arrive on the start-line of ‘the Woodcock’ in peak condition . The reason for this obsession was the well known fact that the winner of this race was guaranteed a place on all Irish teams up until the Ras and if they managed to get through that in one piece they than went on to remain on all teams for the rest of the season .

These were the heydays of Kelly and Roche thus ensuring enough UCI points to afford an Irish team entry into pretty much any amateur international event worldwide .  And worldwide they went with teams going everywhere from Colombia to Malaysia and all places in between .

I remember riding it in 1990 when it was won by John Brady who was riding for the 7-eleven pro team at the time . This was the first occasion that an Irish Pro rode a normal domestic Sunday race , and there were more than a few unhappy home based riders when they saw their chances of international travel disappearing up the road in the last 200 metres . In their eyes this long blond curly haired plastic yank had some cheek to arrive home from sunny California and deprive some poor misfortunate Paddy who had spent all winter out in torrential rain and wind including the odd snow shower, of the chance to see a bit of the world . He won the race well but was soon on a plane back to California .

That was then and this is now .

The season now begins next Sunday , the last in February , with The Lacey cup in Tralee . Last years winner and this years favourite if he can close the eight minute handicap to Martin O’Loughlins vets group will be Paul Griffen . A pro with the Giant Asia squad . Maybe the fact of a pro winning the first race of the season is similar to before , however nowadays each and every Sunday their tends to be any number of Irish pro’s competing in domestic events . This can only be a  good thing as it gives younger riders a recognisable goal to aspire to .

Most International travel is now either to the Kelly house in Belgium or to Lanzarote or Tennerife under ones own steam . This year a huge number of Irish riders will be lining up for the season opener with naturally tanned legs as opposed to the Ambre solaire tans of old .

Winter training seems to have gone up to another level with 6 and 7 hour spins being undertaken where before 4 would have sufficed . If it continues at this rate there will be a dawn till dusk group on the road within another few years .

And , whatever happened to John Brady . Well his main claim to fame as a pro was being assaulted by Roberto Gaggioli in the final lap of the Manhattan Grand Prix a few years back . In 2004 he was on the same Ofoto Lombardia team as David O’Loughlin and is currently to be found still competing in the Boston area . He also cut his hair .
 john brady     john brady

John Brady then and now


What a difference a bike makes !

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So far this year my training regime has been almost non existent and last Sunday when I decided to go all the way with the group for the spin I suddenly remembered what it was like to really suffer .  The funny thing is that , rather than put me off it only served as an extra impetus to get me back on the bike yesterday and to face up to the challenge of ‘ The Coast Road ‘ .

The one change that I made was to bring out my race machine instead of the winter bike  , and this really did make a difference .

The bike that I use for my winter training ( about 4 spins in total this year ) is a Ridley Crossbow . In actual fact this is a cyclocross bike converted with slick tyres and mudguards for road use . In motoring terms this would be a Landrover freelander , capable both on and off road . It is a comfortable bike although a bit on the heavy side , and does also suffer from some fork judder under braking as do most cyclocross bikes .

My ‘ good bike ‘ on the other hand is a Pinarello Paris carbon . The Mclaren Mercedes of the bike world . Some may seem surprised with this comparison as there is the obvious Italian link to a Ferrari . They are both Italian race bred ultimate machines with flair and mystique as only the Italians can do .

However I would consider the Paris carbon to be a slightly different animal to the out and out race bred Ferrari . The Mclaren Mercedes is just as fast as the Ferrari but it handles better . It also performs better under braking and then there is the biggest similarity of all . Comfort . It is widely acknowledged that the Mclaren is the most comfortable super car around and this is where the biggest similarity of all occurs . The Paris is the Ultimate in lightweight comfort .

