Trans Atlantic Way Day 7 Report
Wednesday June 12, 2019: I woke to my alarm at 6 am with a decision to make, left over kebab and fries or wait for the hotel breakfast buffet to open at 7 am. Mmmm, decisions decisions. No doubt one that race leader Dan Harty hadn’t been confronted with over the last 6 mornings. Dan had ridden through the night again and was a whopping 700 kilometers up route, only 180 k’s from the finish in Kinsale. An extraordinary effort that I would later learn, sadly came to a premature end only 73 kilometers from the finish due to worsening symptoms of Shermer’s Neck.
The leftovers looked particularly rough and besides, breakfast was included in the rather hefty room rate. I’ve only been in the room 7 hours, might as well get my moneys worth.
Another Full Irish or 2 under the belt and a pillage of the pastry station for on the bike snacks and then it was back to it. Yet another late start, 8:11 am. As I pedaled away from the hotel into peak hour Wednesday morning Galway traffic I knew these late starts would have to stop. Kinsale was still 950 kilometers away and I needed to be there be Saturday afternoon at the latest in order to get myself to Dublin for a flight home to Philly early Sunday morning.
Chasing dots was not my primary motivator all of a sudden, it was now all about ensuring I would finish with enough time up my sleeve to catch a plane. I had to be home on Sunday to see my boys for Fathers Day. Simple!
With this in mind I stuffed a mini apricot danish in my gob, clicked into a heavy gear and got the hell out of Galway.
Castles, Cliffs, Mad Dogs and Englishmen
The scenery was quite drab for the first 90 minutes riding, just urban sprawl and flattish farmland. As the route resumed its flirtation with the coast however, a castle off to my right had me clambering for my GoPro. 16th Century Dunguaire Castle I would later learn.
I stopped for supplies on the other side of Kinvara, a seaport village on the south-eastern corner of Galway Bay. And then it was off on the N67 keeping a vigilant eye and ear out for the many tourist buses no doubt bound for the famous Cliffs of Moher. I couldn’t help but wonder if these aviator adorned bus drivers had heard of the 3 foot passing rule, or indeed the unofficial “slow the fuck down when passing cyclists on narrow, windy country roads” rule either. No common law required there, just common bloody sense I would have thought.
I was not that disappointed when the route turned off the N67 at the harbour village of Ballyvaughan onto the quite coast road R477.
As I rounded another headland and pedalled easily downhill towards the little village of Fanore I spotted another cyclist a couple of hundred yards further up the road. I hadn’t conversed with anyone since around midday the previous day at Checkpoint 2 so I increased my cadence to catch up. It was Englishman and TAW rider Ged Barrett.
We chatted briefly before being rudely interrupted by a couple of not so friendly local dogs that mounted quite the ambush from behind a stone wall. It was almost an immediate victory for the mangy muts, the surprise sending me almost careening into Ged’s rear wheel. I somehow manged to regain control while Ged pedalled away from the mayhem. I had slowed to walking pace and while trying to get up to speed the dogs circled around for Round 2. In a perfectly coordinated move that would have put the infamous hounds of Kentucky to shame, the larger and slower of the two ambled straight at my front wheel. I had no option but to slam on my brakes to avoid T boning it but in the process that move put me at the mercy of the much more nimble sheepdog looking thing. It had a good couple of goes at my ankles but I somehow managed to get away unscathed.
Father Ted would have told the story better. His neck of the woods apparently….
Anyway, I didn’t put the adrenaline to waste and pedaled off in a frenzy around the coast towards the village of Doolin. The conversation with Ged to be resumed at a latter time.
From Doolin it was up a long gradual hill through green pastures. A gently slope to start and then north of 15% as the road swung around past another 16th Century Castle. This one called Doonagore Castle, now a privately owned holiday home apparently.
Towards the top of the hill I passed Englishmen James Backshall and Josh Patch yet again. Last seen in the town of Bangor 2 days previously. We were all on the limit, struggling up the last ramp of the climb so barely a discernable word was shared.
The climb up that hill was rewarded by the Cliffs of Moher. I debated whether I should bother ducking slightly off route to check them out but the “When in Rome” ideal won the moment and I wheeled my bike over through the throng of tourists. 1.5 million of whom descend on this place annually.
I’m glad that I did. Its quite a view.
From the Cliffs it was a magnificently fast 5 kilometer decent into the town of Liscannor. Still buzzing as I rolled through town I spotted John Cooke off to my left who was kicking back out the front of a pub. I couldn’t resist a quick chat and rolled over to say G’Day.
10 minutes later I was back on the road although it did take every ounce of self control to not get a round in.
I Got a Ferry to Catch Orange Man
I pedaled on down the west coast of County Clare through the small coastal towns of Lahinch, Miltown Malbay and Quilty. I had been thinking about the ferry that I needed to catch from Killimer to Tarbet across the River Shannon Estuary, but I had no idea how far it was away or what times it ran. Probably a good time to find out so I stopped by the side of the road just the other side of Quilty and checked online.
