Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt

At a lot of local cycle sportive events, included in the registration fee is a goodie bag, food/drink at the various stops and of course the t-shirt. In the drawer upstairs, I have got an Inishowen 100 t-shirt, one for Lap the Lough and two from the Tour of South Derry.

Today as part of my pre Inishowen 100 training, I did a bit of climbing practice which included what Ronan McCloskey calls ‘Big Ben’.  Go into Dungiven, take right at the Curragh Road, go out past the school, past the hurling pitch and keep going.  In fact you just keep pedalling out past the last house and head up the until the road ends. 

View of Dungiven from Benbradagh
Welcome to Benbradagh, the perfect place to train for Inishowen.  Tommie McGrath and Pat Purvis often maintain that Benbradagh deserves a t-shirt all of it’s own, that is if you make the top without having to get off.

Bridge Too FarAround four weeks ago I headed for ‘Big Ben’, myself and Aidan Higgins, but at the last bridge at the top I had to get off.  Higgy took it at a steadier pace and went all the way.  I didn’t realise how tough it actually was and started off too fast.  With the top in sight, I basically ground to a halt and it was game over.

Today I ventured back and this time I finished right to the top.  However, there no camper vans, no team cars, no spectators running alongside dressed in ridiculous and no KOM Jersey.  In this remote part of the country, there was just a Massey Ferguson Tractor, Link Box and nobody to be seen. Perhaps they were away to get more t-shirts.

It didn’t matter.  The sense of achievement was all that I needed.  That’s the way the sporting mentality works.  The same frame of mind that two years ago, left me a broken man at Mamore Gap.  I refused to let Pat Purvis take my photo at the top, knowing I had walked part of the way.  Maybe I am just stubborn.

Today's Route
This was my last training session before Sunday’s Inishowen Challenge, so I put in around 34miles of climbing, including three of the local climbs.  First of all it was Coolnasillagh, over into Dungiven up and down Benbradagh before heading via the Birren to Moneyneana. 

Climbing is one of the toughest things about cycling, especially for us of the big bones variety. 

We just have to get into a gear we are comfortable with and get on with it. 

Recently, I changed my cassette from a 25 to 28 on the back, with significant results; I have a better range of gears for climbing.

Better still, it is a 28-11, so I still have a good enough range for getting the speed up on the flats.  Today there were no flats however, just up and down.  The descent today down into Dungiven was scary enough.  It just makes you appreciate the speed the pros are reaching on the way down an Alpine descent.

I have a club race on Thursday night, and then it is feet up until Sunday and my return to Inishowen.  I did it two years ago and really struggled with it.  This time my ‘big boned’ frame is 3½ stone lighter so hope the route is kinder to me, but we’ll have to wait and see.'

Sunday will be the same.  I will get my t-shirt, but will it be accompanied by the sense of achievement?

As American Football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “If winning isn’t important, why do they keep the score”.

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