Cycling has a way of bringing people together and nowhere is that more evident than out there in small towns and villages throughout Ireland.
Upperchurch is one such village and the cycling club based there which also takes in members from surrounding areas such as Drombane and as far afield as Thurles is a great example of cycling and community spirit coming together.
One of their members, Peter Ryan, was an accomplished GAA player until loosing his sight. With a natural talent for sport he turned to cycling as a way to maintain his interest in keeping fit.
He didn’t just ride around though. On the back of a tandem piloted by the likes of Damian Shaw he competes at the highest levels representing Ireland and now within touching distance of qualification for the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
To help him along the club decided to promote their annual sportive this year to raise much needed funds that will assist Peter on the road to Rio.
A large group lined up for the 100k being led out by current National Road Race champion Damian Shaw of team Asea.
On a beautiful sunny morning a steady pace on the smooth road to Thurles kept the group together. Plenty of local clubs were represented such as Tipperary Wheelers, Raparee CC, Keeper CC, Rock Wheelers, Slievenamon CC, North Tipp Wheelers, Nenagh CC and many more including the promoting Upperchurch Drombane CC.
Michael Looby, the quiet man from Dundrum, rode up alongside and asked for a mention in the blog. I better not forget.
Gareth Genockey and Pierce Butler along with Damian Shaw and a few Rapparees controlled the pace until Roscrea when the afterburners were lit in order to split the group before the foodstop in Toomevara.
I looked ahead at one stage as I dug in to just hold the wheel ahead and noticed a familiar sight. In 1988 I rode the Junior Tour on the same team as Ken Costello and low and behold here I was again hanging on for dear life just like the JT on Kens wheel once again.
It felt more like a Ras lineout at times and I was glad to pass the American flags of Moneygal with the promise of the food stop and more importantly a break from the relentless 45kph reading on the Garmin up ahead in Toomevara.
The reward for hanging onto the front group is always having a good clear run at the delights of the foodstop. This foodstop was well worth the effort.
All too soon it was time to head off again with a nervous tension in the air as many prepared themselves mentally for the KOH on Boiling Broke Climb. (It lived up to its name)
A very fast run in before a left hander into the climb itself and then the action really started. Being ‘race fit’ was needed as the impressive Upperchurch train with Damian Shaw and a few from Tipp Wheelers and Rapparee CC exited the station.
Almost immediately I just set my own pace which I could hold to the top and rolled along picking up a few overboard train passengers along the way. It turned out that only 5 or 6 remained on the Shaw train and our train managed to get back on during the descent. The sight of a chasing Panda helped our efforts.
Pat Ryan from Tipp Wherlers launched a well timed attack with 8k to go and riding very strongly only Dave Donovan from Upperchurch followed.
The duo worked well together and held on to sprint it out on the uphill finish with Pat just edging out Dave on the line.
Back in the Village Community Centre the local ladies had put on a huge feast that was very much appreciated by all and it was fantastic to see everyone in the locality, young and old all turn out to welcome and encourage each and every cyclist. There really was a great community spirit to be felt throughout.
I better not forget to mention Michael Looby who said that he punctured on the climb 😉