Part of the N24 stretches the 20 kilometres from Carrick on Suir to Clonmel . Since I started cycling in 1986 I have travelled this road thousands of times in both directions in the company of many of Ireland’s greatest ever cyclists and also one of the worlds greatest ever.
The shared knowledge and sound advice given, along with just keeping your eyes open to what is going on around you on this road must be the equivalent of a university degree in cycling.
Here are just a couple of the lessons learned on that road ;
Bend your elbows :
As a teenager when Ryaner rode up alongside you in the group, if you had your elbows locked you would get a light karate chop and a warning to bend your elbows . It’s not easy to do at first but over time has saved me from countless bouts of sore neck and shoulder muscles that seem to afflict other cyclists .
Stop bobbing up and down :
A great way to waste energy and to look ungainly on a bike is to be bobbing up and down like one of those nodding dogs apprentice hairdressers have on the back window of their Honda civics. Anthony O’G showed me how to eliminate this by placing my thumbs behind the tops of the bars beside the stem. Then by concentrating on not bobbing up and down it was all but eliminated in no time.
Ride over the top of the hill :
If you are at the front of the Carrick group heading over the top of Ballinaraha in early January and decide to ease up a bit and coast down the other side , the chorus of ‘ Ride on ‘ and ‘Ride down the hill ‘ in not so dulcet tones will get you pedalling again pretty quickly. This is a great habit for racing too. Many a race has been won by local riders who launched themselves from the front of a bunch going over the top of a climb when everyone else was taking a breather never to be seen again.
Drift of the back and kick hard within the last k :
Many a Carrick league race was won by lesser sprinters who knew where they stood drifting 10 bike lengths off the back of a 10 or 12 man break and sprinting passed the group at full speed with 500 meters to go. A moments hesitation by a few riders is all it takes to get enough of a jump to carry you to the line first.
Whatever you do , don’t throw the bike back :
When rising from the saddle to stand on the pedals do so gradually and don’t ‘throw the bike back’ on top of the rider behind. If you do it once you are given the reflex title of ‘ fuckin eejit’. Do it a second time and you become a ‘dangerous fuckin eejit’. A third offence will lead to a lonely spin home on your own.
If you are a great cyclist you can still be a nice guy :
For a teenager, to cycle beside that years Paris-Roubaix winner and the green Jersey in the Tour de France among a multitude of other monumental victories and to have him ask with genuine interest how your training and racing is going is quite an experience . To overhear someone else tell Sean Kelly that he looks a lot like Sean Kelly and for him to go along with it by saying that ‘ it’s not the first time I’ve heard that ‘ is also very entertaining.
Everyone has a bad day :
There is not one rider in the group who has never had a bad day . We have all seen one another suffering at some stage. The important thing to do is to keep going and very soon a good day will come again and you will be at the front heading over the Pike once more.
Wash your bike :
If you don’t it is noticed and will be commented upon.
The group will never drop Vinnie Cronin
No matter how shattered he looks at the beginning, middle or end of a spin and no matter what speed the group is doing he will always manage to hang on . But, If you are getting dropped be prepared for a comment like ‘ you might aswell put head between your legs and kiss your arse goodbye ‘ as he passes to put the final nail in your coffin .
Call the holes :
If you see a pot hole or any obstruction on the road call it to warn the riders behind. It is a serious black mark if you don’t call a hole that someone behind rides into and gets a puncture in. If it’s on your left shout left , in the centre shout centre and if in doubt just shout ‘hole’ !
Do your turn at the front :
If there is a group of 30 plus out with only six or eight going through Iggy will get annoyed . You do not want to annoy Iggy !
Make friends :
There will be people that you would not recognise in normal clothing who will become some of your best friends on the bike. The ones you meet on and off the bike will be your friends for life . Value it !