Yesterday as we motored down along the coast being pushed along with a nice tailwind the only distraction apart from the short sharp climbs , was the harshness of the road surface . In parts it truly resembled the cobbled climbs of The Tour of Flanders . This was where I really noticed the difference between the Crossbow and the Paris . I could see how rough the road was but could not really feel it whether in or out of the saddle . Having the Deda Spectrum and Forza carbon bar and stem system and Most carbon seatpost also helped , but it is the frame and fork which does the real smoothing out . However I was glad that I changed the cables from Nokon back to the standard Shimano set as I found the Nokons to be unreliable and clumsy which you don’t want when heading down the coast . I also have a set of Zero gravity brakes which at 163 grams are half the weight of the dura ace equivalent and they do work well but probably not quite as smooth as the shimano set .

Don’t get me wrong , I still suffered yesterday but definetly not as much as I would have on the Crossbow .
The spin itself got of to a confusing start with the group splitting after about 100 metres with some deciding to do the usual lap of Ballymac whilst about 10 others , myself included continuing on to the coast . It was a nice day for it with the tailwind where we needed it and for the most part the spin was pretty steady . The only exception being when a bit of sibling rivalry took place with one younger brother lifting the pace at the front whilst the older brother was drifting of the back . I guess that you’ll have that !
John Maher took the gallop into Carrick from Vinny . A fitting end to the spin as he had been one of the strongest riders all day along with J.P. Sexton and Ray Power .
Smiler also finished the spin well and in his exuberance tried to kiss the rear bumper of an arthritic Dawoo Matiz , but luckily he decided against it just in time .
John Dempsey was looking well in his Team Murphy and Gunne team Sean Kelly pro-team kit and seems to be enjoying life as a Pro .The new gear is brighter than last years colours which were also on display by Eddie yesterday .
Damian too was strong for most of the day and a slimmed down Spot did well on parcours which would not be to his liking .
Nicky Butler also made a brief re-appearance before heading off with the Ballymac group and seemed to have enjoyed some of the Brazilian cuisine whilst over there with work .
Before yesterday I would have been of the opinion that you can’t make a racehorse out of an ass , and that the bike doesn’t make much of a difference once you reach a certain level . But now I definitely think that it can be worth about 10 to 15 % on the day .


The rule of three

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Cyclists in general tend to be a pretty superstitious bunch . In the dressing room before a race it is not unusual to see a kit bag being turned upside down with all of the contents being emptied out onto the floor . This is followed by a chaotic rummaging followed by a last resort plea of ‘did anyone see a red sock anywhere ? ‘ or something similar .

Now the cause of this consternation is not just an attempt to be colour coordinated , although this may be of secondary concern , but this sock may be half of a lucky pair . Perhaps last year in this race whilst wearing the pair of red socks their owner had won or had a high placing thus raising them up to the status of ‘ my lucky socks ‘ . If the socks remain unpaired their owners race is surely over before it begins .

Another superstition is that of the rule of three . That is whereby if something happens once it is sure to happen again twice more . If you puncture whilst out training someone will surely say ‘ they run in threes ‘ and sure enough 50 % of the time you will puncture  twice more within a week or two or maybe less . Now weather this is pure coincidence or a mathematical probability or even a psychological reaction who knows , but it does happen .

Last week Geoff McNamara had a definite power of three experience .

On Monday afternoon whilst driving from Clonmel to Kilkenny he found the roads to be quite slippy . Whilst moving along in a line of traffic just past Callan someone up ahead braked suddenly . This had a domino effect back along but Geoff was happy to come to  a stop just over a foot from the car in front . However the car behind him wasn’t quite so fortunate and ran into the back of him doing considerable damage to his car . But at least no one was hurt  .

Then on Tuesday afternoon he was in the shop showing us some photos of his car and a quotation which deemed it to be a write off . He left the shop to go look at some other cars in the local Mazda garage . Having had a Peugeot 406 he took another 406 for a test drive down the Waterford road . He pulled in just past Newtownanner school to have a look at the tyres etc. As he was leaning down looking at the rear passenger tyre he heard a fast approaching screeching sound . Being well used to reacting to crashes on the bike he leaped back into the ditch . This leap saved his life as another car ploughed into the parked Peugeot that Geoff was driving and did enough damage to write it off . Two in one week .

