They say forewarned is forearmed and so last weekend I was over in Ireland on a recce of the second half of the Race Around Ireland course. Last October I rode most of the Northern Ireland section of the route, including the Gap of Mamore which at 2km and up to 25% is one of the hardest climbs in Ireland. This time I wanted to see as much of the route from Limerick round to the finish in Navan which features some tough sections that I will be tackling when I’m already tired and aching!
We started on Friday in the pouring rain, heading out from Limerick at Time Station 12 and following the route down to Killarney. We were in the trusty Renault which will be acting as the Follow Car, with Kyle on driving duty practising both Direct Follow and Leapfrog Support. In Killarney I donned my waterproofs (or in the case of my overshoes, non-waterproofs) and headed off to ride the 78miles to Sneem which is one of the toughest sections of the course with 6 major climbs. The rain eventually eased off and as we went on to the Ring of Kerry it was hard to ignore the beauty of the scenery. It was lovely to be able to ride it and be able to appreciate it – just in case it’s either dark or I’m feeling too tired to take it in next time!
After a night in the Sneem Hotel, I rode the longest climb on the course up to Turners Rock where there are 3 tunnels carved out of the hillside which the road passes through. The sun was out and once again, the scenery didn’t disappoint. It was then back in the car to drive round the spectacular Mizen Head before on towards Cork. I did a couple more hours of riding before we navigated through Cork and I got to see St Patrick’s Hill. Whilst only 250m, it rises to 25% from the start and so will be a real test of some very tired legs! I have a feeling I may be able to walk up it faster than I’ll ride it!
Sunday saw me tackling the climbs of Mount Leinster, Slieve Mann and Drumgoff before heading through and on to the final section of the course and riding Glenmacnass and Cupidstown. The weather gradually deteriorated and it was windy, wet and very bleak up on the hills. We then drove on to Navan where I rode the last stretch to the Finish in the pouring rain – good visualisation but final proof that I need to find a more waterproof shoe solution!
All-in-all it was a really good weekend. A massive thank you to Kyle for coming to drive and enabling me to see as much as I did. We tested out the Cardo BK1 comms system so I can communicate with the support vehicles (and listen to music) and learnt some valuable lessons for the race. It was great to see so much of the route and really get a feel for the terrain. We had some fantastic Irish hospitality and were treated to some of the best of the Irish scenery. I can’t wait to go back in August!