West Cork

  We stopped in Bantry after a very long day – 128km from Tralee to Kenmare to Bantry with around 1100m of climbing including a single, gradual 14km climb from Kenmare up through the Caha Pass. It was very cruel to give us two final and fairly serious short climbs at the very end in Bantry – one of them was 11 degrees! But the massive welcome we got coming through the town spurred us on up these – it was absolutely amazing with so many people cheering us on from the square when we arrived into the town centre proper.

Every person who gives us a clap or a cheer, every car driver that beeps as we pass, every truck driver that gives us a deep blast from the air horn, they make it so much easier to continue pedalling when soaked to the bone and your hands going numb. Thank you!

Arriving into Bantry I was feeling very good, full of energy after taming the big climb out of Kenmare. It was a different story earlier in the day, my legs weren’t there. Most mornings it takes at least 10-15km before the legs warm up to operational temperatures and the peddling becomes easier. 

Out of Tralee we were getting soaked and had some tough climbing to do with a strong headwind. I tucked in behind a wheel as much as possible to get out of that wind, a gust hitting you can feel like you’ve just hit the brakes hard, very demoralising on a tough climb or even downhill. 
My legs never seemed to get past the heavy, leaden stage all morning and we rolled into Kenmare cold, tired and wet. 

The massive climb of the day was still ahead of us and it was a big topic of conversation in the group. I was concerned: although at this point I’m a fairly strong cyclist, I am slow on the hills because I’m extremely heavy in cyclists terms, there’s no two ways about it. 

I had heard one of the marshals mention that after the previous day where many people, myself included, spent a lot of time helping push weaker cyclists up hills and into the headwind, that today they would have to put those who can’t keep the pace in the climb into the bus. I was worried so asked one of the marshals about it and he confirmed: “You climb at your own pace but on this climb if you can’t keep with the group there will be no mercy, you’re going on the bus. I’m serious about that, Alastair”.

Well fuck that, I ain’t going on the bus. 

I grabbed my gear and went to put on my jersey that I left hanging in the wind to dry: still soaked. So I bought a new one from the merchandising stand, putting the wet gear into my day bag and left. I told a couple of lads what I was at and got out of there quick as I could. Apparently I left 20 mins before the group rolled out. 

In Kenmare town I confirmed directions with a few people before setting off up the road to give myself a lead, hopefully they wouldn’t catch me until I was well up the climb, but they could leave anytime because it was a very late lunch stop (3.30).

Spinning up the hill at my own pace was great, I didn’t feel I had to keep the pace at what suited anyone else. 

After 10 mins in the road I was passed by the supplies van, then one of our cars a minute later. A motorbike marshal passed 5 minutes after that and I was looking over my shoulder expecting to be swallowed up like a breakaway on the last day of the Tour de France 🙂 

But I made it! Nothing visible behind me, I made it all the way to the top. I took a few photos and an energy gel, and got back in the bike singing loudly to myself on the completely empty mountainside.

“I got a picture of you on your own there” shouted down Joe Dixon (our photographer and amazing guy) from the rocks above me. Oh shit, he heard me singing?!