Saturday, 28 May 2016

Tour De Conamara 2016

One week on from the saga that was Conamara, and I'm finally getting round to a writeup. That in itself should be an indication of what a tough ride it turned out to be, and of how much it took out if me (nothing at all to do with my indolence...)
As a Conamara virgin, I was relying on the collective wisdom of Castlereagh ' s Clifden veterans to keep me up to speed and pointing in the right direction. Arriving on the Friday evening, we met up for a quick pint (Retro went safety pin shopping instead), before we tied a bow on it and called it a night. Extremely tame by Castlereagh standards!!!
Fast forward to the next morning: we blended seamlessly into the heaving throng of cyclists who'd converged from all four provinces of Ireland, and further afield. We'd all opted for our club kit, with longtudunial navy and lime green stripes - perfect camouflage amongst the hundreds of Skoda Tour de Conamara event shirts (same colours, but horizontal stripes). While we certainly felt like we fitted in, finding the group again after a toilet or refreshment stop became a challenge!
Rolling out at 9.30 am for the 100km route (with epic soundtrack blaring behind us) [Ed - Swedish House Mafia - Greyhound (I asked Joe)] we were treated to the gently rolling and undulating coastal roads through Ballyconneely and Round stone. The pace was frisky from the off, with riders rolling through rapidly at the front and groups forming immediately. Wannabe - show off that I am, I was in the front group until the first food stop, but knew that I would have to ease off if I wanted to make it round in one piece! The huge welcome from the Conamara Lair ladies' junior teams gave a much appreciated welcome (although I did hear one of them later say "you're all mad!), and tired bodies were glad of the hot drinks and food on offer.
Castlereagh regrouped and forged an alliance with some Foyle riders, riding steady to the next stop. Partly recovered from my early efforts, I ventured off the front but suffered in the crosswinds and was soon reeled back in. Berg was especially supportive in my hour of need - 10 minutes on the front once caught??!!! I'm starting my own blacklist and his name will forever be at the top!
The second food stop was even more welcome than the first and we agreed to take a proper rest. Some creative stretching, Snake Hips trying to eat his own weight in cake and Berg showing off his new wheels provided a bit of levity as we contemplated the miles ahead of us.
All the way home, we meant serious business. A four-up TT team comprised of myself, Terminator, Berg and Snake Hips ate up the road like it was cake at the previous food stop. We reeled in a fair few riders along the way, and I can only imagine (and hope!) we looked intimidating - the navy blue Castlereagh train charging towards the beer tent at the finish must be a sight to behold! The drag past Cleggan was the day's final challenge. I know we look pro, but Berg emptying his bidon at the start was a bit too much even for me! The reception at the finish was spectacular; klaxons to welcome riders back, beer tent, BBQ and medals. In classic Castlereagh style, all of us attempted to don our medals over heads already capped with helmets. We'll happily blame it on being tired out, but even we know - that's just the way we are...complementary rub downs went down a treat, especially for Snake Hips ("keep her chatting boys, she'll massage you for longer") and Berg, who was told he was so limber that he appeared not to have been on the bike at all!
All in all, the atmosphere at the finish (and throughout the whole event) was incredible, and we can't thank the organisers enough for all the hard work they put in - it was spectacular and I'll definitely be back 🙂 All that was left for Castlereagh to do was mark the end of the weekend with a slap up meal while we discussed the day's goings-on, and even reminisced further back. My favourite was the story of Retro at the 2015 event ("my race number is 2015 - what a coincidence! "). Sincere kudos to Terminator, Berg, Resurrection, Snake Hips, Retro who all rode brilliantly. All of us are gearing up for the Gran Fondo in Belfast tomorrow (at time of writing) and Conamara provided some of the most enjoyable training miles we could ever have hoped for. We'll see you next year, and we'll bring more back with us

1 comment:

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