(Conor Isdell - Lakeside Wheelers/Audax Ireland)
Living only 30 mins in the car away from Clara I drove over on Friday morning arriving at 5.00am just in time for a bacon butty. Marcello and Anna had put on a great spread and it set the tone for the whole weekend. After final briefings from Marcello we set off in a large group and kept together to Longford where our group lead by General Nealon decided to stop while another large group pushed on to Carrick. A General’s job is to marshall his troops and make sure they do all the work while he barks out orders. So it was was hardly surprising that Eamon rarely went to the front although I did spot him going to the front after we crested a hill only to drift back as we hit the next one. Our group split at a junction around Lough Arrow as Eamon got the smell of home cooking from all of 100kms away. We were left with Seamus, Paul, Mark and myself and Conor Daly on and off. We chatted and were enthralled by Paul’s Ironman exploits to be followed by Mark’s cross country skiing feats all over Canada and Northern Europe. I kept quiet as my athletic prowess doesn’t extend beyond the bike! Conor Daly and myself discussed the idea of how we are often mixed up in audax circles as we are both Conors. Conor D. suggested that I adopt the Apple ' i 'and we decided from now on I will sign myself off as iConor and, therefore, won’t be asked to give a weather forecast in the future.
The roads around Dromore West were rolling and with a westerly wind a little testing. Seamus had all the local knowledge and before long we were nearing Ballina. Eamon had very kindly invited the whole field to his house for dinner but neglected to inform his wife, Bernie of the number arriving - ah sure maybe 4 or 5 might tip in. It was about 15 in the end. Whatever Bernie put in that pasta was savage. Within a second of sitting down a large plate of pasta and chicken was placed in front of me followed by fruit and custard. It was a godsend and thanks to Bernie and the girls for your hospitality once again. On to Knock and Ballyhaunis. Leaving Ballyhaunis the group was down to 3 and Paul Seamus and myself legged it back towards Clara. We fed off each other’s pace and kept the speed high (for me anyway). We arrived back at 11.30pm and were greeted to more great food. Marcello and Paul Newman placed the food in front of us, took our cards and filled them up. It is these small little things that make the audax community rather special. Shower, bed and sleep for 4 hours and up at 5.00am for a 6.00 start. A full breakfast in us and off we went. The day was a bit warmer than the previous day and we ended up in Gowran at the extremity of the course. Then all to Kilkenny and there was a slight mutiny in the group. My Garmin said straight ahead at the traffic lights but the others knew better! I waited up for them while the went the long way around. The next section to Freshford and on to Rathdowney was testing into the wind. We got a bit of a respite from then on and arrived back finally to Clara at 17.45pm. Most of the group were grabbing a bit of food before heading over to Castlepollard and back on a 100km leg. I was finished my 600km and wished them luck. Great food again and a shower and then home. What a great event, what great organisation, what a great idea a centre based 1,000km event is and what great company from all the lads that I cycled with. Normally I get stuck on my own on these events so it was great to have the company of everyone plus all the chat and slagging from the General. It really does make the km’s pass quickly. Next stop PBP and it was a great confidence boosting event for me.