Please Note: Due to a clash with the National Half-Ironman Triathlon Championships the Midlands Meander 200 will now be on SUNDAY 19th May.
Very lazy – I hopped on the Dart at Booterstown with my bike, and got off at Clontarf to leave a bag of civvies with Sharon, who was meeting Andreas in Cork the next morning for a relaxing spa weekend. Then we rolled into town to meet up with Eoghan, Paddy and Aidan for Fleche 2013.
Team “Sins of the Fleche” headed off from O’Connell Bridge shortly after 11am on Good Friday when Paddy turned up. We were blessed with a great tailwind, and made good time to our first stop in Kinnegad where the friendly Super Valu staff filled us up with an assortment of Sausage or Chicken Baguettes, and Yoghurts etc to top up the energy levels. Then it was off again and heading towards Athlone for the next stop. Soon afterwards Aidan snapped his rear gear cable, with the end stuck where it couldn’t be easily extracted. He had a look for a while, and adjusted the derailleur to get up onto his third cog, but it was starting to look like he might have a tough ride ahead of him stuck in that gear for a long time. We headed on to Athlone, hoping to find a bike shop that could help sort it out. As we approached the town we passed several likely look industrial complexes, with Smyths etc, but no sign of a bike shop. Then we came upon a FastFit Tyre Centre, and spotted a sign for Buckleys Cycles at the side of the building. What looked like a small entrance to a country bike shop turned out to be a large and very well stocked shop, with no customers, and two enthusiastic staff/management. Aidans bike was “on the rack” in no time, and the cable proved easier to extract than the guys initially thought. As an added extra one of the guys in the shop was Aidan Bracken, co-owner of Watt Custom where we have sourced our recent Audax Ireland clothing orders. I don’t think they thought too much of our Aidans mechanic-ing skills as I think I overheard a few recommendations for a full service. After a “team photo” for the shop with three out of five Audax Ireland Jerseys, we went on into town to find some refreshments to keep us going for another while. We were on our way into one coffee shop/bistro, when Andreas looked down a side-street and spotted a few chairs outside another café near the Shannon. It was in the sun, and looked good so we headed in there, and were well fed with a tasty selection of steak and chips, fish cakes, excellent “scone and butter pudding”, and more. That set us up for another stretch of four hours or so until we hit Galway at 9pm. We had time to kill, as we didn’t want to be in Mallow too early for anything to be open, so we headed into our favourite Fleche Restaurant which we have used for the last 3 years. I don’t recall the name, but it’s on Quay St (I think) and is an excellent Italian with a good choice of Pizzas and Pasta etc. Coincidentally I met one of the girls from work who was in Galway on a weekend away. We took our time over Dinner, and eventually left around 11pm, to head off to Ennis. From Kinvarra we struck inland across the Burren, on some “interesting” L roads with grass down the middle, until we eventually got back to civilised surfaces north of Ennis. Aidan had been googling on his fancy phone, and located a 24 hour Applegreen Station on the Limerick road. We tracked it down, and although it was not possible to get inside as it was now around midnight, the guy passed us out an assortment of teas and coffees through the hatch to warm us up. Limerick was the next control point, just 35km down the road, where Aidan had located a 24 hour Tesco. We initially thought it had closed down, but then continued on to the next roundabout, and there it was, and very welcome too ! We sneaked the bikes inside the door in spite of the security guards objections, and raided the shelves for late night snacks of cold pasta, sandwiches, fruit etc. Thankfully it was warm inside, and we all warmed up, rested, and made good use of the customer toilet ! We rode on through Limerick City Centre with Eoghan admiring the Georgian architecture on O’Connell St, while the rest of us focussed on keeping the pedals going round and round….
After Limerick we rode on through Croom, Charleville and Buttevant with the dawn doing its thing, and the temperature between minus 1 and plus 2 degrees. We had thought we would have a lot of time to kill in Mallow, as under the Fleche rules we needed to control at 22 hours, and then cover at least 25kms in the last two hours. Our daytime wind-assisted average speed to Galway had been an excellent 29kph, but we had slowed a lot overnight as is normal. I was “dozing at the wheel” for a while between 4.30 and 7.30am but by the time we finally reached Mallow it was 8.30am, I had woken up, and we found another Coffee Shop to get receipts, and kill a few minutes. After a brief discussion over the “shorter rougher hillier” vs the “longer smoother flatter” choice, we elected for the easy way, and left Mallow at 9.10am, with 35kms to go to Cork. At this stage we were on the N20, which was fairly rolly, busy with traffic, and quite windy, but we had such a good tailwind for the first 200kms that we couldn’t really complain about that. We kept plugging away, with me off the back for a good bit of the time, and finally rolled into Cork at 10.45am. We wandered about for a few minutes with Aidan almost getting run over by an irate Corkonian when we had a sudden change of direction, and finally tracked down our finishing watering hole, the Bodega Bar, where we met up with Sharon, Andreas’s one-woman welcoming committee. I was relieved to change out of cycling gear into civvies, and we tucked into yet more food – pancakes and maple syrup, bacon, egg and toast, roast pork, and of course a celebratory drink or two.
Then all too soon it was time to head for the train home. Paddy had already headed off for the Aircoach, Andreas and Sharon were staying in Bantry for the rest of the weekend, and Aidan, Eoghan and myself were booked on the 13.20 train to Dublin. We met up with Paul at the Station, who had lost the rest of his team en route, but continued solo to complete a fantastic 480kms in very tough conditions. We had a short chat, and then loaded up the bikes onto the train for the trip home.
Never again ! (Well, not ’til next year anyway !)