There is a climb that I look across at each morning as I sit and eat breakfast. The road is only visible in places as a blanket of evergreen trees surrounds it all year round. At this time of year headlights glimmer every now and then, as an early morning riser makes their way to work. But it is not the car that belongs on that road, it is a road that was made for two rather than four wheels.
Leaving Clonmel, heading towards Carrick on Suir you pass by Strangs garage. Full of second hand Mercs and BMW’s with a Southfork style house alongside, don’t let it distract. You have more important tasks ahead.
Within 400 meters you approach the Bulmers roundabout with a grove of apple trees on your left. This is not the liquid you need for what faces you so just take a swig of electrolite from your bidon and go right taking the third exit from the roundabout.
Traffic now quietens as you approach the traffic lights that signify the single lane Ferryhouse bridge over the River Suir. Stop on red, go on green. Sprint on orange.
The mountain ridge ahead now gives the first impression of the journey and the challenge that you are facing. Don’t get distracted, you’re looking at the easy part.
A sweeping left hander announces the begining of gradients that count in percentages, all positive.
400 meters later you brake, turn right onto the by-road off a by-road and enter the cauldron of ‘Shamaleyes hill’ otherwise known as Tickincor.
When we were schoolboys meeting at the gaa centre on the Western road after school on autumn evenings, driven by the passion of Kelly’s exploits in the Nissan Classic, the biggest challenge facing us was the hill up behind Sean Molloys House, also known as Shamaleyes hill (say it with a Tipp accent)
A 10 meter flat section is your opportunity to change into the lowest gear on your bike. Don’t worry if others keep a few in reserve, you will soon be gliding past them.
A gate into the wood straight ahead may distract, but don’t let it, you now need all of your attention focussed on propelling you and your machine up the wall that faces you around the 90 degree left hand bend.
Dig in and suffer now, whilst knowing that this, the steepest part of the entire climb is just 300 meters long. But don’t empty the tank, you still have 90% of the 3k climb to endure before you can say that you have conquered the beast that is Tickincor.
If the guy who lives in the sloping cottage on the right is leaning over the wall as you approach do not feel self concious as you pass him wheezing and spluttering. It’s nothing he has not seen many times before.
A slight right hander gives 8 feet of respite before another longer right hander twists the knife once more.
The road goes by another house as it snakes around to the right. A car once tried to pass me here and another car came around the bend. Both cars braked, one stalled whilst the other skidded past me, just millimetres from my bars.
Passing the house of the artist you can now relax In the knowledge that the worst gradient is behind you. The worst of the pain may not be, if you are already in the red, but you were warned.
A straight now beckons. If you are feeling strong your right index finger will reach for the inner sti lever and drop down one sprocket and then another. If you ride campag it will be your thumb. If you ride sram, you may already have double tapped, but not in a ‘hitman’ kind of way.
At the end of the straight comes a pretty sharp left hander. Change down now. It’s steeper around the corner and the surface is rough.
Rolling around the long gradual right hander you may also notice your shoulders rolling too. That’s OK as long as your eyes don’t join in.
Passing a double forestry entrance, the gradient eases off and the surface improves. Don’t get cocky. You’re not there yet.
Passing the farm, on the right the gradient rises again, and rises and rises. A sweeping left turns into a sweeping right which turns into a sweeping up to the second steepest part of the climb.
A gate into a short tree lined avenue signifies an approach to the final ‘flatter’ section before you eventually reach the top and turn right to Harneys cross.
You have now reached the summit. If you made it without unclipping or coming to a halt, you are fit, you are strong, you are now a ‘Tamer of Tickincor’ !