Colm Featherstone was one of the many Orwells who migrated to Waterford for the popular Sean Kelly Tour, including many of the white group who have spent the year traversing the country on various leisure cycles. The ran the gauntlet of lashing rain and dizzying climbs in Dungarvan, but survived to tell the tale!

SKT: Scenery agus Craic

Colm Featherstone

Oh yes, those merry group of leisure cyclists who first ventured out from under the clutches of Denis "Olympic Rings Guy” Gleeson to conquer the Mick Byrne, at the start of the classic season, are still on the road, and heading for rebel territory this weekend.

We had our fill of the quare stuff following our maiden outing, and waxed lyrically about doing the Marmotte, Wicklow 200, Etape, and even the Poggio,( Italian version). And then someone wise guy suggested the SKT, ah yea no sweat, great scenery, great craic, Powers the Pot, the Nama Road. They threw the gauntlet down to the White Group.

Well never let it be said, in preparation for the SKT, we didn't go for glory this summer - the Wicklow 100, ROK, Tour of "Flat” Meath, Leinster Loop, Tour of Kilkenny, Tour of Connemara, Bernie the Bolts, Tuesday night spins, to name but a few.

With all those miles under our belt, we all headed for Waterford, having briefly entertained a few lame excuses such as "family holiday in Alvor " to "Hollingsworth has made me an offer on my new bike”.

Driving into Dungarvan on a sunny afternoon myself and Colm A, on viewing Mahon Falls, were inspired and trotted out the Bord Failte line, "Why would you go abroad on holidays when ye can have weather like this in Ireland”. Isn't that right Ted?

Ah Kay, in St. Anthony's B & B on the Clonea Road, what a special host. Will you have a cup of tea lads, go on, go on, go on.

I put on the glad rags to head for Eileen's feast, being hurried on by the sight of Agnew laying out the his racing red pyjamas on the pillow, they matched Kay's Art Deco wallpaper.

The White group stuck together having the grub, and I watched nervously as the real cyclists tucked into the fish, no chips allowed for those guys, pure athletes. Shock horror as one of them went for dessert, the cheese board no less.

Time for the leaba beckoned, not before we had a late one in Merry's to steady the nerves for the day ahead, as promised of great scenery and craic.

What a sleep, followed by the full Irish, even Simon Kelehan who aspires to going Yellow in October, opted for the eggs and bacon.

Great conditions as we rolled down to the meeting point for the Orwellians, inspiring to see all the club jerseys. The bootless cries of the ladies who went home early to get some shut eye, only to find their sweet dreams disturbed by the Garth Brooks tribute night, were not entertained either.

And there off, Meliosa O'Byrne, Colm "Granny wheel” Agnew, Pat Macken, Bernadette Tansey Daly, Olivia Quill, Kevin Connaire, Michelle Clifford, Derek Handley, Julianne Barry, Simon Kelehan and yes, the Leisure Queen herself, Ms Judith Byrne. Our job as domestiques, and super domestiques was to mind our lady in Yellow, bring her home safe.

Simon belted away in the first kilometre, and mixed it with the fast oranges, only to realise his fellow travellers were not taking that bait, or were growled at by the second captain to cop on. Discretion being the better part of valour, our Simon soon returned to the fold.

As we made good time on route to Carrick on Suir, there was talk of the Weather Channel, Accu Weather, the Norweigan weather forecast and even that bloke in New Zealand got a mention, what the feck, Met Eireann said it will be lashing in the Sunny South East, The Gold Coast!!! by midday, brace yourself.

"King of the Hills 3km" greeted our peloton like a bolt out of the blue, welcome to the SKT, let's get down and dirty, the first half of that that climb was brutal, for one and all. A fine thing was spotted pushing Macken up to the sharp right at the top of Tickinoor, go on Gaillimh. Yes I put my hands up now, I availed of that service too.

After a pleasant stop at 65km we regrouped, and checked the weather again and again and again. Tá sá ag teacht, time to re-mount and warm up again we are heading for the beautiful Nire Valley, yippee. On the far side of Clonmel, we got a great cheer from Colm A's sister who hoisted a "Go Colm" banner much to the appreciation of the peloton.

Then it started and it rained and rained and rained for the rest of the day, but what the hell the White Group are making good time and our now taking on "Powers the Pot". They defo got the next "King of the hills 3km" sign wrong as it appeared unending as we kept those wheels turning on the Waterford version of the Military Road.

The next food stop would be a welcome break for us all, as we motored towards it, despite the incessant downpour. I was curious about the large number of bikes still at the food stop and the jovial look on some of the folks heading out into the elements. On hearing that Mahon Falls was closed we were all gutted, though relieved that the misery would end soon, just head for Lemybrien and then Dungarvan. The head said we nearly there, no more big hills, fatal error number 1.

Fatal error number 2, the group got split on the next stage, and a silence descended on our bunch that now numbered seven. The hard work done over the summer stood to us all though, in this character building weather, why why why do we do it. Lets kick on and start dreaming of that hot shower, at a venue yet to be decided.

Having understood that it was straight back to Dungarvan for us all, that myth was soon put to bed when the marshalls ushered us towards Mahon Falls. Julianne and Michelle bid us adieu at this point rightly opting to steer clear of further hardship. And then there was 5, ”boys will be boys”, Myself, Pat Macken and Simon Kelehan with Colm Agnew now in granny mode, accompanied by Kevin Connaire slighty ahead.

Up and up we moaned, the craic and the scenery eh!!! it never seemed to level out. We pleaded to be let do Mahon Falls, but that fell on deaf ears, thank god. And then was three amigos, heading for the Nama Road, myself, Pat and Simon. We were joined by Siobhan and Una Scallan, who were gliding along.

The last big hill of the day was conquered and that feeling of accomplishment began to develop and despite the weary bones we peddled on and took fatal error number 3 in our stride "Believing the Irish Road Signs" Dungarvan 14k, Dungarvan 12K, Dungarvan 14K, .

Dungarvan 1k, yes please, no sign of the broom wagon, as we were welcomed into the arena by the energetic Master of Ceremonies. We Zipped up for the sponsors, on crossing the line after 162ks of Scenery and Craic!!! The New Cannibal himself, our host Mr Kelly, beckoned us over for a photo, for which we duly obliged. On digging Mr Kelly in the ribs and telling him to keep the belly in for the snap, we were proud as punch to be finished, and snapped with the main man.

Macken, Kelly, Featherstone and Kelehan after an arduous trek around the so-called sunny south-east

Chapeau Simon, and indeed Pat Macken, the most improved spinner this year.

So finally finished we were delightfully treated to a 1970's style nosh up of Miwadi and Brack, but thoughts soon turned to the need to sign the blues under some hot water. My ever suffering travelling companion was last seen on the way to Mahon Falls, so armed with the knowledge that I had the keys to all his clothes I headed back to Kay's on the Clonea Road with Simon.

The last scene of this epic day, belongs to Mr Agnew who answered the door to us in Kay's flowing dressing gown. "Come in boys, will you have a cup of tea, go on, go on, go on.”


-Second Captain.