But the story doesn’t end there .

On Thursday morning whilst out with training with Ray , Geoff  completed his power of three experience .  Just past the beehive on the Newcastle road the two lads were approaching a small bridge when on a slippery patch of road Geoffs’ bike went from under him . Itlaunched itself across the road and planted Geoff in the ditch . Luckily . Just then a car came around the bend and drove straight over Geoffs’ front wheel . Had it been the other way round it could have had fatal consequences . However he got up without a scratch and was back on the bike with a replacement wheel within half an hour .

Whether it was a cat with nine lives or bad  ( or possibly some very good ) luck running in threes Geoff surly had an experience of The power of three last week !



Fitzy Retires

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After 21 years as a racing license holder Mehall ‘Fitzy ‘Fitzgearld has announced his retirement from competition . This is surely the end of an era as one of the most controversial figures in Irish cycling hangs up his wheels .

From a young age on his Lejeunes BMX he could be seen terrorising the old folks along the footpaths and lanes of Ardfinnan . He then progressed onto a Raleigh Winner ( an omen of things to come ) which was a bit on the big side , but got his road career underway . To get to grips with the larger bike he developed a habit of climbing all over the bike when out of the saddle , especially when sprinting .

This technique could be seen to full effect during his first television appearance on RTEs’ Sports Stadium . A 20 minute highlight of the 1992 Junior tour which he won overall, was the first glimpse that the general public got of this diamond in the rough . On one of the stage finishes a camera was placed head on to the bunch as they approached the line . With 400 metres to go Fitzy could be seen slightly boxed in on the far left of the screen . Then with 300 to go the whole bunch seemed to dive to the right with the impetus of a flock of swallows being chased by an eagle . Then with 150 to go a dark shadow darted back left and seemed to change up a gear to power ahead and win the stage by a number of bike lengths . This was to be the first of many times when young sons would complain to their fathers that they would have won if only fitzy hadn’t switched them in some form of Kamikaze move or other .

Previous to this he had won All Ireland titles at under 15 and under 16 levels but in 1995 at the tender age of 20 he showed that he had the brains aswell as the brawn and perhaps a ruthless streak to reach the higher echelons of International cycling .

That year had been a good year for the Cidona Carrick team with victories up and down the country each weekend . One of their most prolific riders at the time was the one known only as ‘ Big Red ‘ .  Week in week out his six foot six slight frame could be seen attacking any time the road went up . He then had the power to continue on to the finish alone which tended to be the hallmark of most of his victories .

‘Big red ‘ was one of the main favourites to become national champion that year and had peaked to be in the form of his life on the day . Fitzy too , had his eye on the prize and had been honing his form with some very good performances in France . The big day came and as the arduous miles went by the leading break was being whittled down to the chosen few . Among these elite were the Cidona team-mates of Fitzy and Big Red . On the last climb of the day , true to form Big Red launched his bid for glory . Fitzy , showing wisdom beyond his then years had anticipated the move and was onto it straight away . The only one to do so, in fact .

It was down to the wire . Two cidona team-mates together with only 4 miles to go . Big Red was most definitely the stronger at this stage of the race and as he began to pull away from Fitzy near the top of the final climb he heard a voice behind him say ‘ wait for me , I promise I won’t sprint !’

Now Big Red had  a romantic vision of Hinault and Lemond crossing the line together on Alpe D’Huez . Romance , however is for Roses , and they were all in Tralee at this time of year . With 150 metres to go as he prepared for the adulation of the crowd , he noticed a green and red blur go by him on the outside . His screams could be heard over the roar of the crowd as they cheered Fitzy across the line and proclaimed him National Champion .

That was the last time we saw  Big Red at a bike race in Ireland .