I was 55 kilometers from Killimer and the ferries ran every hour.
Ok, it’s 1:40 pm. The terrain is to my liking, ie rolling. There’s a bit of a tail wind about. I’m feeling good. Let’s have a crack at getting the 3 pm ferry.
Yep, insanely ambitious. I’d have to average 41km/hr over the next 1 hour 20 minutes but I honestly thought I’d have a good chance if the wind remained at my back.
Balls to the wall time!
It was looking good…..for a little while…..in my own head. The N67 behaved itself by trending in a southerly direction. I was in the drops channeling my inner Tom Boonen breaking away for yet another Spring Classic Victory. I was Rohan Dennis in full time trial mode.
[insert sound of scratching LP]
Right turn = Cross wind.
I refused to admit defeat and struggled on past the entrance to Trump’s Doonbeg Hotel, resisting the strong desire to stop for a selfie and middle finger salute. By the village of Kilkee though the writing was on the wall. It was not going to happen. I sat up, reduced my effort and cruised the next 20 kilometers to Killimer.
It turns out the ferries ran on the half hour. I had 10 minutes to kick back with a coffee and to take a call from my dad.
Still Waters Run Deep
I took my place in the cue of buses, trucks and cars and rolled onto the ferry. Fifty Fifty industry and tourism. I was content, knowing that for the next half an hour or so forward progress was now in the hands of someone else.
One of the ferrymen yelled out to me indicating where I should put my bike and I walked over to where he was pointing and learnt it carefully up against a wall near some windows. His patter no doubt well honed by a few days worth of lycra clad passengers. The deep growl of the engines were building, everything was being readied for departure and then all of a sudden a cyclist came careening down the ramp, pulling up right next to me.
Bloody hell. Where did you come from?!
It was Ged Barrett who I had met earlier in the day. Massive smile on his face for having just made it.
We resumed our conversation of a few hours earlier and soon moved past the superficial pleasantries and into some pretty deep stuff. Ultra distance cycling related……Tears were shed.
We’d both been on the road a week. We’d ridden the emotional roller coaster and wanted to talk about it with someone who knew, someone who understood. We’d both come close to quitting but battled through, knowing that “it” would be worth it, without really knowing what “it” was. We both missed our families but knew that this time away pushing ourselves, being in our own heads, conquering something tough would somehow make us better. Stronger. A great example for our kids.
(“Grab life by the short n’ curly’s son and have a red hot go!”)
It was a proper human connection. A tapping into a kindred spirit that usually takes years but somehow magically becomes possible after minutes during a long bike ride.
This is the type of stuff that has me coming back for more!
Thanks for the chat Ged.
It was only 4:30 pm when we rolled off the ferry, still over 5 hours to sunset but quite gloomy under an overcast sky. I waved to Ged and we pedaled off, tapping into our respective rhythms.
I stopped at a convenience store only after about 20 minutes, silly really as there had been a shop at the ferry terminal but I wasn’t hungry then. I am now though, very hungry.
The appetite definitely moves in mysterious ways.
It was so lovely and warm in that convenience store that I stayed a lot longer than I should have. 40 minutes in fact. However, it did give me a good chance to plan out the remainder of the days riding. The large town of Tralee was 80 kilometers away with no services until Dingle, 50 k’s further on but that 50 k’s included the major climb of Connor Pass.
I could be in Tralee by 9/9:30 pm but I didn’t fancy climbing and then descending Connor Pass north of midnight. Ok, decision made. Get a hotel in Tralee, stock up on supplies and have a big, big day tomorrow.
I booked a hotel in Tralee and then headed out into the gloom and late afternoon chill, the teasing aroma of peat fires filling the air.
Tra la lee
The next 4 hours of riding involved 15th Century castles (Carrigafoyle Castle), agricultural sights and sounds, and then beautiful views across Tralee Bay at low tide. The former under overcast skies and the latter bathed in the most incredibly serene late day sunlight.
I stopped at a service station on the outskirts of Tralee and bought up big, enough to cover dinner for tonight, breakfast tomorrow and a mornings worth of riding. It was quite the load to get to the hotel but I somehow manged it sans spillages.
Another good day in the saddle but Kinsale was still over 700 kilometers up route. If an early Saturday afternoon finish was still on the cards I’d have to bite of a large slice of that 700 k’s tomorrow. Shit would need to get very real on the Ring of Kerry.
As I inhaled service station food in Tralee, race winner Matt Seward no doubt inhaled a few beers at the finish in Kinsale. He had finished a couple of hours earlier in a time of 6 days, 10 hours and 24 minutes.
DAY 7 TERRITORY AND STATS
3D Overview from Relive:
2D Overview from Strava:
- Distance = 250 kilometers.
- Cycling (ie moving time) = 10 hours and 42 minutes.
- Stopped Time = 2 hours and 40 minutes.
- Elevation = 2,216 meters.
- Money Spent (USD) = $207 ($54 on food/drink, $153 on accommodation).
KEEP READING……Day 8 Report