This was the second six hundred I have completed, the first one was last year to see if I really wanted to have a crack at the PBP 2019. Having survived a 300, 400 and 600 on consecutive weekends it was only natural to push onto the French adventure this year with the gang. This event being for many of us the final qualifier Brevet before Paris

The Eoin McLove crosses Ireland you leave Whitehall, head to Lucan and use secondary roads to Athy on to Templemore, Nenagh, Portumna, Drumshanbo, Belturbut, Ballybay, Virginia, Kells, Kilmessin and back to the car park in Whitehall. Seriously you would not drive it. So, 40 odd people, roughly ten from Orwell set off in good spirits on a nice enough morning.

Navigation for this Audax though not difficult is still tricky and Garmins of many types throwing little spanners in the GPS works. All Audaxs will have a route sheet of instructions made up usually on a Xcell Spread sheet filled with numbers and names, arrows, Xs and Ts. This sheet will have distances to the next navigation point, total distance, names and numbers of roads and towns on the way. The EML has a double sided route map, one and a half sides of a A4 page, laminated for the rain and the instructions for the 600K journey was on it. Usually everyone uses a Garmin or another GPS unit but keeping that going with charging for two days was a challenge. Won by the way by Wahoo Bolt.

I didn’t even bother and just used my Garmin to record my progress, we were using an older GPS course which I had no access to and I didn’t want to confuse things by using the newer one. Trust me there were enough blind turns on this Audax to get lost. I nearly did just past Kells, luckily for me a passing motorist saw me cycling on at a turn with Joe shouting for me to stop, so they stopped me and told me to go back. I could be out there still.

The quite secondary roads and scenery were the result of all this navigation. Secondary road surfaces though can be a little rough, slamming into the odd pot hole I find a bit nerve wracking. Fortunately, I only lost a red light which fell off the bike, I was amazed I didn’t get a puncture or damage the wheels.

Going south the farm land is good and we see many fine houses from a more agricultural time when wealth was a surplus harvest. Some of the villages are charming, quiet and tucked away from the bustle of busier roads. Small communities with halls, national schools, churches and the Tidy Towns committee making the best of the area. 

Our first control was at Athy which was full of bikes as it was the Tri Athy weekend. We had a quick brunch and just kept going. It is easy to lose a lot of time on breaks if you are not focused on these longer events it is well worth being strict as it can be the difference between two and a half hours sleep and the luxury of four hours sleep.

Progress was good, and we were probably well ahead of schedule as we hit Silvermines - a photo control at 182.7 and then Nenagh a quick stop at Leonards favourite diner, Supermacs, and on towards the next control in Glenamaddy at 306.6. A few years ago, I did a RRTY with Leonard which I sometimes thought of as the Supermacs Tour of Ireland.


It was shortly after Nenagh that we had our first real problem, Tara had a broken gear cable which reduced her bike to two gears. We lost some time at the side of the road trying to fix a spare cable through internal routing. Basically, we were a little lost as we expected to just push the cable through but it didn’t happen like that. We pushed on to Potumna and a long fix did not work. It would appear the shifter was also problematic. Tara went on to join the Pantheon of Audax Greats by cycling the 400 odd kilometres home with just two gears.

Niall Diamond was kind enough to sign our Brevet cards at the Glenamaddy control being a member of Audax Ire and shortly afterwards left us as he had accommodation booked in Frenchpark. We cycled to Castlerea and a pretty good chipper, Caffolas where it was nice to sit down. We still had a good distance to go to our overnight B&B in Drumshanbo. It was so dark on this run. 100% cloud cover, no stars, secondary roads, no ambient light from anything. It was just a cone of white cycle lights and bobbing red lights. It was a little surreal, a tunnel of dark and suddenly a house flashes by, deserted or just lights out for the night. It was a little tedious to Drumshanbo and I was suffering from the noddies. (falling asleep as you cycle) but we got there.

