For over thirty years a training group has left the old ESB offices in Carrick at 9 am every Sunday morning. Some winters that has been put back to 9.30 am in order to allow frosty roads to thaw out. At least 50 out of every 52 Sunday mornings the group heads up the Clonmel road and expands as it picks up riders from Kilsheelan, Clonmel, Fethard, Cashel and Cahir.
Heading down the road this morning I noticed a strong headwind which meant that the group should be slightly ahead of time with the wind on its back. By the time I reached Merck I wondered if someone had punctured. By Dove Hill I knew it must have been one of the 2 out of 52 Sundays that the group had gone in a different direction on a road less travelled and so it was time for me to do the same.
With the wind coming from the east, Waterford was on the cards to provide a tailwind home. The lure of the sea then made its presence felt and I decided that it was a while since I felt the salty sea breeze on my face so the coast beckoned.
Passing the turnoff for Portlaw the red and yellow Comeragh Train came steaming along the road. Plenty of waves and hello’s from the friendly bunch with Ciarán Power collecting tickets at the back beckoning me to join them. I was tempted but the sea was now calling.
Pockets of crisp mist hung over fields along the banks of the Suir as Slivenamon lay like a sleeping giant in the background. It was a lovely morning to be out on the bike, so far.
Going through Kilmeaden I spotted a road that I had not travelled before so swung a right and headed off into the hills. I knew the general direction that I wanted to be pointed but each unsignposted crossroad presented a moments challenge. I wasn’t alone in my meandering as I passed a fellow Lone Ranger in full UCD regalia who was so concentrated on choosing the correct direction that he didn’t even notice my wave and greeting.
Between Kill and Ballyduff the sky turned grey and fell lower and lower. Then just as I hit the two hour mark the rain began to fall, and fall and fall .
On the road to Bonmahon I passed a few more guys out for their Sunday morning training spin on their own and exchanged nods, waves and hellos.
Then came a guy on a flash bike with deep section carbon wheels who was confused about what to do when a fellow cyclist says hello. 15 bike lengths behind was another guy who was less flashy but more friendly.
In Bonmahon itself I felt my rear tyre softening so I stopped to pump it up overlooking about a dozen guys out surfing. I was now almost as wet as they were so didn’t spend long spectating.
On into Kilmacthomas and the rear tyre was really going flat so now I was on the lookout for somewhere sheltered to pull in. Flahavans had already provided me with breakfast and fuel for the spin and now the shelter of their entrance provided a respite from the now bucketing rain.
Out onto the main road at Mahon bridge without a single thought of going up Mahon Falls I turned right and was soon met by one of the Dungarvan groups who were all concentrating hard on the road back home.
Left for Rathgormack and a small stream was now flowing down the hill against me as I now realised that I would be cutting it fine for The wizard of Oz. Time to drive on a bit.
With no one else to talk to for the four hour spin other than the voice in my head thoughts were flying in and out.
One that lasted was the importance of acknowledging fellow cyclists on the road. Passing many lone cyclists today I wondered about reasons why they were not out with clubs or in groups. It can be intimidating for any cyclist to go out for the first time with a club or group. If more experienced cyclists pass fellow cyclists without any recognition it will not encourage new members to take the plunge.
Cycling is a great leveller. On the bike it doesn’t matter if you are a doctor or on the dole. Out on the road everyone is just ‘a cyclist’ and that’s something we’ll worth recognising.