Monday, August 31, 2009

On being a Spectator at The Tour of Waterford - and Ireland


Yesterday hubby Jan completed a charity cycle of 100km or 60 miles ( you can convert it accurately on my little converter widget at the sidebar!). It was his second year doing the Seán Kelly Tour of Waterford Charity Fun Cycle, and last year he also did the 100km. He loves cycling and as there is no cycling club in Lismore he goes it alone and times his journeys and can compare past and present times.

He raised €140 for the designated charity, the Irish Cancer Society (ICS), and last year over €100 for the National Council for the Blind in Ireland (NCBI). By today the ICS had taken over €30,000 in sponsorship raised through this cycle tour, and I think it is one of their biggest single fundraisers.

It is also the biggest Fun Cycle in Ireland, with 3,480 cyclists taking part in the three distances, the 50km, the 100km, and the 160km for the real pros. This takes in a number of challenging mountain passes across the Comeragh mountains, and hubby didn't even consider doing it. He is in it for the fun and the exercise and fitness is a welcome by-product, not the end in itself. We are all proud of him for doing this and he is delighted with his achievement.

His route took him from Dungarvan - start and endpoint for all three routes - to Carrick-on-Suir (home town of Seán Kelly of the Tour of Waterford and one of Ireland's best-known cyclists who was on the international circuit for years) and Clonmel, and back to Dungarvan. It was a filthy day, with lashing driving rain for a large part of the day, and an Irish mist for the rest, to ensure a thorough drenching, and yet the spirit of the cyclists never seemed to flag. I waited by the finish line for an hour or so watching the straggle of cyclists coming back in high spirits to the cheers of the onlookers, and there was a great buzz.

Being a fun cycle the only rules were that helmets had to be worn, and there was a motley crew of machines from top-class racers to tandems (including a blind cyclist with a buddy)and mountain bikes to high nellies with wicker baskets on the handlebars, more befitting a sunny country lane and floral frocks than splashing on Irish roads in the driving rain. Plenty of kids took part and there were cycling club members from all over Ireland and a number of cyclists from overseas, looking at the number of foreign registered camper vans and cars with bike racks.

The WLR-FM blastercaster was there with commentary and music and there was a huge backup crew in the sport hall in Dungarvan providing tea and soup and sandwiches for the returning heroes and heroines. The last time I was in this hall was at the Local and European Elections (see the blogpost) back in June, when it was transformed into the Count Centre and was full of high drama and tension. Today it was thronged with a different melée but equally colourful and noisy. Jan collected his Certificate of Achievement here before we went home.

The first few photos show Jan after the Tour, with another Labour Party Councillor, Ger Barron, and also with his Certificate.

The more high-profile Tour of Ireland was held over three days in August and came to Lismore on Day 2. There were over 100 cyclists from the well-known international teams that take part in the famous European tours like the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia and the Spain's La Vuelta. The Peloton whizzed by Lismore Castle and didn't go through the town and a crowd gathered to cheer them on. As Lance Armstrong was taking part in the race there was a buzz of celebrity around, though unless you knew his colours you would be challenged to pick him out! I managed to get a few photos but they are a Jackson Pollock-like blur of colour and individual identification is impossible.


You can see the Tour of Ireland Peloton in these photos, and Lance Armstrong's Astana Team car with spare bikes was the next best thing to getting his photo!

There is a nice photo of Lismore Castle on a rare sunny summer's day, as the Tour of Ireland passed by. It is nice to see it surrounded by lush trees compared to the starkness of the winter photos I took in earlier posts like here.

So we have had quite a bit of cycling around here lately, and maybe it will inspire the government to promote cycling by providing more realistic cycling lanes in urban areas. Currently they are a joke, going nowhere and many that stop suddenly at a traffic light and that are shared with the bus lane. Cycling is a bit of a Russian Roulette activity, it is so dangerous as the urban cyclist is often seen as a nuisance by motorists and there are a number of fatal accidents every year.

Compared to our fellow-Europeans like the Dutch and Danes, who seem to accord cyclists great respect and services, we have a long way to go. Despite having Green biking ministers in government, there doesn't seem to be much happening on that front, but then they are so hapless in every undertaking and have lost so much credibility since joining the Coalition, that they probably would make a total mess of any new venture, even promoting cycling.

I guess we're on our own here, I don't have a bike any more after years of cycling in Dublin as a student when it was my mode of transport, I haven't been persuaded since returning to Ireland twelve years ago. Now I enjoy my onlooker cheerleader status.

14 comments:

Rudee said...

This looks like it was a fun day! It's always good to step out and do something for a good cause. Keep peddling, Jan!

Peggy said...

It looks fun even with the rain but not enough to tempt me to ever get up on a bike again. I know they say you never forget how to ride a bike but I would hate to be the exception to prove the rule.

Debbie said...

That does look and sound like fun.

Tilly said...

Wow, that's some bike ride. Well done Jan!

Rob said...

Gosh, that's quite a nice blog you have! Well done, Jan!
Thanks for your comments in my Barcelona blog! That's even more welcome because it comes from my old home (up the Dubs!). Anyway, enjoy my blog as much as I enjoy yours!
Rob

Niamh Griffin said...

Great post Catherine, really interesting! Your husband is definitely a man of many talents:)... agree with you about how manic it is cycling in Dublin, I especially love the lanes that merge with a bus lane - it's so scary! Im dying to see how the Free Bike scheme will run here, have you heard about this? Supposed to start next week so we will see how long the bikes last and how often people use them.

Lynda said...

Well done to your hubby - phew, it makes me tired just thinking about cycling that distance ;) great that he managed to raise money for a worthwhile cause, too .... hope you get this comment as I don't think the others have gone through ? Bye for now ...

Catherine said...

RUDEE Thanks for the congrats - it is great to combine a good cause and fun! Well done to you for your win at the fair with the knitted shawl, it looked beautiful.

Catherine said...

PEGGY - you could do some nice cycling down your way - to and from the allotment! Your harvests are great, I am very jealous!Enjoy the fruits of your labours.

Catherine said...

DEBBIE - it was fun I'm sure, standing around in the rain wasn't as much fun though! The cyclists enjoyed themselves no end. Thanks for dropping by.

Catherine said...

TILLY - thanks for the congrats, passed on to Jan. It's hard to imagine what the 160km cycle was like, strictly for the pros - Sean Kelly's and Lance Armstrong's calibre. Those mountain passes would be way too difficult for me! I wouldn't even attempt the 100km Jan did.

Catherine said...

ROB - thanks for the congrats and for joining my blog, always nice to have new followers. Glad you like the blog, small world that you lived in Dublin. Barcelona wins I'd say! I will try to visit your photo blog often, I am not as diligent as most. I have another August post on my mugs from Barcelona too, they were too nice to miss out on.

Catherine said...

NIAMH - haven't seen the new bikes in Dublin yet, will be there tomorrow for a meeting so should have a look for them, they seem to be nowhere as good was in other cities like Barcelona or Paris.Not as many or as widespread over the city. Haven't been over to your blog for a while so must drop by.

Catherine said...

LYNDA - nice to see you back again - hope all is well with you and family, lovely to be back in Tanzania again I'm sure. Thanks for the comments, Jan certainly enjoyed the day on the bike, he would do a lot more cycling if the weather was better - we are having an Indian Summer now at last!