Saturday, 8 October 2011

Ar An Rothar - On The Bike

It’s heading for the ‘wee small’ hours of Sunday morning in Teach Sean Óg’s (pub) in Bunbeg.  As I order a few more beers, I overhear the locals in full flow ‘as gaeilge’ beside me at the bar.  I pause for a minute or two while my pint of Guinness settles, gather my thoughts carefully, then I go for it.  I nudge into their circle of conversation and let fly.  ‘Chuaigh me go dti Gaoth Dobhair inniu ar an rothar’.  It wasn’t that hard was it?

This is translated as, ‘I came to Gweedore today on the bike’.  The locals gave me a blank look in response.  I wasn’t sure if they didn’t understand my Maghera dialect of Irish, or the fact that only elite athletes cycle 85miles in a day and your’s truly was sitting here waiting on his pint of plain to settle.  Would Mark Cavendish, Cadel Evans or Nicholas Roche be at it?

Eventually the ‘muintir na háite’ (locals) got chatting and I informed them of my recent attendance at Irish classes and they appreciated my attempt at the language.  Also, I pointed out that an eighteen strong Carn Wheelers crew were staying at the nearby Seaview Hotel as part of the now annual ‘Tour Te Donegal’. 

It is basically the Carn Wheelers end of term bash.  Most bashes are relaxed affairs; this one is a little different.  It comprises of a 90 mile cycle to Gweedore, an overnight stay followed by a return cycle back to Maghera the next morning.

I’ll take you back to Saturday morning at Maghera Leisure Centre.  Tour organiser Darren Mulholland had the reminder texts sent out, hotel and food booked.  All he needed now was the weather.  Friday was a day for ducks, but Saturday morning was perfect.  We gathered up in Maghera, with Danny O’Kane again providing the support vehicle, his red Transit van.

We packed the sports nutrition, extra gear and disco clothes into the van.  After a send off from Rory, Ronan and the WAGs it was time for action.  We headed from Maghera up towards Moneyneana.  We left new cyclocross enthusiast Cathal Doyle off at his sister’s house on route.

Once we took the right turn it was into climbing mode; it was everyone for themselves up the Feeny mountain.  A look over our right shoulder towards the more challenging Birren made the climb a bit easier mentally.  It was followed by a descent into Feeny and onto Claudy for a brief stop.  Here, we lost a bit of time with a puncture (the only one of the weekend) then it was into Ardmore and on to Derry via a stiff climb on a back road in Altnagelvin.  It was much steeper than the main road.

We went under the Craigavon Bridge, then towards Letterkenny via Newtowncunningham.  On our way into Killea, we encountered a real case of road rage, from a man in a light blue car.  His type brings motorists a bad name.  Through Letterkenny we managed to get past the numerous pubs, with Barry Young speculating how much Liverpool was beating Everton by.  His 2-0 prediction was spot on unfortunately.  L

I didn’t realise that Letterkenny was on such a hill.  It was into Andy Schleck mode, up past the fire station and the hospital.  It was some bit of climbing before we reached the Mountain Top Service Station.  It was here that some controversy crept into the tour.

Myself and Martin Loughlin headed for a ‘sit down’ hot food snack against the wishes of the rest of the group.  It tasted great, but the group headed on and we had a 5 mile handicap.  In a case like this, you need a man in a van…..enter Danny O’Kane.  Well nourished, the van ferried us up to the rest of the group.  It was all downhill anyway, so I still claim we missed very little.  Anyone could have cycled that bit of the route!

Next up was Kilmacrenan, a left turn and through Glenveagh National Park to Gweedore.  With about 70 miles in the legs, this was a tough one with a long gradual climb around Mount Errigal.  Barry Young kept telling us to look out for Mount Errigal, the one with snow on the top.  I am still looking for the snow.

Once at the top there was a great long descent down into Gweedore and the picturesque Poisoned Glen.  The breakaway group up front stepped on the gas and were lucky to avoid a couple of lazy sheep in the middle of the road.  Once in Bunbeg, the customary beach photo was taken before checking in at the hotel.

I wasn’t for cycling home on Sunday, I had to be home early, so my bike was put into the van and I headed for a few well deserved pints.  With the bike parked for the night (and the season) we relaxed before heading for a beautiful four course meal, courtesy of Carn Wheelers.

After dinner the form was lively as we headed for Teach Sean Óg; this night was always going to be a good one.  It was a fitting end to a great day of banter and cycling.  Next morning, there were a few dodgy heads at breakfast with people trying to work out if they had been in the nightclub or not.  It was that sort of night.  

The group then got kitted out and geared up, with myself and Paul McNamee getting ‘yellow cards’ for not cycling home.  Paul cycled later in the day, but I jumped into Rory’s car, my average speed was much faster on the way home!

This week it is the Tour of South Derry, but I will be stewarding at it.  With ‘the cube’ (road bike) now hung up for the winter, I turn my attention to Davagh and Garvagh forests and a spell at the mountain biking.  Barry Russell says I corner like a woman (not very politically correct Barry) so the mountain biking should help my overall skills on the bike.  Not without a good few bruises and bumps along the way I’m sure. 

Next year I will be completing both legs of the Tour Te Donegal ‘ar an rothar’.  This time next year I will be able to hold a longer conversation with the Bunbeg locals.

Video (Danny & Betty Anne O'Kane Media Productions) -

Tour Te Donegal Squad: Darren Mulholland (Tour Manager), Danny O’Kane (Transport Manager), Ronan Higgins (Race Radio 1), Rory O’Connor (Race Radio 2), Trevor Averill, Marc Heaney, Tommy Heaney, Aidan Higgins, Gerry Kelly, Alan Lamont, Martin Loughlin, Tommy McGrath, Michael McMullan, Paul McNamee, Berry Anne O’Kane, Pat Purvis, Dessie Smyth and Barry Young.

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