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Thoughts of a LSW “A” Group Cyclist on a Sunday Morning

posted 13 Jun 2016, 03:20 by Kevin Monaghan
(By Robbie Kenny - 12th June, 2016)   
A look out the window tells me the morning looks ok, the sun is forecast to break out. I'll go with the gear I picked out last night. It's my "go to" kit when the weather is good, it helps the legs, or so I think. Head down for breakfast. A cyclist’s breakfast is identifiable by two things, quality and quantity. Quality, is it Golden Nuggets or Muesli? Muesli, if you plan on getting the most out of yourself on the road. That's what I plan so, it's Muesli. Quantity = portion control, what's enough that “The Knock” won’t come knocking? I opt for a 30g/one portion. I’m heading to the Pyrenees in 5 weeks, I'm "on the razor" and need to strip at least a kilo of fat before then. I know I also have to knock the chocolate on the head too, but that can wait.

Weather-wise, the morning's improving and I'm in good time so I'll cycle in and home, an extra 20km. Hope the legs are up to it. Into the Barracks, a discreet look around. Who's here? Berry (Ken), he's in his Saxo Tinkoff gear. He bought it in Bourg d'Oisans, a small village at the foot of cycling’s most famous climb, l’Alpe d'Huez. Nice gear, nice fit, he's gonna try and blow it to bits today, I just know he is, he always does. Tosh (Brendan Kiernan), always in good form, on his Fondriest, he looks relaxed. He'll give us no rest. The two Pierces, Barry and Colin. These two boys are “on the razor” a long time. Barry has a class new Ále jersey on. It's a blue and black, pro-fit style...I'd say it’s a size small. Two years ago it would have been a large. Colin blew me to pieces on “The Cut” in the Blooms a week ago, awesome power. Jack (Nugent) is here in the new Lakeside Wheelers gear, looks well on him, very aero. He expects us to melt the tar on the road, he's right, if the legs are good. No sign of “McQueen” (Mick Reynolds).....yet!! Kevo (Eoghan Kevlihan) arrives, he's sweating, profusely. Probably did a threshold effort on the way in. He is racing competitively so probably feels he has to, until he shows us his under vest, jersey and gilet. He gets rid of said gilet and also enlightens us, he was on the beer Friday night. Could be tough day in the saddle for Kevo. Stephen Corroon is here, strong as an ox, doesn't believe in himself enough though. I bet he could ride harder. He has the style of Tony Martin but the sprint of Cavendish. Ian Lambden the youngest of the brigade is in attendance, he has potential, is 50 odd kilos with no problem going uphill and he's happy to ride with us “MAMILS”. Stephen Van Beck is here, haven't seen him out in a while. He has his white Specialized, it's a beautiful bike and was a bargain. Then there's Mossie, it’s a change to see him in the flesh and not on Facebook at a training camp in Majorca. I think it's twice this year, could be three times he's been out there, dunno. Behind my glasses I take a look at all their legs. Mossie's are shaven, so are Berry's. There are two things about a cyclists legs, if they're shaven he's either serious, or he's vain, but it's also easier to get a massage and the muscle definition is clearer. Cyclists are vain in general though. If they're brown, he has Spanish heritage or he's training night and day...well, maybe not at night because there's no sun obviously but you know what I mean. “McQueen” arrives just as we're deciding on the route. Thirty-five years of cycling in from home, he has it down to a “T” for 9am. We settle on Collinstown, Crossakiel, Kells and home. 

It's gonna be a fast one, Jack was right to wear his aero kit.   On towards Collinstown, a hard, lumpy road. I roll up beside Tosh as we go through and off. "Well Tosh doing much?”… “Nah Rob, was doing a bit of acting there didn’t get much time. Shur it’s hard to get the time." Berry (I'm using his surname but he doesn’t mind, it’s a friendly reference) gives it a dig going up Taughmon drag, already a few lads struggle, probably not warmed up yet. Through Collinstown onto a road that didn’t see the light of day of the Celtic Tiger era, doing 35kmh steady until, bang! We hit a hill, no, it’s not a hill, it’s a wall, or a “Muur” in Belgium. Colin gives it a dig from the bottom. Better stay on his wheel especially after “The Cut”. Tosh is here spinning a 39x23. Tosh pushes on. Will I, won’t I? I will, I'll grab his wheel even though it will put me further into the pain cave. Breathing heavy but there’s only 100m left now. I'll hang with Tosh, I’m happy with that. We crest the top into Crossakiel. Colin ploughs on, Berry (still a friendly reference) goes by to join him. I'm not sure who else. I look around to see our mini peloton is in smithereens. I wait, we'll get organised and reel them in. Leaning at 60 degrees is a sign indicating 8KM to Kells, the race is on. The escapees are caught 1km from Kells. I see an opportunity and go for the simple glory of first into Kells. I get there, it's not quite a stage of the Ras and anyway I know the boys didn't "redline" it to catch me.

