The word ‘hiding’ is one that is commonly used by cyclists. It can be of reference to the guy ‘hiding’ down the back of the training group without an attempt to make a appearance at the front. It can be someone ‘hiding’ their form when going well before unleashing a dramatic gallop at the finish line. Sometimes a cyclist can be ‘hiding’ in out of the rain, instead of getting out there and going training. Or it can be in reference to a really hard day on the bike when you get a ‘hiding’. If it’s a really really hard day, you get an ‘awful hiding’.
One Sunday morning recently I was just sitting down to breakfast when the phone beeped. Ice on the Clonmel road meant a change of plan for the group. They would now be leaving Carrick at nine and heading straight towards the coast in Dungarvan where temperatures were a few degrees higher.
I glanced at the clock, looked down at a freshly made bowl of porridge gracefully covered in some nice berries, a few nuts and some Manukha honey and immediately set about wolfing it down. The tea and toast was forgotten as a race against time began. I now had to be in Carrick 20k away at the time I had planned to be heading from home to meet the gang on the Clonmel road.
Grab the bike and put it in the van. Helmet, check, Shoes, check, hat, check, gloves, check, right I’m all set to go. But I can’t help feeling that theres something missing. Oh yeah, food. I grab a bar and fill a bottle and tear out the door.
Carrick for nine is really five to nine if you want to meet the group. It will take time to put on shoes and helmet and to take the bike out of the van. This group leaves at nine, not five past or ten past or even two minutes past.
Approaching Carrick the clock on the dash reads 9.01 so I don’t even bother going up to the ESB. I turn right, over the old bridge and soon find myself behind a group of 40 cyclists heading up towards the hairpin bend. A break in the traffic lets me pass. I keep going to the top of the hill, jump out and am just on the bike as the group approach.
Already the action was taking place. Nana and Joe were on the front and in a hurry to get warmed up. Two bodies were gone out the back already. The attrition had begun.
Another rider planned to meet the group as they passed his house. He rolled out the gate and turned left for Carrick. The speed was so high that they had already passed. A solo day lay ahead.
The road to Dungarvan rises up and down gradually. The pace matched the gradient depending upon who was on the front.
Between Leamybrien and Dungarvan we passed roughly a hundred cyclists coming against us in 4.5 groups. DCC are catering for everyone and the numbers that turn up in the square on Sunday mornings are testament to the great work being done by the club officials.
Tension filled the air as a left turn signalled the beginning of ‘The Coast road’. We had arrived at the battle zone.
The coast road from Dungarvan to Tramore is one of the most scenic drives in the country. Meandering through inlets and small villages, the road delivers spectacular vistas out to sea as it rises and falls almost in time with the waves on the ocean.
The only rising and falling that we were facing was rising heart rates and falls off the back of the group.
Annestown, Bonmahon and Fenor are all places tourists come from far and wide to visit. On the bike in the middle of Winter, in a group intent on kicking fourteen shades of grey out of each other all you see is the wheel in front and the road beneath it.
If the King was commentating on Eurosport instead of driving the group on at the front he would have said that ‘They are really on the rivet, as we say in cycling terms’.
Any wheel lost was gone for the day. A ripple went through the group when the news was relayed that Gizmo was gone, but the speed never dropped.
Dukie with only 3 long spins this winter was getting stronger and stronger as we passed through Fenor. The King went through on his wheel and did what he does best. The speed went like this : 30s @ 35kph, 30s @45kph, 30s @35kph, 30s @50kph, 30s @35kph. Legs already under pressure filled with lactic acid and by the time Tramore arrived my internal red light was well and truly flickering.
A schoolboy error of being totally complacent about eating and drinking resulted in an implosion of any remaining strength that I had left. Now it was too late. A gel would have been a good option, if I had remembered to bring one.
The King attacked again on the hill up past the turn for the Fenor short cut and I grovelled to hold the wheel in front. He kept it going down the other side and I could feel the fire burning in my legs using up the last bits of fuel. If my body was a house I was now putting the furniture into the fireplace.
Another attack into Kilmeaden was almost the coup de grace. At this stage I wasn’t even looking up to see who it was doing the damage.
There was now a race taking place. Up ahead a few who had taken the Fenor ‘by-pass’ had come into view. Behind the racing group were hot on our tyres. If they caught our group that would be bragging rights for at least six months.
The boggy back road to Carrick from Kilmeaden did no favours. The rope that I was clinging to was unravelling string by string. Each increase in speed snapped a string. Just as I was on my final piece of string I thought I heard someone mention a ‘piss stop’ and I echoed the call. This must have been like a mirage in the desert. The chances of anyone stopping to answer the call of nature 10k from Carrick at the end of an epic spin was less than zero, but with just that final piece of string remaining I was willing to believe anything my cloudy brain was now firing at me.
Finally as we passed the turn off for Portlaw just near the place where they sell apples my final piece of string snapped and I was gone. Exhausted, humiliated, humbled and contrite a lonely task lay ahead. The group were now gone, but I still had to get back to the van and home.
Rectangular pedal strokes managed to keep me moving forward. Every possible opportunity to freewheel was taken. Then just as Carrick approached a blue flash of Paddy the plasterer as he shot past registered in my consciousness.
He was soon followed by the rest of the racing group. Friendly faces all said their hellos as I tried to convince myself that I was recovered enough to reply. A few muttered sentences was all I could manage before finding myself jettisoned once more from the rear of a cycling group for the second time in the space of thirty minutes as we headed up towards the hairpin bend.
Finally I found solace in the shape of a white van and was happy to finally reach the end of the spin. With the heater on full blast the drive home gave time for reflection.
Carelessness about fuel in the form of food and drink on the bike is like playing with fire on hard training spins. Always plan ahead and also always bring an emergency gel.
Just like a box of matches there are only so many times you can light it up before you open up the box to find nothing left inside. Always keep a few matches in reserve.
Even after getting an ‘awful hiding’ and feeling absolutely wasted, by the time I arrived home I was smiling again and happy that I had done the spin that day. The only spin you regret is the one you did not do !!!