Sunday morning, 9am, a group of over forty cyclists depart Carrick on Suir headed for Clonmel, picking up more bodies along the way. Torrential rain begins to fall and already minds were beginning to question the wisdom of getting out of bed this morning.
With talk of floods around Clonmel filtering through the group some choose to head for higher ground at Kilheffernan cross whilst others forged on ahead.
Clonmel did not disappoint those who wanted to see some floods up close. The Waterford road offered the first 12 inch deep obstacle. Some such as King Kelly himself emerged smiling whilst others had grave appearances to match the cemetery we were then passing.
Then came the Dungarvan road. The option of the Koppenberg road was dismissed and then we faced a flood that Noah himself would have been proud to enter.
A stall occurred and Kelly noted its similarity to an ICA AGM. His simple and straightforward advice was to ‘Drive on ta f**k’, which was exactly what some of us did. The previous evening he said that the group was doing a lap of Ballymac, so that was what we were doing.
Wisely we choose to let the smallest rider go through first. If Twoflats Magicians’ white Kask helmet started to float it would be time to consider turning back.
The helmet stayed out of the water so we forged on all the way through. Kelly was in his element. His ONDA Clothing was working well and his See.Sense Icon light was staying on. The Sean Kelly edition Vitus glided along smoothly.
Out the other side of the flood Turkeys O’Donnell was now looking for a Salmon in his ONDA Jacket but only found what he thought to be a trout falling from his bottom bracket.
On a dry and sunny January Sunday morning the group passing Kilmacomma would number up to sixty riders. Today there were just six, Gismo Grylls, O’C Choppers, King Kelly, Turkeys O’Donnell, Twoflats Magician and myself.
It was noted that we had just saved about €200 each on a Cryotherapy session and also noted that everyone who made it through was wearing ONDA Clothing. The wetsuit warming effect of the Algarve 2 Bib Leggings was coming into its own.
Facing into a strong headwind the group of six rode like a group of twenty with no quarter given. It was now full steam ahead.
I asked Kelly if he had ever raced through a flood like that before. He had indeed, only worse. As an amateur he rode a Tour of Lombardy that brought riders through a flood where the top tubes of the bikes were no longer to be seen. The winner of that race was none other than a certain Sean Kelly from Ireland and on the strength of that victory a French Count called deGribaldy flew a private plane to Ireland to sign up the young Irishman. The rest is history but the hardman who raced to victory through the raging waters is still the same.
Approaching Dungarvan we passed Rory Wyleys father Rory Wyley out on his bike coming against us. A debate followed regarding his age. Some said he was 103, others 93 until eventually it was settled on 83 although he may be more.
The Pike brought us into an area where the Sun was now shining and life was good. I was on the front with Kelly as he dispensed some of his frequent tips.
Tip 1 : If you have a cold or a sore throat cut up half an onion. Put it on a plate beside your bed and chew a small bit of it and swallow some of the juice. In the morning your sore throat will be gone.
Tip 2 : The Belgian Pros’ on very wet days will put a one inch streak of Iodine down the length of the front and back of both legs to draw out the moisture.
Then we passed the first of 3 Dungarvan groups headed by the ever smiling Robert ‘Flower’ Power.
In Leamybrien two figures up ahead turned as we approached. Dukie Mansheabo and JD Supermarket had shied back from the flood but had come out against us to shepherd us home.
Then came Mahon bridge. Gismo Grylls was feeling strong and a roll through at the front turned into a full on attack. He hung out for a while until Dukie Mansheabo closed the gap and rolled up alongside when normal service was resumed once more.
The pace rose over the Haysheds until Daruas cross produced a ferocious attack by King Kelly. He launched the afterburners at such a rate that no one could contemplate following. The race to Carrick was now on.
Gismo Grylls did not want to let victory slip from his grasp and set off in pursuit. O’C Choppers then took up the chase and was quickly followed by Turkeys, Twoflats and Dukie.
When Gismo was caught with Kelly still remaining out ahead it was now the turn of Dukie Mansheabo to launch his pursuit. Sensing the danger of him closing up on King Kelly up ahead and the power of that tandem effort I knew it was time to clip across.
It all came back together until Curraghduff when Kelly looking over the ditch at the Galvanised roof of the house where he was born launched another blistering attack up the hill.
This was too close to the finish to let the former World Number One get a gap and Gismo Grylls immediately took up the chase with Twoflats Magician and Dukie Mansheabo close behind.
Past The Bowlers and it was all back together again heading for the last climb home.
I decided that this would be a good place to head off to get a few photos of the finish and clipped on ahead, got a gap and managed to get there in time.
Twoflats Magician was next to roll across the line followed by Dukie and then Gismo.
Bodies were tired but all agreed that this Sundays adventure was well worth getting out of bed for.