You could not make up a character like Nessa, the landlady of a pub with accommodation overhead. At two in the morning this tiny elderly lady with a wooden stick was waiting for us. She secured our bikes announced to the girls that she would show them were the breakfast things would be and the rest of us to our rooms. I really don’t think she trusted the blokes with her toaster. No on suite fancy rooms in this pub just good sensible 80s décor, crisp white sheets and a shower down the hall that was hot, great towels and modern. This is exactly why I love audaxing you just end up with experiences meeting people in places you would never dream of. A very chirpy group of cyclists at breakfast, considering the three hours’ sleep. They were almost disappointed when I informed them that their malicious campaign about Joes snoring was all lies. I slept soundly, heard nothing and wondered what all the fuss was about. Nessa patrolled around in the morning making sure we were fed, watered, fruit in pockets and on our way. I did get the impression though that she thought the girls could have made more of an effort at breakfast - ie she saw some of the blokes using the toaster.

Once again, the Orwell logistic magic happened, this time Anna organised the bag drop for us at Drumshanbo and the collection of the horrible stuff. It is this type of selfless support that we benefit from so often in this club. Thank you, Anna, not having to carry the extra clothes was a Godsend, particularly since the middle 200 was wet.

Wind on our backs and heading towards the next control, a roundabout in Ballybay 467.7 a photo at the roundabout would do, oh the glamour of the Audax world. We split on the road heading there, Tara stopped with a few to adjust the gears to make it easier on the terrain. Think lumpy road around the lakes at Blessington for a 100 K plus lumpier. A few up front working well and hitting the down slopes hard maximising momentum so we made good time. After Ballybay we pushed on over this nasty hill into a nasty head wind which would be the story until the final control at Killmessin.

It was a tough day, a force 4 gusting 6 at times was continually splitting the group, people were getting tired and we splintered too often as we were all cycling different paces at different times knees were sore, heads were dropping, concentration was failing, we all just kept moving as best we could. 

An Audax does funny stuff to your head distance wise, Kells was now nearly considered home, the final control at Kilmessin. Head wise, was JDs from my house in Stillorgan yet it was still a good 40 K from Whitehall. Earlier in the day we were getting a little concerned as to timings but the run in from Kells 528.6 is quite benign. The head wind was a real pain battering into it but the road was fairly flat all the way home.

At the final control Kilmessin 557.6 we turned East towards Dublin and we had a tail wind, as Tony said flat run home, a successful cycle and a tail wind, it does not get much better. We dropped off the pace as we had plenty of time in hand at that stage and did not push it too hard.

It was a good feeling with Paul and Aidan offering the groups congratulations as they came in. For the 40 or so starters most were on the final leg of PBP qualifying rides, so the atmosphere was a little giddy, filled with mutual congratulations.

Well done to the organisers for the route, I know these events are without support and they only cost a fiver but the work they put in to pull it off is a effort plus someone will always have to cycle the route beforehand. Even thought you are in the wilds you never feel like you are completely on your own, there always seems to be someone around to help if needed.

In conclusion I was happy with my bike and set up. I’m going to swop out to soft bags rather than the rack bags. This is a little off base for me as I had just spent a bit of money on the front bag which is great. I just feel the soft bags will be lighter and changes the balance of the bike in a positive manner. Lights were on point and there seems enough battery longevity to last the 1200 Ks, battery packs worked recharging my Garmin on the go. New wheels and tires are an improvement and my Mimic saddle is amazing about the only thing that does not ache is my backside. The shorts are good, and my new rain jacket was a real win. So, equipment wise I’m happy, I will probably double wrap the top of the bars with tape as all of use were feeling the effects on our hands from the hours of cycling.

I was tired but felt strong enough and capable of going again as 600 is the PBP half way mark. Now that is just a little sobering thought to keep me focused for another few months.

Immense credit to Valerie, Joe, Leonard and Tara who completed a Super Randonneur series and a RRTY with the Eoin McLove 600 and a week or so later Anna completed her RRTY.


How many Orwell does it take to change a gear cable? Answers on a postcard to....