The Race Around IrelandEvents Sports Cycling
Picture this. It’s the middle of the night, and you’re riding hard along an unfamiliar and hilly country road. Or at least trying to. You think. There’s a nasty gale-force headwind pushing you in every direction bar the one you want to go, and it’s hammering down rain. Or maybe it isn’t.
The thing is, you’re not really able to tell anymore for sure, because the sleep-deprivation is causing you to hallucinate, and has been doing so for days. The saddle sores seem real enough, though.Never mind, only another six hundred miles to go! Or at least that’s what the giant talking coffee machines in the rabbitskin waistcoats keep telling you.
A good support team, oodles of single-mindedness and the right footwear are just some of things a person needs when they decide they’d like to try their hand at any endeavor with the prefix “Endurance-” attached to it. This is equally true for Cycling, Snakes and Ladders or Leaning Against A Car.
And while a 1350 mile long course on open roads to be completed at the riders’ earliest possible convenience may not be every casual cyclist’s idea of killing an autumn Sunday afternoon, for those thus inclined the opportunity was afforded them last month in the Race Around Ireland, a country noted for many things. But not for its amazingly pleasant biking weather.
A staggered time-trial styled start in the town of Navan on the evening of September 12th sent solo riders away first, followed by the teams of two, and a couple of days later by the fours and eights (which made up the bulk of the starting field).
In a race format like this there really is safety in numbers. A team of eight, for example only needs one rider on the road at any given time, so the other seven can sit in the support van and good-naturedly throw cans of Proofide at him, or sleep, or slather their legs with Alp-evoking embrocation cream. This probably also holds true for teams of four, but if it’s just you or him, or Heaven forbid, just you, then the only throwing going on is likely to be the “up” kind, right?
So for fans of watching others suffer, the solo and double teams is where the real action is.
Essentially you’re your own boss. You set off from point A and ride briskly through the alphabet, eating, drinking and resting along the way whenever you deem it judicious to do so. At some stage you find yourself back at A. Sounds a bit like courier work. Of course, any courier taking things too easy eventually finds out that he isn’t really his own boss, and so it was that the Race Around Ireland organizers had time stations set up all around the country to ensure everyone was pulling their weight.
Ten solo riders started, and six finished. Hardly any of them got hit by a car immediately after setting off. The sixth made it to the end just inside the cut-off time of six days. Check out his version of events here. Words fail.
Three days in, pre-race solo men’s favourite Thomas Ratschob reckoned his saddle sores weren’t going to heal up any time soon…
Thomas Ratschob Hello altogether I quit the race at Wednesday night after considering, that my saddle sores won’t come better within the race. I would say many thanks to all of the organizers. Your really did a perfect job. The race is just brilliant. The course, great, very well done Emmet! The routebook was the best, I’ve ever seen. Just perfect! it’s a shame, that I had to quit because of these medical troubles. Before, I never had saddle sores like that. I think it was the combination of several points. The wet weather, the bad road surface… and some others. The sores began at Monday evening. I was fighting two days against this racking pains. But it wouldn’t came better. It’s a shame, because, the race, the weather, the speed, the wind, the climbs… nothing overstrained me. (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=wall&gid=65259278668)
He says wider tires next time out. I can think of something else.
The winners? Subjective, really. You could argue that anybody with a good excuse (“My dog ate it? My grandmother’s dead? I’ve run out of Proofide?”) to knock it on the head after about two hours might accurately be so described.
But none of these punishment gluttons (and gluttony’s a sin, remember) rolls like that. So herzlichen Glückwünsche, Bernd Paul of Germany, the solo “winner”. And equally well done to Messrs. Murt Rice and John Mahon, a.k.a. Wheels of Destiny, a.k.a. Dublin’s Two Least Sackable Couriers.