This morning, wallowing in self-pity, I thought it was going to be a tough day.
It was, for all the wrong reasons.
Coming up the Barnesmore Gap, about 20km out of Donegal, I noticed one of the ambulances screaming past the back of the peloton, where I was after struggling on the climb. I am well used to ambulances and sirens going crazy, but this was out of the ordinary.
A couple of minutes later I came up around a corner and onto the back of the stopped group. It was only after several minutes stopped, when we were asked to turn our bikes around, that I realised that something was seriously wrong. There was an urgency and a stress on the faces of some of the more senior cycle marshals. Another vehicle screamed past the line of stopped traffic that had built up outside us, sirens wailing, and it was clear that someone was badly hurt.
By pained voices, we were marshalled across the road to the far shoulder and told briskly to cycle back to Donegal Town. It was a somber group that followed the lead car who set a blistering 25km/h pace into the rain and strong headwind. We quickly thinned out to a long straggled line of wet and cold confusion. All the time wondering “what happened? who was it – is it someone I know? will they be ok?” When the wind and climbs didn’t prevent them, we had quiet conversations between cyclists discussed options, and the chinese whispers factor was in evidence.
It’s now been reported in the media, and we’ve been told as a group by the organisers, that one of our motorcycle marshals was killed in a collision with a truck as he led the way for us. He was a man I smiled and waved at many times every day for the past 10 days, but I never knew his name.
Brenawn, rest in peace.
The positive: the people of Donegal Town were amazing, putting together hot drinks, food, blankets, towels and even spare clothes for hundreds of people with only 60 minutes notice.