[Report by David Furlong]
After the South Leinster Way last year there was always going to be only one plan for 2011 – The Wicklow Way. The idea gathered steam earlier in the year, mostly driven by the young buck, Barry. The rest of us just sort of fell into line…
So the date was set. Then re-set. Training began in earnest with long spins, who will ever forget the wet slog up the Heinous Climb of the Two Gates…Barry fine tuned the logistics and off we went. At the start, me, Jim, Barry, Rudolf and DC.
The Wicklow Way is well known as a walking trail, and in recent years a number of people (less than 10) have completed it in one go on mtb’s. Our challenge was to do it in two days, about 50km on day one (to Laragh) and 80km on day two (to Clonegal). Total climbing is 3,700m over the two days. The first half is steep and technical, both up and down, the second half just mostly steep. This was certainly more biking than any of us had attempted before in two days.
Paul Byrne kindly drove us to the start at Marlay Park, and we set off around 10ish in a heavy mist. Straight into about a half hour of steep climbing – welcome to the Wicklow Way! Then onto a technical section to wake us up and then the first of some brilliant descents – the Wocca Woccas. First incident of the day here as Jim got stung on the head. But not to worry, Nurse Conway got the First Aid kit out.
Bizzarely Jim wanted him to pour a can of Coke over his head. Bit early for that we thought. After much discussion we got going again, wondering if Jim had lost the head. From there to Powerscourt it was down into river valleys then up then down etc.. Somewhere along the way we met Max from EPIC who had done the WW the previous Saturday in one go! Savage. Lunch then in the splendour above Powerscourt. We ploughed on then onto the open mountain behind Djouce and one of the most savage, demanding and scenic bits of singletrack I have ever ridden. Up and up and up and some more up. Makes Mt Leinster look like a dimple. DC and Jim were still talking about the Coke, me and Barry in the middle with Rudolf ahead. Barry looks up and says to me ‘Holy beJeebus look where Rudolf is’. We nearly cried when we realised how far above us he was. We made it anyway to the Djouce boardwalks, and what fun they were. Endless railway sleepers side by side and end to end. 100% concentration needed.
By the time we came down from Djouce it started getting real tough and there seemed to be all of a sudden mass consumption of gels, Coke, sandwiches, you name it. ‘Just one more little climb lads’ says Rudolf. ‘Little’ obviously has a different meaning in Dutch.
We rolled into Laragh after 5 hrs in the saddle, and whaddya know, the Logistics Manager had booked us the only BnB at the top of a hill. We nearly cried. Anyway, we got there, had two big dinners and 3 pints and off to bed happy.
The next morning we ate the B&B lady out of everything she had. Including Nurofen for the Elder Lemon of the party. We were joined by Ross for Sunday, looking for a leg warmer having been off the bike for a few weeks. Straight into the climbing again with a wicked ascent from Glendalough. More stunning scenery. Down then towards Glenmalure and off towards Tinahely. A brief stop to fix Ross’ puncture(s)
Now we knew there was some rain forecast for Sunday, and as we approached Tinahely the heavens opened. Unfortunately we were on a hard technical open mountain section. No option but to push on and it was everyman man for himself as the peloton exploded. We limped into Tinahely one by one with metaphorical dark clouds as well as real ones overhead. Jim decided enough was enough and decided to abandon ship. I nabbed his lovely warm waterproof jacket and got ready to go. Then DC mentioned blue skies in Bunclody and off came the jacket, back on to Jim and off we set agin. Rudolf and Ross had already set off as it was too cold and wet to hang around.
For me that last 35km from Tinahely was heinous. Steep climb after never ending steep climb. Up by the Dying Cow another f***ing hill. Then the Tarmac Wall over by Shilelagh. Trying to keep the front wheel down. More fireroad climbs, will it ever end!
But it did. We rolled into Clonegal at 4:30 after 7.5 hrs in the saddle. We were met by Yvonne and PJ and gang who took a few photos.
A weekend that I will long remember. The biking was unreal. The company was better. The scenery better again. The first half of the WW I reckon is a better mtb trail than walking trail! DC said a few weeks ago he thought we were underestimating the difficulty of what we were undertaking. He was right! I’m still wrecked today…
Thanks to the lads, PJ and Yvonne for meeting us in Clonegal and especially Lorraine and the girls for the food after, much needed and appreciated.
Don’t know what’s next Barry but we’ll think of something!
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