I’ve just had to search through some cycling gear to find a green jersey with ‘Wicklow 200′ plastered all over it to check when I last rode the event . Mine says 2003 , so it has been 6 years since I last took part in one of the toughest one day challenges in Irish cycling . This year I decided to give it another go . The weather had been so good for the past fortnight that surely a nice spin around the Wicklow hills couldn’t be that hard , or so I thought .
On Saturday afternoon I met up with John , J.P and Vinne as we made our way in a one car , one van convoy to Dublin . The odd shower we experienced leaving home had turned into a full blown torrential downpour as we headed in the Naas road . There was no let up as we drove on towards Bewleys hotel on Leopardstown where we met ‘Dob’ from Waterford and all checked in for the evening .
By 7 pm we were ensconced in the hotel bar and begining our carbo loading regime . Two pints of Arthurs finest were soon followed by a visit to the resturaunt to sample their culinary fare . As we finished the meal and headed back to the bar I glanced at my watch . It was now 10.30 pm . The next time I checked it was 12.30 am and we were nearing the end of our fifth round . At least we would have no trouble geting to sleep .
6.30 am Sunday morning the alarm goes off and after a plastic bowel of porridge oats and boiling water which tasted as bad as it sounds we were on the road towards UCD by 7.15
We checked in and then had to wait a short while for the rest of our crew to arrive . By 8.15 we were rolling out at a nice leisurely pace in a group of 15 or so . However within a few miles we were absorbing some of the riders ahead and had been caught by a fast paced group from Mayo who had cycled down the previous day in training for a record attempt on the Malin to Mizen .
By the time we reched Enniskerry it was like the charge of the light bridgade .There were now over 100 cyclists passing other smaller groups of cyclists and each short climb was accompanied by the clitter clatter of crunching gears . It was not until the run into the Sally Gap that it all settled down and we enjoyed the nice tailwind which gently pushed us along .
Over the top Paul Butler gave an injection of pace with Kelly on his wheel and kept it going down the descent which turned out speeds in excess of 70 kph .
Shortly afterwards Kelly punctured and luckily a nice lady with a track pump just happened to be driving behind and stopped to help out . We regrouped and all rode along the very scenic shore line of Blessington lake . The food stop at Donard seemed as if it was never going to appear . I had 2 x 500ml bottles on board which were empty by the 85 k mark as I was conciously getting plenty of fluids in . By 90k I was begining to wonder if we had passed the 1st food stop of the day . Finally we did reach Donard and joined the throngs to que up for some very welcome tea and sandwiches . It was quite a que and at one stage I wondered if a few of those signs in Disneyland which tell you how long to go , ie; 20 mins , 10 mins , 5 mins etc might have appeased some of the rumbling tummies and achy legs which accompanied most occupants of the que .
It also looked as if Dora the Explorer had been there before us as many riders presented there W200 swipe cards to be told no swiping was required .
All spirits were now lifted again after the refreshment and a nice brisk pace was set as we approached the next big climb of the day up Slieve Mann . The strong headwind really added to the difficulty of the climb itself , but everyone made it over nicely . A very quick descent and we were immediatly on to the climb up to the Shay Elliot memorial . Whilst this climb was more sheltered and the wind did not affect us too much , it’s close proximity to the climb before ensured that most legs had not yet recovered . The Powerbar drink station at the top was a very welcome sight and was much appreciated by all riders .
One rider who flew up this climb was Richie Keedy riding in the colours of Winning Solutions . Richie was mechanic for the winning solutions team in the recent Fbd Ras and is one of the top team mechanics in the country . Richie has also lost over 42kg in the past 18 months and it showed as he blasted up each climb during the day .
The next rest stop in Rathdrum came quickly and was another welcome break . There was very little queing here and after the nicest cup of tea ever tasted we were back on the road and headed for home . There still remained over 40 k to cover most of which would be into the wind . It also seemed as if most of it were uphill as weary legs began to feel the gradient . As Butler remarked , it was now like a War of ‘Nutrition ‘ . It took about 10 k to get going again but then it was easier and the last section of the event passed steadily .
There was a nice crowd at the finish to create a great atmosphere and all riders were delighted to collect their medals , certificates and blue wristbands which all can wear with pride . The final meal of Burger chips and a coke was also a welcome addition as were the excellent warm shower facilities .
This year I have been using a compact chainset with a 50/34 chainrings and an 11/25 rear cassette . I used every gear during the event and was able to go just as quick as any rider in our group using a standard 53/39 , both up and down hill . I am firmly convinced that unless you are racing at either first or second catagory level the compact set up is more suitable for 99.9 % of cyclists .
This is what my Garmin 705 informs me about the day : http://connect.garmin.com/activity/6652073
Some good pictures of the event are available here : http://www.theimagefile.ie/?skin=32820&Action=_VC&id=4347810&setpwd=wicklow%20200
and of course here : http://www.wicklow200.ie/
Thank you to the organisers who once again ran a fantastic event and thanks to everyone who reads this blog and said hello on the day . It was nice to meet everyone and I look forward to seeing you all on the roads again sometime .