It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.

--Ernest Hemingway

The Plan

I am not a 'touring cyclist' - not that there's anything wrong with touring cyclists. I consider myself to be a 'roadie'--if it can't fit into a jersey pocket, then it doesn't come along for the ride. So when you picture me biking in Ireland don't think about panniers and saddle bags and back packs. There will be no tents, sleeping bags nor camp stoves anywhere near my bike.

The plan is to rent a car so that I can drive about the island and ride in much the same way that I would at home. If all goes according to the vision, my life over the next 14 days will fall into the following routine: drive to an area, ride, hike, eat massive amounts of food, drink Guinness (amounts may vary), sleep, repeat.

The idea for this trip is to be fairly flexible; it'll be a bit by the seat of my bib shorts. Here's the best I can do for an itinerary:

> Fly into Dublin on Aug 13
> Connemara (northwest of Galway)
>Inishmore (the largest of the Aran Islands)
>The Burren and the fabled Cliffs of Moher
>The Dingle Peninsula
>The Iveragh Peninsula (Ring of Kerry)
>The Beara Peninsula
>Fly out of Dublin on Aug 28

I've perhaps saved the BEST FOR LAST! From Aug 21-23, I'll be following the three-day Tour of Ireland. I'll watch Stage 1 on the Category One Mount Leinster climb, take in Stage 2 on The Vee, a Cat. 2 climb and watch the last stage in Cork which finishes with a with three-loop city street circuit including the 23% gradient climb of St. Patrick's Hill.

Oh, almost forgot to mention that seven-time Tour de France Champ LANCE ARMSTRONG and 10-time TdeF stage winner MARK CAVENDISH will be riding the Tour of Ireland. It doesn't get a whole lot better than that.

So come back to this little blog often to read about my adventures with my bike on the Emerald Isle. And please, if you're reading this stuff, leave me a comment; it's nice to know that people are out there checking this stuff out.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A little group ride in Dublin

So ya know all this solo traveling can make a social guy like me a bit crazy after a while. Riding is great, but you know riding with other people, in a group, is really where it's at.

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.


video
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.


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!!"

Yes, indeed.

He who dies with the most stories wins.

Eno

PS Coverage in the local papers the day after:

http://www.independent.ie/national-news/lances-leisurely-cycle-isnt-exactly-a-walk-in-the-park-1869181.html

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/0826/1224253271811.html

19 comments:

  1. Holy shit! Forgive me but thats all I can say right now... Joff

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  2. Hi Shane, that was pretty cool to say the least, but don't worry Mom & I will ride with you sometime in the future if you play your cards right - the only thing that would top this experience. Right!!!

    Love M&D

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  3. Wow! That's all I can say.....Wow!
    I read today's blog and watched today's video along side a pretty envious but impressed handsome guy that I like to call Rod. I think he is more happy for you though than envious.

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  4. Holly crap - I know I have only wrote once just to let you know I could but I have been reading somewhat faithfully - I got goosebumps after reading then watching your events of today. That truely is an experience of a lifetime and what else should we expect from the Blarney Biker. Freakin crazy. Safe returns!!

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  5. Dreams really do come true...amazing day for you Eno! Selena how are you going to top this?

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  6. Oh my! Oh my! Oh my! Way too cool Eno!
    Well I sat in the back seat of the car with Jenna Martin that is right...Jenna Martin. She came back from the WORLDS. I had to carry her suit case for her....and show her to her room. I sat by Jared the olympian that ran against BOLT. -----that is all I have. Eno you win! That is fantastic!

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  7. The contest wasn't mentioned! Lance Armstrong!

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  8. Pretty friggin' cool man.

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  9. Hey commenter. Thanks for checkin' it out - I'm still pretty high on life right now. Just spent an hour or so in a bike shop talking to another rider who was there. Just put up two links to articles in the local papers (at bottom of the post) - the first one is the best. Good to hear from all of you, but especially nice to hear from rare commenters McDow and BV - nice to know you're following along - thanks - see you in a couple days.

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  10. I KNEW THAT YOU WOULD BE THERE!
    So, I'm listening to the CBC and they mention that a twitter has just gone out from Lance Armstrong, inviting cyclists for a group ride in Dublin...and I think to myself, Eno is there. And you were!

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  11. I am without words. It took me the night to sleep on it, the thought of you riding beside Armstrong, I still can't believe it. It is a WOW that no none will take from you. I guess riding beside some guy with a pink suit on just isn't going to do anymore.
    I am totally envious but extremely happy for you and can't wait to hear specific details while we ride together.
    See you in a few days.
    Selena, Dee and the soccer team misses you , hope all is well. Sorry your meetings do not top Lance encounter.

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  12. Hey Maglia, the pink suit will always to it for me. Do pink and green go together? I think they do, and they will...Can't wait to get home for that bottle of wine that was mentioned a few comments ago.

    Heather - I was wondering if it made the news reel back home and if anybody was wondering if the Blarney Biker was going to pull it off.

    :)))))))))

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  13. Tears in our eyes watching you in the clip, obviously a big moment for you. Shane AND Selena, looking forward to hearing all about your adventures, over food & wine of course.

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  14. So, let me get this straight... it was... um.. Awesome??? Not really quite sure I got that from your post. Or your video. (sarcasm)

    So seriously now. You're what, 36? How are you going to go through the rest of your life? What possibly is there left to do, except perhaps race in "the race" itself?

    Absolutely awesome man.

    IWOM

    (P.S. Honourable mention on hurling? You sure??)

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  15. Ya, for sure, the IWOM always deserves honourable mention - without doubt; especially when it comes to hurling...get it?

    (Before anybody gets the wrong idea from that, I was the 'hurler' - the IWOM drove me home from PEI this summer when I was sick beyond belief.)

    Seems as though there'll be plenty of wine to drink when I get home. Here's the list so far:

    Joff
    Rod and Dee
    Mike and Jane
    Tom and Kayle
    please add your name if I missed you

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  16. Velo News has put up a great story on the Lance Dublin ride which some awesome pics that really capture the size of the group. Check it out

    http://velonews.com/article/97144

    Off to enjoy my last day in Dublin - one more post should go up tonight.

    S

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  17. Put us on that wine list again. . . we want two (or more) dates with you guys (plus, we love wine).

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  18. Was hoping you'd make it to Phoenix Park. Nice one. Anyways take care, hope you had fun over here and safe journey home to you (and your bike)
    PS you still gotta meet a certain car-rental guy. Eddy & Selina

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  19. all i can say is WOW.

    TJ

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Thanks for commenting!