L’Etape Diary part 3 – Camp Kenmare !

With only 13 weeks remaining until this years Etape du Tour Sean O’Leary of www.trail-seekers.com organised a training weekend in Kenmare Co. Kerry for some of the participants . Base camp was the Kenmare bay hotel where Sean had booked a number of the newly built attached holiday homes . The very best of local Kerry Cuisine was sampled each evening in both ‘An leath phingin eile ‘ and across from the Hotel itself in the Brooklane hotel . Even a substantial amount of sunshine had been organised by Sean so top marks all the way .

As ever when joining an unknown ( to myself) cycling group for the first time there is always a certain amount of apprehension . Will they all be flying with twice my amount of training done ? What will the climbs be like ? , What sort of speed will they be averaging ? . These are always the questions that flow through your mind as you near the meeting up point .

DAY 1 – The meet up !

As the 2 o’clock start time loomed , introductions and handshakes were taking place between 2 sets of guests of the hotel , and a relaxed atmosphere prevailed . One set of guests were clad in body hugging lycra and were astride their gleaming machines in the centre of the car park whilst another set of guests nearer the entrance were clad in body hugging chiffon and pinstripe suits as they headed for a wedding . Both were happy to see the sunshine overhead .

With Sean’s wife Breda and daughter Tara doing back up we were soon on the road headed for the village of Kilgarvan – Jackie Healy Rae country . Sean , ever the efficient tour guide scheduled a stop in order for us to get a look at Healy Rae park . In the past I’ve cycled around Central Park , Hyde Park and now I can say that I’ve cycled into  Healy Rae park , all twelve square feet of it . A swift about turn and a left hander soon had us on a deserted country road which the local TD had overlooked in the rural resurfacing plan , or else the surface was designed to act as a deterrent to outsiders . Either way Sean soon had us all safely through the shale , gravel , boulder section and onto the first climb of the day up out of the Borlin Valley . This was to be the first test as to how everyones’ training was progressing and all seemed to pass with flying colours . Sean was feeling a little tired at the top and decided to implement an early recovery plan .

As we descended the other side a number of riders punctured and phone contact was temporarily lost between scout (Sean) and posse (Breda) but this was soon rectified .

Then onto the picturesque town of Glengarrif before the second climb of the day up towards Caha Pass and the tunnel road . As soon as the road began to rise an attack was launched from the main group . Brendan , a Mussel farmer from Bantry Bay took off up the road never to be seen again before the top . One or two riders set off in pursuit but all to no avail . The next time we saw him he was stopped at the top sipping water without breaking sweat .

A headwind slowed our descent back into Kenmare but all had done enough to create a good appatite for the evenings meal . The hotel is only a 3 minute walk into the town centre and this was just about right for weary legs in search of fresh air . As the food was digested and the days cycling was recapped the group as a whole were gelling well together . By 11 pm. most heads had hit the pillows as Day two’s ninety miler loomed a few short hours away .

DAY 2- The Big Kahuna

A typical distance cyclists attitude to breakfast was order of the morning in the restaurant of the Kenmare Bay Hotel . The full Irish smell was very appetising but muesli and porridge  with plenty of toast and croissants were what you needed . Keep eating and get it into ya , all of those carbs will be needed later .

The roll out had us heading towards Sneem for a few miles before turning inland and across the axis of the Iveragh Peninsula . The first climb of Ballaghbeams pass once more saw Brendan cruise over the top . Some spectacular scenery which had to be viewed was a good excuse for anyone lagging behind . Next up came the Ballaghsheen pass which was once again tamed by Brendan .

 A lunch stop in Caherciveen was very welcome before the final climb of the day up Chuimachuiste . Some hot and heavy pace setting was already splitting the group when one of the four ‘Iron men ‘ from Kilkenny bounced of the ground . No sooner had Brendan Muldowney hit the deck than he was back up again . A quick realignment of a rear hanger and he was on the road once more .

A brief regrouping at the top and all were back on the road again .  A strong headwind combined with some very hard rolling roads made life difficult for those with heavy legs and a group of six forged ahead . Pat Tobin , Liam Lysaght and Brendan Muldowney , all Kilkenny men along with Ivan O’Gorman from Limerick and Patrick Pratt from Mallow and myself all rode well together on the tough roads through Sneem and back into Kenmare . Suffering no ill effects from his earlier introduction to the tarmac Brendan Muldowney attacked with 2k to go and was first man back into Kenmare .

 Within a few minutes all riders were back at the base camp and a new fashion trend began to emerge in the leisure centre . Whilst surf shorts are common in swimming pools , it was cycling shorts that prevailed in the jaccuzzi and swimming pool as weary legs were encouraged to heal themselves .

Before dinner Sean gave us a display of pictures and a dvd of previous events . Some of the pictures were very interesting especially the one of a sink for 1995 francs  . Sean also gave a very informative talk on training and preparation for the event itself . Another great meal and bit of craic saw most resting up by 11 pm . Most that is except for the hero of the day , young Muldowney , who celebrated with a few honorary podium girls who were impressed with his tenacity in taking victory after the fall .

DAY 3 – The long goodbye

All legs were stiff and sore after the previous 2 days efforts so a nice steady pace was order of the day as we headed out towards the Tunnel road once more . After about 10k a calf could be seen on the road off in the distance . As we neared it grew into a cow and eventually a bull . There were one or two red jerseys in the group so we approached with trepidation. Sean has had a few bad experience with bulls in the past and a gate seemed to be heard rattle as he moved to get out of harms way . Luckily the bull was lazy and didn’t pay us much heed . The pace seemed to liven up shortly after though .

The tunnel road is a long gradual climb and most of the group crested the top pretty close together . A quick drop down into Glengarriff and a few more short sharp climbs before we saw the turn off for The Healy Pass . A puncture slowed the group and a quick tyre change had all flowing again . The zig zag nature of the climb looked spectacular with the line of cyclists all making their way up . The spectacular scenery over the top was a reminder of why so many tourists flock to this area each year .

A steady ride back into Kenmare saw the group as a whole arrive together back to the hotel . A few quick showers and all roads home were undertaken with a great sense of satisfaction . A great deal had been accomplished this weekend and all were looking forward to the Etape . Sean, Breda, Tara and Eoin all made each of us feel very welcome and a part of their relaxed easy going family. They will be fantastic to travel with in July .


Below are just a few of the many suggestions made by Sean over the weekend ;

Try to get one 100 mile spin in each week between now and The Etape .

Have gears left over . Use at least a compact ( 50 / 34 ) and an 11 or 12 -27 . Try to always have a few gears left in reserve .

Get your bike serviced a few weeks beforehand , not the week before . This will allow you time to sort out any niggles that may have been missed .

Don’t try anything new over there . Energy drinks etc. could cause a stomach upset if you have not tried the product beforehand .

A few people also asked me about bike washing so here is link to how to wash your bike properly ;


Here also are the Garmin details of each spin over the weekend ;

Day 1 : http://bit.ly/8eiWX

Day 2 : http://bit.ly/19u4nz

Day 3 : http://bit.ly/M0F5k

All pictures of the weekend can be found here : http://www.flickr.com/photos/64631229@N00/

Leo Dillon also sent along the following : kenmare_weekend1


Keep training everyone !



9 thoughts on “L’Etape Diary part 3 – Camp Kenmare !

  • April 21, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Hi Barry,

    You summed up the weekend nicely and great photos as well. I really enjoyed the weekends cycling with a sound bunch of lads. Bring on the Giant of Provence!! Will have to set the HRM to 90>95%. and feel the pain!!

    Kind Regards


  • April 23, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    Nice work Barry, I’ll be down to Clonmel next week for some gears….

  • April 27, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Tks Barry, great photos and weekend info…all went well until the comparison graphic of the Etape du Tour & Day 2 Kenmare, more training indeed!

    See you on Wed 6 May as discussed…to confirm 53/39 105 Shimano on the bike at the moment…bring on those gears in reserve!!!

    Tom Mc

  • April 28, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Great photos Barry,the graph showing Kenmare day 2 and the etape stage is scary.It was a great weekend,Midleton(stsphen roche tour de cure 200) just around the corner now,looking forward to it.

  • April 28, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    It was great to get together with you all for the weekend lads . I wouldn’ worry too much about the comparison between day 2 and the Etape itself . Different roads , more miles in the legs , adrenaline pumping and big groups to be sucked along by will make it much more manageable than it looks on screen .


  • April 30, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Thats the chat Barry!!!

  • May 6, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Thanks for the report on the Kenmare weekend. I wish I could have been there. Best wishes from the Canadian contingent. We’re looking forward to riding with you guys in July.

  • May 8, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Nice work Barry.
    Heard the weekend was great,Sean told me all about it.
    He puts on a good show indeed.
    See you guys in July

  • May 11, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Great report Barry on a great weekend. Despite my legs’ aversion to going up a hill I think the 3 Days of Kenmare brought me on a good bit – at least I seem to be able to stay in touch with some of the lads on the Saturday morning runs these days. Also, a very reliable source tells me the Kilkenny lads have been burning up the road over the last 5 days on the Tour of Ireland Cycle Challenge so expect to see black & amber leading the charge up Ventoux!


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