The knock or the bonk or whatever you wish to call it is something almost every cyclist experiences at some stage or other . And whilst Knock may be a place of pilgrimage for many Irish people ‘the knock’ is another form of pennance altogether .
The most common location around us to view someone experiencing the knock is ‘The pike’ outside Dungarvan in early January . This is when a little too much indulgence over Christmas and too little winter training join together to wreak havoc on the body .
For those of us from Clonmel it begins when you meet the group coming up the road from Carrick around Newtownanner school on the main road . As you turn around and latch onto the rear of the group you immediatly feel that the pace is maybe two or three miles per hour quicker than you would like . But you tell yourself that as soon as you warm up that you’ll be fine .
Then instead of taking it easy at the rear of the group and chatting to Willy or Cronin you spot Smiler and decide to move up along the line towards the front in order to slag him about his new pink leggings .
Before you know it you’re going through Kilmanihan second in line and just as the drag up Knocknamullaigh rears it’s ugly head in front of you the rider in front goes through and there you are stuck on the front with Eddie whose talking the head off you just as your legs begin to ache a little and all you want to do is concentrate on getting over the top of the drag . You try to engage in the chat because you don’t want him to realise that your under pressure . If he spots it he’ll half wheel you and then you’ll be under seroius pressure . You stay in the saddle and clench the handlebars to avoid any rocking or bouncing so that no one will notice how much your suffering .
You make it to the top and roll through straight away , thankfull for the respite of the downhill . Thankfull that is until the voice behind shouts ‘ ride down the hill’ and you drop it down a sprocket or two and are once again under pressure . You make it as far as Mulcahy’s eggs and say to the rider next to you ‘ sure I’ll let you on through there’ . As if your doing him a big favour or something when all your really thinking is thank God I’m off the front .
Now comes the false sense of security when you tell yourself that second in line on the left of the group is the farthest from the next turn at the front you can be . That is until some big conversation is taking place back along the line and wheels are let go off and before you know it there are two riders on the front with a single file line of ten behind them before you have two more deep in conversation with the rest all behind them .
Nobody wants to move accross as most have just been on the front and want to avail of the respite so you go ‘ feck it anyway’ and move accross and back up the line . Before you know it there you are again , passing Melody’s pup on the way out of Ballymac and the rider in front goes through and there you are , stuck on the front again .
This time it’s Rory who your riding beside and even though he’s one of the soundest guys in the group , when you look down and see him in the 53 x 11 doing a power interval up the climb you wish you were at home eating a fry reading the newspaper like normal people do .
Now it’s all going through your mind , big ring or small ring , which sprocket should I be in . When your going well it doesn’t really matter as you just seem to cruise along . But when your under pressure it really does matter , a lot . Up past the grotto your out of the saddle and glancing across at the statue thinking how calm it looks whilst inside your legs are screaming . Back in the saddle and stay there until the bends . If you get through the first one still sitting you’ll make it around the next one . But if your out of the saddle early , chances are a bit of sliding back on the second will take place and everyone will be aware of how much pressure your under and you can’t have that so you dig in deeper .
Finally the top comes into view with the promise of the piss stop over the other side and a chance to recover . You pull over and dilly dally as much as you can letting much of the group move off ahead of you . Then when you think just enough have gone ahead it’s back on the bike and off again in with the intention of latching onto the back of the group with at least twenty ahead of you .
That is until Fitzy comes up your inside and he’s all chat about the two Great Danes and what they got up to . Your now clipping along again but your just thinking about suffering now but when your on the back of the group it will be happy days again . That is until you realise that your now closing very quickly on the group ahead with maybe eight or ten riders now tucked in behind yourself and Fitzy . Your travelling at 25 mph and the group ahead are only doing 15 mph . Then just as you approach the rear Fitzy says ‘ move out there Bar’ and before you know it ther eyou are back on the front all over again .
The thought that you’ve probably spent more time on the front of the group now than anyone else starts to consume your thoughts just as the pain begins to consume your legs . You pass by Bearys cross and tell yourself that you’ll turn with the O’Gs at the top of Colligan , but as you near Colligan you notice that they must have turned earlier and are faced with the choice of a lonley ride home on your own or having to go all the way around .
As you descend colligan you now know that the point of no return has been crosssed and on cue you get a cramp in your leg . It works it’s way out just as that empty feeling settles in your stomach and you curse Martin Early and his bright idea of 60 miles on a slice of toast , a cup of tea and one water bottle .
You now begin the climb up the pike with a magnificent sea view on your right , but it might aswell be a slurry tank for all you care at this stage . All you can do is focus on the cassette of the bike in front of you and dig in as if your life depended upon it . Your legs are on fire , your arms ache , your stomach is cramping from lack of food and your head feels dizzy . You look accross near the top to see Cronin’s head looking at you whilst his helmet points straight ahead and he says ‘ What don’t kill you’ll make you stronger ‘ and all you want to do is jump off the bike into the ditch and lie down .
But your a cyclist , this is what cyclist’s do , suffer and so you keep going . You just keep digging in and digging in and even when you get tailed off up past the haysheds you still manage to somehow scrape back onto the back of the group . You now enter a different time zone where minutes or hours all feel the same . All that encompases your mind is the thought of home . The dinner , a shower , legs up in front of the telly . Every pedal revolution will bring you nearer .
The gallop into Carrick begins but you just let the wheels go . Part of you hopes that the lads going up the road will wait for you , part hopes that they don’t and you can set your own pace which will be at least 10 mph , or should I say at most 10 mph . But they do wait and your glad of the company and moreso the shelter as you cover those last arduous thirteen miles back up to Clonmel .
You arrive in the door 4 Kilos lighter than when you left earlier that morning . You know that you should go for a shower but the stairs seems like everest and so you find yourself at the kitchen table asking for a cup of tea and whatever chocolate can be found . Your still a little dizzy and can’t quite recall much of the last twenty miles or so but what does it matter your home .
The funny thing is that maybe an hour or two later , after a shower and some dinner there seems to appear a slightly masochistic sense of satisfaction . The awareness that you put your body through turmoil but came out the other side in one piece gives it’s own sense of satisfaction .
Within another hour or two your already looking forward to next week and you can hear Lance speaking in the back of your mind ‘ pain is temporary , quitting lasts for ever ‘.