As the more official leisure rides wind up for the year, it's fitting that our final report comes in from none other than Orwell's hard-working leisure rep himself, Stephen Ryan. He was blessed with fantastic weather, scenery and company for the Rebel Tour in the southwest!


An Post Rebel Tour 2014 (West Cork & Kerry)

Stephen Ryan

A day of glorious sunshine and spectacular scenery set the backdrop for the last weekend of the 2014 Sportive competition. Remarkably five of the six of us who started out up in the North East corner of the country in Carlingford back at the start of the season were now in the South West corner, right at the end. Of those five, three, Judith Byrne, Aishling O'Connor and Helen Horan will be taking the podium spots. Lynda Haran and myself helped them out.

During the season there have been some wonderful days and some great weather, but lately those memories have been fading. Since Kilkenny was flooded there haven't been many good days out and the SKT in particular two weeks ago was a cold sodden affair. But that all changed this weekend. The sun shone and spirits rose. A challenging picturesque course ridden in great company with the sun on the back, what more could you ask for?

The picturesque scenery

One of the nice things about events in far flung places is that you usually have to go down the day before giving you a chance to meet up people socially beforehand. And so it proved. Glengariff, the host village for the event, is a lovely village whose sole drawback – or main attraction - is that it is 4.5 hours from Dublin, which meant you had to go down on the Friday. Jonny O'Reilly and myself met up for a posh bite before joining Maeve Quigley (with her hubby and soon to be Orwell member Barry - Barry incidentally was the guy who had his bike nicked at a Sportive and got it back) and the Lansdowne Legends, Judith, Mairead Dockery and Liz Catterall for a nightcap. And then we had another one just in case the first didn't work.

Rolling down to the start I spied Eugene Dillon heading out for an early lead – he did have to get back as he had a cross country dash to make to do the following day's Joe Loughman Randonnée. At the start Paul Perry, Diarmuid Donnelly, Helen, Lynda, Dave Hendron and Colin Caesar were waiting. In what must be a first, the official start was about ten minutes earlier than advertised and with Sonia O'Sullivan leading the way we headed off into the countryside. Then Bam. The Caha pass – where the heck did that come from? The highest point of the day in the first 5km. Blimey. That took care of Dave's dodgy back and would later force him to change his plans and opt for the shorter route.

Meanwhile Judith, