Ride Report by David Thompson:
Míle Fáilte … a thousand welcomes!
First off, every rider should have this one on his/her Bucket List. It ranks right up there, in my mind, with the 1001 Miglia in Italy and the Rocky Mountain 1200 in BC Canada. The views are stunningly beautiful, the greenery and flowers abundant and the people friendly beyond belief.
Do not miss doing this ride when it is rescheduled! This was the inaugural running and went like clockwork … it will only get better!
The route often hugs the coast, sometimes at Sea Level, sometimes a few hundred feet up along sheer cliffs. Old stone walls stand between you on the road and oblivion. Elsewhere the views are of green farmland, sheep in the distance (and sometimes on the road in front of you !). Those landscape views remind me of London-Edinburgh-London, but the ocean views are something else.
Castles abound, some rehabilitated, some covered in ivy and decrepit. Their charm is matched by the flower gardens, wild and cultivated.
We were often on narrow roads; sometimes holding up traffic. Never is a horn blown. Patience is the order of the day. I stopped at one point to let a farmer and his wife herd some cows down the road. The cows were skittish … do I look strange to them? Had I continued riding, they would have really spooked. The farmer was thankful … it only cost me a couple of minutes. Contrast that with an almost identical scenario that I encountered in the U.S. last year where the farmer yelled “You f-ing cyclists shouldn’t be on this road!!” — what, the road was built for cows?
Logistically the ride had an odd start — 8am. That was so we could start the second day late and catch the first ferry at 7am, otherwise there would have been a Control timing problem. That 8am start kind-of pushed everything off mentally, compared to other rides. Where I would normally be starting 2nd and subsequent days at 4am or earlier, add at least a couple of hours.
I lost an hour or two (or few) to being a tourist, unusual for me. I stopped to take a few pictures; I had more cappuccino than I’ve had since I did the Miglia; I stopped to simply admire the view. It was that kind of ride. I wasn’t going to set any records, personal or otherwise, and didn’t try. I wanted to enjoy myself.
The weather was outstanding. That will not likely be repeated. Four days without rain? This is Ireland? The newspaper headline before the ride said “Heat Wave” — well, it was a heat wave for Ireland. Temperatures were in the low 20’s during the day, down to around 10C at night. With the ride alternating between hugging the coast and climbing the next ridge, sometimes I’d be thinking about putting on my long sleeved jersey and a few minutes later, dealing with the heat as I climbed.
There were some notable climbs, 300-400 meters, and long descents. There were a couple of really sharp descents where I was thinking that I was wasting all that vertical, chewing it up too quickly ! On those descents, it was time to pay attention to the road, not the view !
The days played out as follows, for me. Distances are not exact but think of the first three days being 350 km and the last day being 160. There was a secret control about 30-40 km from the end of each of the first three days. That Control, and the overnight Controls, had food. Accommodation was in hostels, or, at your option (and expense) hotel.
We gathered receipts, or selfies, from each intermediate Control. During the ride, at the secret Controls or at the overnight Control, those were tallied and marked on the Brevet Cards.
Day 1 — leave at 8am, finish around 1:30am. It left from Midleton and ended in Midleton — that was convenient. It did have some rough farm-type roads that made climbing and descending slower than you’d think. Climbing was around 3000 m, a couple of long climbs on rough farm roads.
Day 2 — start in Midleton, take the ferry shortly into the ride (just a couple of minutes ride), end in Killarney. One LEL-sized drop bag had been moved to Killarney. This day didn’t feature as many farm roads as Day 1; there was a lot of riding along the coast, some of it breathtaking, all of it beautiful. I left at 6:15 to catch the 7:00am ferry; I finished around 1am, I think (I’m a little fuzzy on that finish time). Climbing was again around 3000 m, one really long climb on a good road with a photographer waiting at the top for us. Somewhere there is a picture of me with the land and ocean in the background.
Day 3 — start in Killarney, end in Killarney. This was a long day, could be the longest that I’ve experienced randonneuring, for the same number of km. Mentally it seemed longer due to the later start than usual (for me). I left at 6:30; I got back at dawn — 5:30? Something like that. Yes, I made it back before sunrise, but just. The last 40 km after the secret control were tough, on farm roads, very difficult to navigate even with the Garmin with many forks in the roads, it seemed. I heard about some complaints regarding this section; fast, strong riders not thinking that it would take them 3 hours to do 40 km. Apparently most riders after us opted to get some sleep at the secret control rather than ride into daylight. Total climbing for this day was closer to 4000 m.
Day 4 – Killarney to Midleton. This was a nice, short day, being only 160 km. Climbing was moderate (forget the figure); no notable climbs. Roads were good. Services were frequent. We left at 9:30 (I was riding with Hamid Akbarian who likes a little sleep) and finished just before 6:30pm.
Our elapsed time for the MF1200 was just under 82:30. I didn’t make note of the exact time.
When we got to the end, there was a party going on in the hotel bar/pub, where they’d setup the final control. They partied on, breaking for dinner. By 10pm I’d had it and went to bed. Closing time for the Control was 2am the next day — don’t forget that 8am start; pushes everything back. I’d heard that there were still 15 riders still on the course at 10pm.
Something like 95 riders started. I haven’t heard/seen final stats yet on finishers and times.
Add this to your bucket list. It was a great ride and will only get better.