Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Wicklow 200 (or 100 in my case)

This year I finally made it. No health issues, no family emergencies, nothing to stop me getting to Greystones at an unearthly hour on Sunday morning to do the Wicklow 100. There is something wrong with getting out of bed at 4:30 am just to ride a bike but at least it was already bright, reasonably warm and the sky was clear and breeze-less. It was also great to have a traffic free trip down. Half an hour from the heart of the northside to the Wicklow seaside must be some kind of record.

I got there before 6am and was changed and ready in the Rugby Club car park in a few minutes. A quick ride next door to the Shoreline leisure centre and sign-on was easy. There were several tables, allocated by event number, all with their own computer, printer and goody bags of various energy bars and gels. Then a short queue for the leisure centre toilet, a quick coffee and all was ready to go.

Outside a steady stream of riders of all shapes and sizes were gathering in colourful groups in the morning sun. I spotted several world champions (!), at least one Giro pink jersey, a tuxedo, a skeleton and an Irish champion as well as the usual array of local and overseas club, team and colourful jerseys.

Then Stephen showed up and we were ready for the off. There's no massed start so we saw a group heading off at about ten to seven and joined the back of it. The route headed up the surprisingly steep by-pass where we passed the first casualty of the day fixing his puncture. Then out on to the almost deserted N11 for the short ride through the Glen of the Downs to Kilmacanogue and the start of the main climb for the 100 route. A small group of people at the side of the road gave some welcome applause although I think both parties were a bit bemused by what the other was doing there at that hour of a Sunday morning.

A short way up the climb and Stephen took a right turn for his date with destiny on the 200 route while I kept left, following the road announced by the Marshall as being the way for "sensible people". Then the climb proper started and it's not called the Long Hill for nothing. Having said that I was very pleasantly surprised to find I was cruising up fairly easily, passing several riders and even able to say hello as I passed! It was a far cry from the wheezing struggle I had up it just over a year ago. It's amazing what a bit of training and losing two stone can do for you.

I did look down at my computer and had a double-take moment to realise I was cresting the top and it was still only just after seven am!

On to Calary Bog and two older gents came past me at a decent pace so I jumped on their wheels and settled in for a tow. As we moved towards Roundwood we picked up a few more riders including the undoubted star of the day. Imagine getting out of bed in Dublin city in the middle of the night, checking a DublinBike out of a street-side station and heading off to Greystones to ride a hilly 100km with your three gears and shopping basket. Well that's exactly what this guy did. So there he was, hunched over his sturdy handlebars, twiddling his limited gears and slipstreaming like a pro. I had to know how the hell he got up the climb on that. In his eastern European accent he did admit that it was "a bit hard". He matched the pace very impressively and held on until the descent to Annamoe where his lack of a big ring was a major handicap. As I passed him for the last time his legs were flying around like a propeller but he just couldn't match the pace.

Mind you he wasn't the only one. The group had dwindled a bit by now. On towards Laragh I was looking forward to getting an easy ride to the Rathdrum stop at least. But fate is a bugger. On a straight, smooth stretch I took a drink and only went and dropped my bottle. It was too early to be without it so I had no choice but to slow up and go back for it.

Down through the beautiful old forests of the Vale of Clara I had some pleasant chats with a guy from Wexford before arriving at the feed stop. It was still early and there were only a few riders there so it was no hassle to get a nice cup of coffee and my pick of a wide choice of sandwich. No queues, a seat and a choice of portaloo. Luxury!

About fifteen minutes after I arrived Mr DublinBike turned up still looking amazingly fresh. He was the centre of attention as the phones came out and everyone got a picture to prove it. Me included, so here it is:

I didn't hang around too long as there was still an early morning chill about. I headed off alone towards Avondale, hoping to either catch or be caught by a group on the road, a vain hope as it turned out. On to Avoca (or Ballykissangel for fans of the BBC TV show) where the route profile showed there was a small climb heading out of the town towards Redcross. Afterwards everyone agreed this was the worst hill on both routes. It was one of those climbs with a not too steep, but seemingly never ending, series of ramps, each of which looked like the last only to reveal another as you got to the top.

I got over it eventually, surprising myself as I passed a whole group of riders, while not exactly killing myself. Riding on alone, I made good progress over the last, mostly flat or rolling, 40 km and made the finish in Greystones well within the four hour time I'd been targetting, to a nice round of applause and a photographer on the line.

Again, it was still early in the day so the admin tables were relatively empty which made getting my cert, medal and more free energy bars easy. There was plenty of tea and biccies in the Civil Defence tent although I didn't have the free pasta.

Overall it was a very pleasant mornings ride. Nice weather, a not too taxing course, plenty of route markings and sufficient food, at least when I was there. If I had any disappointment it was the lack of company for long stretches of the route but I think I was just out too early to get the big groups. That and the slight guilt at not being all that tired at the end. I think I've no excuse not to bite the bullet and do the full 200 route next year.

Speaking of which, hats off to those who did complete the big one. We had lovely sunshine early in the day but by the time they got to the second half of their route the weather had turned very nasty. "Wet and cold" was how Stephen described it.


  1. Well done, by the sounds of it you should have taken on the 200! The weather wasnt too bad for the 200 actually (provided you were back in Greystones before 4), bit of misty rain early on and a shower around 2:30.

  2. Good days work - well done - you'll have to do the 200 next year!

    Weather was brutal on our W200 but we were back in around 5pm.

  3. Excellent blog, first account I've read about the fate of the 100km people. I wondered about the guy on the Dublin bike. Fair play!

    From the sounds of it you are already well able for the 200, so be sure to take the right turn for Glencree next year!

    Well done.