A big Chapeau goes out to Danny: Two Randonneur Round the Year (RRTY) Awards and two Super Randonneur (200, 300, 400, and a 600KMs) Awards WOW.
Our Ace reporter Anna Stanton caught up with Danny to hear his story.
When you look at the list of events, see attached file, you will want to applaud and wonder how Danny Moriarty, fits it all in. He has two small children, Éanna and Siún now aged four and three and both he and his wife Tracy work full time.
However, when I talked to him in Bolands Pub in Rathmines his face lit up with enthusiasm as he recalled the highlights of the trips, the friendship and fun, targets set, successes, failures and the numbing cold. An example of this was the very appropriately titled “Penance or Perish 400”, a 400k Audax on 10 May 2015.
It was a little before midnight with 300k in the legs about 4k from Kells, feeling numb with cold after over 15 hours of non-stop rain when disaster struck when he whacked into a pothole not only puncturing but buckling his rear rim simultaneously. A loosing of the rear brake block got him on the road again but with little to zero rear braking power in conditions that were a washout, thoughts of a DNF due to mechanical surfaced. Five minutes later, another puncture, this time the front wheel. Decision time. “You go on lads I’m out” he said to his two companions who were suffering and struggling in the driving rain, stopping and standing in these conditions was more arduous than spinning the pedals.
It was hard decision and a lonely feeling late at night in the countryside dark with his fingers so cold that he couldn’t open the valve lock nut. The options were to try to get a taxi or to walk but then he spotted a house with the curtains open and the television on. He took off his helmet to appear less threatening, walked in the driveway and tapped on the window. No success and the rattle of keys locking the door and a promise to call the gardaí said it all. He retreated to the gate.
Eventually he got to a hotel (via the local garda station) where he retired to the bar and spent a few hours drinking hot port and scoring biscuits off the bar staff. He gradually thawed out and peeled off the layers. Despite initially feeling a bit low, and maybe it was the effect of the hot ports but Danny said this was one of the more memorable events – you never forget the hard ones. “There should have been a special medal minted for any Audaxer that finished that ride” according to Danny. Anyone who did the curtailed club Randonnée that day would likely agree.
Cycling is in Danny’s blood. His dad Sean and uncle Tadgh formed part of the backbone of the local cycling club in Listowel. His grandad was a track cyclist in the fifties and his cousin Eugene qualified a place for Ireland for the Sydney Olympics and continues to ride the Rás well into his forties.
There were lots of local role models in Listowel Cycling Club for the young Danny who fondly remembers going to races as a kid but by the time he came to u12s there was nobody to ride with and he swapped racing bikes for O’Neill’s footballs. The Rás, though way beyond his ability, is his favourite event. As a child he often had a school day gladly curtailed due to Rás spectator commitments and a bout of road painting with his Dad. He remains in awe of any amateur rider who commits to competing and adding to the legacy of Ireland’s premier cycling event and a truly enduring cycling race.
Joining Orwell in 2012 brought adventure, new routes, new terrain and not least of all a good social scene. The plan in 2014 was to participate in the Club League but that Spring, family commitments came first. Sick children, broken sleep and no training - there had to be a change of plan as he was in no shape to tog out for the club league. He signed up for the Dying Cow 200 Audax out of curiosity that September and has been hooked since.
For Danny the Audax scene ticks all the boxes - social, exercise, sense of achievement, interesting places, touring and discovering the beauty of a hidden Ireland are all benefits or riding Audaxes or randonneuring. Though the events have time limits the ethos is definitively non-competitive.
With the longer events came nocturnal cycling and this was new territory for Danny. However he discovered that with good lights and high visibility clothing, he felt quite safe and thinks that motorists afford more respect and space to cyclists than they would during daylight hours.
When I asked about training he said “That’s the beauty of it - I don’t, I cycle to work a round trip of thirty km” and ride the events. Tracey works in Temple St Children’s Hospital and is often on call, so family commitments mean Danny rarely gets to participate in a Sunday club spin. It is clear that Danny is firmly of the view that having a go at the multi day rides would never have been possible without the endless support of Tracey and his own family.
As we all know mental preparation is as important as the physical on long distance cycles. I asked Danny what he did to prepare. There was no mention of meditation, visualizations or even praying to the guardian angel - “I watch the weather, it’s an obsession”.
In August 2015, Danny along with Dave Mc lined up for the PBP (Paris-Brest-Paris) which is the blue riband of Audaxing activity and is only held every four years. To qualify for the 1200+k event, participants must complete a ‘Super Randonneur’ series (200k, 300k, 400k, 600k) of Audaxes within the same calendar year. Danny really wanted to do it and felt that it was the right time as in four years the children would be older and it might not be possible.
Cruel luck manifested itself via a hip injury less than two weeks before the event – the injury sustained while goofing with a hurley with his son Éanna (He has heard all the ‘Did you hear about the Kerryman with a hurley jokes....’) There followed ten days of recovery with physio, MRIs, doctors and even a session of cryotherapy. He was struggling to make a call on going but he recalls his wife and Eileen Byrnes poster having a positive influence on arriving at a decision to give it a go. Arriving in Charles De Gaulle he couldn’t lift the bike off the belt, pump the tyres or get out of the saddle, but that didn’t deter him and his goal was to just start.
The atmosphere surrounding the whole event was beautiful. There were five thousand cyclists from all around the world. Such diversity - an Englishman riding a bike he found in a skip on the one side and an Asian man wearing jeans runners and a casual jacket pedaling furiously on the other. Danny felt privileged to be there – it was like he was part of a mass homage to the history of cycling and the bike itself.
Having started in the late evening, Danny was approximately 100k west of Paris when he said to himself “if I had to stop now it was worth all the effort”. The image of hundreds of cyclists weaving its way through the rolling French countryside like a red LED snake was embossed in his brain. An amazing sight.
Unfortunately Danny had to succumb to his injury and drop out after four hundred and ninety five km. “I felt lucky to be part of it...and it is definitely unfinished business”. According to Danny, Orwell club legend Dave Mac “flew around the course” in sub 60 hours which classes him as half-man/half-machine!
In May 2016, Danny achieved redemption on the Penance or Perish 400 by completing the course he had aborted on twelve months previous. A poor week’s sleep preceding the event (more illness in chez Moriarty) meant he struggled from 350k onwards with the noddies and eventually he had to just lie down and sleep in the doorway of a Health Centre in Oldtown in North County Dublin.
He doesn’t know how long he slept and he was only 20k from home – this is the kind of adventure that riding longer distances may bring. His arrival home at 7am coincided with Tracey coming down the stairs carrying their two year old Siún – on seeing him she gave him a hug, shook her head and referenced a head examination! Minutes later Danny and his little girl sat at the dining table together, Siún with her porridge and Danny with leftover dinner from the evening before. The two year succinctly summed up the meal juxtaposition “Daddy why are you eating dinner for breakfast?”
So what next? Aside from riding ‘The Fleche’ (a unique 24 hour team event where teams design their own route and meet at an agreed finishing point on Good Friday) Danny plans on little to no Audax riding this year – a sabbatical of sorts. He would be happy if he could get a few club spins in too!
Go n-eirí an bother leat.