Ahh…the coffee stop. Our lives revolve around our cycling, our cycling revolves around our Sunday morning spins and our Sunday morning spins revolve around the coffee stop. But it's too warm for coffee so it cans of Coke. Caffeine and cold. No one is buying pastries so I won't either and anyway the Pyrenees are only 33 days away. I read somewhere that 100g equates to 1 second against your rivals going uphill so it's just as well. “McQueen” doesn't care, he buys a 4-pack of Double Decker for two euro. A bargain, but they’re not as big as they used to be which is also just as well, he's coming to France too. We sit on the low wall and the usual banter begins. "The boys wanna know, “are ya gonna come to the front this week Rob?" "I will", I say "It's just that I hadn't good legs last week" but they don't see my fingers crossed behind my back. There's more chat, generally slagging, nothing heavy such as the economy or politics. We keep it simple. 

After refilling water bottles and remounting, Kevo suggests a 10 minute warm-up, for which he's ridiculed, even though he's right. It's 22 degrees but a warm-up is still essential if you don't want to start "chewing handlebar tape" just yet. Punctuuuure! Berry, he rips off the tyre with no levers and re-inflates the new tube with the Co2 gas. Some lads are amazed, think it’s a great job, better than the conventional pump and only two euro per canister. That's taken four minutes out of the warm-up. But there is no warm-up, it's straight into 40km/hr, through and off. Everyone is coming through but you just know once someone "pulls the pin" it will all fall apart. Jack, slicing through the wind in his aero kit whispers to me as he goes by, "there's a few starting to struggle". Great, my legs are on a good day, "pas de sans jour aujordhui monsieur" I say to myself practicing my French for the upcoming trip. We pass a sign that says 6km to Delvin, on a short incline I shoot out of the group 46km/hr, 47km/hr, 48km/hr, 49 km/hr, 49.5 km/hr, 47km/hr. I am a clown, 200m up the road and the lactic is flowing out my ears. I'm caught after about 500m, led by Berry. Tosh is there and Colin and Stephen and Jack and Kevo and...and...and no one else. The boys are 30m up the road then 40. Day over but it was good while it lasted. The legs are improving although there is still disappointment. 

A quick look around to see where Mossie and the rest of the boys are. He's on my wheel. Barry resplendent in that jersey and Rapha shorts is also there. After that I can't see and don't have time to inspect more carefully. Now, religion hasn't played a big part in my life but at that moment I pray to St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. This seems like a lost cause and I don't know a lot of other saints anyway. Padre Pio is my other option but I'll stick with St. Jude for now. Up the road, Berry is driving it. We have no chance getting on as long as he's there. “Please pull over Berry, (no longer a friendly reference) please”. He does but then Tosh goes to the front. No Training Tosh?? Riding at 45km/hr (you’re a good actor alright, on and off the bike, you had me fooled) we still have no chance of getting back on. Colin does his shift at the front and the gap goes out further and we're running out of road and, more crucially, we're running out of legs. Jack and Stephen will sit in, they are happy just to be there. “McQueen” is at the back, looking back and willing us to get back on. I know he won’t go to the front there is still 21km left and 35 years of cycling has taught him the last metre is the best time to be at the front. Out of Delvin and there's a downhill. The boys up the road slow down and we speed up. We gain ground and we gain hope. Mossie comes through and gives it a massive turn, 17km from home and we make it back on. Immediately, Colin moves over to let me up to do a turn. The cheek of him. "Sorry Col I'm only after getting back on and anyway, get your skinny size 32” waist up there yourself.

Around by Turin Church the cat and mouse, the Tom and Jerry games begin. The speed of the group is no longer fluid going from 32km/ to 40 km/hr, Berry gets irritated with this and makes an attempt to get away. He's a danger man so Tosh won’t let him away. I'm at the back surveying all ahead. Stephen, the Mullingar Shamrocks man looks comfortable, always does though. Jack?? I'm full of admiration for Jack ’cos he's giving all of us at least 10 years and he's still here. It has to be the aero kit, the marketers are right, it really does save you 13 watts per km. “McQueen” is glass-cranking it, 35 years etc etc. Kevo, with his shoulder blade sticking up through his jersey as a result of a recent crash is still here despite beer replacing sweat. The Cloughan Inn goes by in a blur. Tosh, (No Training Tosh) is going up a slight drag, wind assisted at 48km/hr. It's incredible, imagine if he trained? Two km to Ballagh and we are resigned to it ending in a sprint. We start to jostle for position. Berry gives it one last massive effort down Rathconnell Hill. Where's “McQueen”? I need his wheel. He's behind, probably looking for my wheel. We know each other too well. Corroon (unfriendly reference now, no longer Stephen) is on my left. He sprints like Cavendish with 75m to go. The 53x12 is engaged, it doesn't matter who's wheel I'm on now. I do with what I have. Corroon is still there. “McQueen” makes an appearance in my eye line, God bless peripheral vision. I've one match left to burn and there is no point bringing it home. I burn it, it's over. "Where was the finish line?" (Stephen we're friends again) asks. "Ask Mick" I reply. "Shur I don't know either" he quips. No one wins and no one cares. It was The Best Sunday morning spin we have had in a long time. We savaged each other and we tried to inflict so much pain on each other. It's hard to explain the concept of cycling to those that don't participate. But our world revolves around it.

Robbie Kenny 3rd from Right and his comrades enjoy a break
Robbie Kenny 3rd from Right and his comrades enjoy a break.

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