A number of years ago I was mechanic for the Irish team at a stage race in France . The team was made up of Mark Scanlon , David O’Loughlin , Brian Kenneally , Martin O’Loughlin,Stephen Gallagher and Paul Griffen , and was managed by Morgan Fox . Before the race we had a 4 hour drive across France to get to the start and the whole time was passed telling ‘Fitzy Stories ‘

There were stories of mini-bars and jet skies in Malaysia . An altercation with Jean Francois Bernard ( third in 1997 Tour de France ) where he felt the wrath of Fitzys’ right knuckles propelling him towards a dike in Northern France . A photo in an Asian newspaper where, during one of his frequent departures from the bike at over 30 mph Fitzy could be seen to be levitating over the bunch with no bike in sight .

However the one defining moment of Fitzys’ career was probably the the 1998 Ras . On the fifth stage he blew a gasket and wanted to quit the race and get into the car . But his manager was having none of it . He gave Fitzy a thermal jacket , a pump and a spare tube and told him to ride to the finish . He also warned the other teams not to pick Fitzy up . The following day out of sheer temper Fitzy won the stage into New Ross . This was followed by what was probably his best win of all .

At that time the Ras finished with a criterium around O’Connell street in Dublin . One of the only times of the year when the busiest street in Ireland was closed to traffic . A professional team from Belgium had targeted this stage and were enmasse at the front of the bunch with 500 metres to go . Fitzy was badly positioned and boxed in , but he could smell the win . At speeds approaching 40 mph and surrounded by riders at least 30 from the front in an amazing display of bike control he took both hands off the bars and pushed the two riders in front of him apart . He then launched himself through the gap with now less than 300 metres to go and with rocket like propulsion passed other riders as if they were stopped . It looked , though , that he had left it too late and wasn’t going to make it before the fast approaching line when he summoned an extra ounce of speed to get by the last Belgian with 5 metres to go . Fitzy being Fitzy , this gave him ample time to throw his arms aloft to celebrate another victory .

A photo of this may be seen on the back cover of Tom Dalys’ Ras book .

Times move on and he is now a happily married man with a Fitzy junior on the way , so I guess that the time is right for him to bow out and replace the handlebars for golf clubs and the pump for a rifle . Yes you read that right . Fitzy has taken up shooting , so the story still has plenty more to run  .

Ray and myself would like to wish him well in his retirement and all the best for the future . But Irish cycling definitely won’t be the same without  ‘ Fitzy’.



What Kelly told Cronin !

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Many people in Irish cycling know Vinny Cronin . He is a good buddy of Sean Kellys’ and it can be easy to see why . He never  looks comfortable on the bike but always hangs in no matter how hard it gets . He is as hard as nails and has covered thousands of tough miles throughout Ireland and France . The wetter the day and the stronger the wind the more he comes into his own . He was once seen serenading a pit bull terrier with an accordian and a baseball hat in a cafe in Roubaix at three in the morning .

Yesterday he told me that one day when he was really suffering at the back of the group and had decided that he had enough he said  ‘ I’ll leave ye off lads and make my way own way home ‘ But one of the lads listening to this was his buddy Kelly . He said that Kelly dropped back beside him and quietly said ‘ Don’t ever , ever tell anyone that your giving up . Always try to hang in there as long as you can but never tell anyone that your giving up .  The first person to hear that is yourself and that will finish you straight away .’

Kelly then went on to say that when racing he would always race the same way , no matter how he felt . If he felt strong he would go with any decent move , but also when he was suffering he would still go with all of the moves so that none of his competitors would ever know when he was going well or not . This often paid off when he got a second wind near the finish and was there to unleash his unstopable sprint . If he had not raced as if he was going well he would not have been there sprinting for the win . 

As Cronin says  ‘ To just watch and listen to a guy like Kelly you would learn more than any University course .’



Santa Claus

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This can be a very confusing time of the year in a bike shop . Not only are you trying to keep track of all of the kiddies bikes which are being put on lay-away but you must also be able to speedily decipher each individual parents version of the Santa System .

Early on Saturday morning , a mother and son walked into the shop with the Santa look . That is a child with their eyes wide open looking all around the shop trying to decide which bike to make their first beeline for and a nodding and winking parent walking swiftly in behind .

