You know as luck would have it, I heard about a group ride taking place today in Phoenix Park in Dublin at 5:30 . But I'm still in Kenmare and Dublin's clear on the other side of the country. Oh well, I'm going to be going to Dublin tomorrow anyway, why not leave a day early and get out for a little group ride for a change.
Here's a picture of the guy who organized it.
Do you recognize him? He's a bit cut off in the face.
Here's another one of him out of the saddle.
Maybe this should be our next Blarney Biker Contest - name that rider...
Ok, enough of the cryptic stuff. Here's how this little travel experience went down.
So, yesterday I had an incredible ride on the Beara Peninsula. It was an 82 k ride over 2 mountain passes (will post about this ride later - today's ride has to take top billing). I was looking to go epic over the last couple of days here, and the thought occurred to me to do a century over two days (160 km equals a century (100 miles)). So, got up, ate, had a couple cups of coffee in the local cafe and just before suiting up, I decided to get online, check email, check blog, and check Lance's Twittter. Bingo. This is what I saw:
"Good morning Dublin. Who wants to ride this afternoon? I do. 5:30 pm @ the roundabout of Fountain Rd and Chesterfield Ave. See you there.."
Wow, ok decision time. Dublin's a 4 or 5 hour drive, and I've got this cool ride planned out (over part of the Ring of Kerry). Technically, I could be there in time and I'm planning on going to Dublin tomorrow anyway. Still, a lot could go wrong, there'll be a big crowd, I could have a mechanical (flat) on the bike, or worse, the car - there'll be traffic getting into Dublin. But you know what, I'll really kick myself if I don't try to do this. The heck with it; the Ring of Kerry will be there forever. And off I went, slicing this country in half once again from extreme west to extreme east. I actually made it to Dublin with a couple of hours to spare. Checked into the hostel, suited up and spun over to the Park, realized half way there that I forgot the camera, turned back, got the camera, and made it to the park with 1 hour to spare. Oh the nerves by this point - I'm tellin' ya.
Promptly, Lance showed up, rolled past me and said, "So, this is the biking crowd." And off we went. I thought there was about 500 or 600 riders, but he claimed on Twitter a while ago that it was about a thousand. What an experience riding with that many people.
So, in the park we had what I would say to be about a 2-3 k (?) loop, and we did countless laps - full on crit style. My heart rate was consistently in the 170's for an hour and a half. I RODE IN A GROUP WITH LANCE ARMSTRONG FOR AN HOUR AND A HALF!!!!!!!
The group was diverse to say the least. Mostly proper roadies, but other dudes on commuters, city bikes, MTB's, a tandem, a few foldables. It was pandemonium. There were crashes everywhere. I had some very narrow misses; like probably three times I thought this is it, I'm going down. One of the proudest moments of my life came when a guy nearly knocked me down (was on the left next to a high curb) and I saved it, didn't go down, then another guy looked at me and said (in full Irish accent), "Good skill." (pronounced skeal) It was really cool; the real deal; you'd see guys go down about 10 feet in front of you and pile up and you get on the brakes and fight for room and avoid it. So so so so wicked.
Now, it's one thing to ride in this group, and the ride would have been worth it in itself (it was a serious ride, really an intense workout), but to get along side the man would be truly amazing.
So, much of the first half of the ride was spent tearing my legs out fighting my way to the front of the group. At one point I took a detour though the woods on a path but had trouble getting back on the road and lost a lot of ground. Fought and fought and fought and eventually got to him. I was riding my bike right next to Lance Armstrong.
So, first I thanked him for doing this and told him that it meant a lot to all of us. Then I spoke to him about the Cabot Trail. There's a connection here - Odessa Leipheimer's (Levi's wife (Levi's a teammate of Lance's) 2nd cousin works at Park View - no joke. So I asked him if he'd ever heard about the Cabot Trail - No he hadn't, then I told him that Odessa is from Cape Breton - oh yeah, he had heard of the Trail. He told me that she and Levi never go there, then upon realizing that he was shattering a dream of mine, he said, ahh but what do I know, maybe the holidays...
Having had my shot, I decided that it was prudent to fall back a bit, but I did ride along side him for about 5 mins and nearby for probably 10. There was a big guy (like a 300 pounder) in a green TdeF sprinter jersey that I was sure was going knock him down and I was right on his wheel - I actually can't believe they didn't go down. That's when I decided that others should have their chance and that I didn't want to have anything to do with a pile-up of riders involving the legend. I considered stopping--many had given up, were dropped, etc--thought about quitting while I was ahead, you know, but really wanted to ride the whole thing. Felt the bonk coming on, and shortly thereafter, we came around a now familiar corner and all slowed then stopped. We all cheered, he signed a few autographs in a Beatlemania-esque frenzy (I had my yellow jersey in my pocket with a sharpie, but just couldn't get in there), and he got into the vehicle and was off.
The signing session
After complete concentration and focus for the duration of the ride, looking at the world after it was over was trippy - ok, what just happened here? Holy crap. As I rolled out of Phoenix Park, on my way back to the hostel, I figured I'd try to capture the excitement on video.
My only regret is that I didn't get video while I was alongside. Taking pics was hard enough - video may have been easier. Still, riding along a seven-time Tour winning legend with a thousand other riders with only my left hand on the bars, camera in the right, heart pumping 180 times a minute, lungs struggling to supply the demand of O2, moving along at 35 km/hr or so, star struck to say the least...it was a challenge. It went well.
Recent Tweat from Lance:
"Thanks Dublin!! What a great park and a cool ride w/ all of you. I heard a 1000+ came out. I'm speechless. Gotta love a good bike ride!!"
He who dies with the most stories wins.
PS Coverage in the local papers the day after: