Killinchy take on Wicklow Hills
A few months back one esteemed member suggested it would be a good idea to decamp to the Wicklow 200 in early June to tackle one of the longest and toughest sportives on the Irish cycling calendar. The idea went down so well among members that the organisation of said event was quickly lumped upon our treasurer due to local knowledge.
Fast forward to 6.15am on 7th June and 21 cyclists are standing on the steps of the Esplanade Hotel in Bray ready for the short cycle to the start line.
The local knowledge of the treasurer was quickly being called into question as we headed off towards the start line as it became apparent that it was on the other side of ‘that big hill’. Not a problem as we crossed the top and headed into Greystones but many were thinking of making their way back up on the way home.
At the starting point in Greystones Leisure centre a slick process of scanning entry cards got us ready to commence quickly. A couple of the group made a wrong turn on the way in but we were soon on the road.
The first few miles saw a split into a group of 5, a group of 14 and 2 who were taking on the 100km route. Good camaraderie and teamwork kept these same groupings for the rest of the day.
The route headed out of Greystones on the N11 dual carriageway and plenty of punctures were evident as other groupings were stopped. We kept out of the hard shoulder and managed to avoid the unfortunate start to the day. A left turn then brought us on the first climb of the day up ‘Long Hill’ onto Sugarloaf. Advice of riders having taken part in this event before was in the forefront of minds – ‘pace yourself on the early climbs’ – so a steady rhythm was the order of the day.
A long flat and gradual descent followed bringing us to the village of Glendalough where the 100km route turned left and the 200km route turned right for the Category 2 climb up to the Wicklow Gap. This one started off steady, with the gradient ramping up in the middle and then backing off slightly towards the top. Top marks to Drew for giving himself the extra challenge of throwing away his lunch card half way up and having to go back to find it.
A water station at the top helped everyone regroup and set off on the first of the fun downhill sections before a short sharp climb up Hollywood Hill. With this in the bag another fast descent brought us on to fast flat roads all the way to Baltinglass for ‘lunch’. It felt like lunchtime because we had nearly 60 miles and 4000 feet in our legs, but it was only 10am!
A quick sandwich, coffee, cake and refill of the water bottles and we were off towards Tinahely on rolling roads with the highlight being Hacketstown where we crossed a bridge, took a sharp left hander and were presented a short 10% climb up through the village. Back on the main roads again before the Marshalls signalled us left back into the mountains northbound on narrow roads, climbing and descending at every turn.
The climb to Carrignamweel was little more than a warmup for the long 3 mile climb up to Slieve Mann. The craic amongst the cyclists was great here, as everyone was encouraging other riders and it was really nice to hear other groups commending us on our turnout and kit.
We also drew a cheer on Slieve Mann for some Killinchy biased road markings which had mysteriously appeared overnight. The treasurer knows nothing and does not answer to Aunty Jane!
Another quick water stop on Slieve Mann ready for a fast descent and the last really long climb of the day to Shay Elliot.
With 90 miles in the legs the top was welcome but any thoughts of the work being done here proved premature. We headed straight down to Rathdrum through beautiful countryside and tree lined roads, picking up good pace to Avoca. A sharp left hand turn was the start of the hardest part of the day. Over 100 miles had passed and there was a steep 500ft climb, then another and another couple of smaller climbs.
At one place we paused to regroup and a few kids told us they struggle to walk up the next hill and although we laughed them off they weren’t wrong. Think of it as Cornmill hill after 120 miles. At the top the sea was visible in the distance and we knew we were on the home straight as we skirted around the back of Druids Glen and then back onto the main roads North towards Greystones through Newcastle and Kilcoole.
At the finish point cards were scanned, certificates, medals and most importantly food & coffee was served. There was a great buzz around as finishers were rolling in with smiles on their faces and friends old and new were congratulating each other on a fantastic achievement. Lucky for us we had just to conquer our old foe the hill towards Bray then a mile long freewheel to the hotel.
136 miles ridden, 10,000 feet climbed, not a drop of rain and every bit of it enjoyed.
A massive well done to everyone who travelled, all of whom successfully finished and not a puncture anywhere (except maybe the odd lung).
Credit to the IVCA for the professionally run event, literally countless marshalls (every junction covered) and each of them had a friendly word for the 3000+ passing cyclists. The stops were efficient and there was no shortage of food or facilities. If you get the opportunity this is a great event to attend.
Final thanks to Jane for sorting out the accommodation and well deserved meal on Sunday night. Also thanks to her Mum and Dad for the warm welcome and to whoever painted the road on Slieve Mann!