This is where we usually try to head them off with a question which can make the parents life much easier as long as they havn’t concocted some other tale . One favourite is ‘ Are ye in checking the name and size of bike for your letter to Santy ? ‘ This can cover a multitude and we can even write down the name and size on a piece of paper which also happens to be an invoice .

If the parent goes with this format things usually run quiet smoothly and the child is none the wiser . However sometimes we can hit a glitch along the way .

This mother and son were going fine checking the name and size of bike when a classmate of the boy came in with both of his parents . Now these parents came from a different Santa school and had their version out before I could get a word in .

‘Seamus here is in to tell you what bike to tell Santy to bring him !’ said the mother . Being conscious of the other version we had been working through with Seamus’s classmate I answered with ‘ No problem , we can do that I can write the details down for ye to copy onto your letter to Santa ‘

This was where it got confusing . Seamus’s mother replied ‘ No , Santy told us to come in and to tell you what bike he wanted and that you would mind it for Santy’

I acquiesed and decided to just go with the flow of this one and see where it would end up .

‘Of course we can also that ‘ I said hoping that the two boys who were now chatting about school wouldn’t be analysing it too much .

The first mother had by now decided on the bike her son wanted so we completed the transaction nice and smoothly with the son happy to be sending the details on to Santa himself .

Then it was back to Seamus who now wanted to know why Santy was getting us to mind his bike while his friends bike was coming from the north pole . The mother tried to smooth it over by saying that Santy couldn’t fit all of the bikes on his sleigh so he often gets the man in the shop to mind some for him . Seamus didn’t look convinced .

Then as I was writing down the details , the mother asked if we delivered . She had it said before she realised that her son was right beside her . I looked down to see Seamus with a raised eyebrow looking up at me . I tried to brush over it until the father who had been quiet up untill now decided to chime in with ‘ If the child don’t know by now , he’ll never know ‘

I have a feeling that Seamus knows !



Captain Chaos

There are many different characters in the world of Irish cycling . Some like to live a quiet and subdued lifestyle with little or no speedbumps along the way . There are others , however , who live on the edge . Those who always make an impact on those around them . They live  life to the max and are always unpredictable . One of that rare breed is Captain Chaos .

This Jack and Jones poster boy is a member of the club of 32 . That is an Irish cyclist who either currently holds , or has previously held a professional license . 

Doing nothing by halves , one of his first outings as a professional was the Belgian classic Liege-Bastogne-Liege .  Before the start he was chatting with Sean Kelly who was comentating with Eurosport when along came David Duffield , Kelly’s co-comentator on the day .

Duffield asked Kelly if he had any advice for this new young professional . Kelly being well aware that a neo pro would do well to get to two thirds distance answered with a wry smile . Aaawww watch Taafi ( the favourite on the day ) . Duffield took that on board and everyone set off for their days work .

With 20 k to go in the race Taafi put in a blistering attack and Duffield asked live on air : Sean , Sean , where is Fox ? Kelly answered with a hint of amusement  in his voice : Aaaww those young fellas , they never listen !



Changing Times

With all of the discussion during the week concerning the splitting of the group Sunday was always going to be interesting .  There was an air of trepidation as the group entered Clonmel at full strength of almost sixty riders .

Nobody wanted to get left behind in a small group so there were many volunteers to be seen heading up along the line at the outside of the group . However this group was far too big so it was decided to allow it to split on the climb up the Cashel road out of Clonmel .

This theory was good until those up ahead began to stall and to wait for the group behind to merge once again which was not the idea . It began to settle with Pretty Polly Mac driving along at the head of group one . Then 2 miles later a phone message was relayed up through the group that a number of riders including Vinny had been left behind .

The most practical thing to do was for the two groups to continue at a steady pace whilst a few strong riders went back to collect the stragglers . Once again the theory was better than the practice .

Five of us went back the road and then realised that either some form of Alien abduction had occured or the boys had gone home , which did seem more likely .

This left just five of us together with two larger groups up ahead . Brian , Martin ,Leslie , Dick and myself rode along pretty hard without busting a gut but didn’t see anyone else for most of the spin .

However as we Breezed through Cashel and Golden before returning to Clonmel we all noted that it was definetly a safer way to train although the small size of the group also meant that it was a bit tougher but  i  guess that’s why it’s called Training .

So far it seems that next week there will be two start times with the traditional group leaving at 9.00 am whilst another more serious group will leave at 9.15 .



National foreign Nationals

In the Ireland of today there has been a huge influx of people from other countries who are adding to the make up of our society  . In the shop we have seen at least 30 % of our business come from new residents in our town .

Clonmel now has a population of over 20,000 and a new job sector has arisen , that of the interpretor . Funnily this is not just so we can understand foreigners but also to help us better understand ourselves . 

 One customer today , who was telling us about the ‘Satsumi’ ( tsunami) in Japan and the fine looking Polish ‘ interupter’ working down in the courthouse , is a huge Formula one fan . He is a big fan of Michael Shoemaker and Ruben Barenchenko both now ex-furari . But his all time favourites were Nigel Mansfield and Damian Hill who he went over to silverstones to see in action .

He once went to Mahon point shopping centre in Cork and was very impressed with Dennehys shop . This one took us a while to figure out until someone mentioned Debenhams .

He used to race back in the early nineties and had a Conalgo Masters with maverick wheels and a Shimno 600 groupset . His favourite rider was Marian Chiccalini and he believes Lloyd Landers is innocent .

Reading back over the above it may seem far fetched but I assure you it is all true and only the tip of the iceberg . There are many more stories to be told but my daughter has woken and I feel a nappy change coming on !



New season winter warriors

Throughout Ireland each year as the clocks go back and the skies darken an unusual form of two wheeled creature begins to awaken from its summer hibernation . The ‘winter warrior ‘ can be seen the length and breadth of the country . Some do have a specific winter training bike such as an Ridley Triton s or even a Trek 1000 .

However most can be seen on Colnago’s , Pinarello’s and even the odd Madone . Whilst you and I were slogging our guts out up and down the country Sunday after Sunday throughout the summer they were happily mowing the lawn or on sunny days sitting inside watching eurosport .

Now however for the past six weeks they have been seen as luminous cat eye Christmas trees doing laps of Industrial Estates and town By-passes between 6.30 and 10.30 pm . All in the name of just getting ready for a few winter spins . If you ask a winter warrior why all of the training at this time of year they will invariably reply ‘ oh just want to be sure I dont get dropped on the Sunday spin ‘.

Yeah right . They are on a power trip , their mouths salivating at the thought of the punishment they will be able to inflict on yer man that rode the Ras . If you ask them are they doing much training the usual answer is ‘ I only got out once this week for an hour ‘ .

Well their Timex ironman must have a defective battery because someone will surley have seen them at least three evenings during the week . One night it may have been on the way home from work in the Toyota avensis at 6.30 . The next it may be on the way down to Tescos for the carton of Avonmore supermilk at 10 pm. Some long groundhog hour . When Sunday comes around the first cats and international riders will be seen hanging on the back of the group whilst the ‘Warrior’ will be driving it up some drag at over 22 mph .

This is when the need for a phonak hearing aid becomes apparent . The farmer coming down the road on his Massey Ferguson 20 can easily hear the shouts of ‘Steady’ and ‘ease up for f##k sake’ but our ‘Warrior’ seems completly oblivious .

This is when it really gets interesting as two or more ‘Warriors’ find themselves off the front of the group over the top of the drag . As they glass crank down the other side one will envariably say something like ‘ do ye see who’s suffering like a dog at the back of the group only ####### , (fill in with any top domestic rider who knows how a season plan works ) and sure he was second on the stage of the Ras into Tralee this year.

Sure that Ras can’t be that hard . I’d say its all talk . I’m thinking of riding it next year meself ‘ .He will be met with a chorus of agreement and a new imaginary Ras team will be formed . However if you look at the start list next May amazingly the new names will be nowhere to be seen . Too busy watching Eurosport to race !!!!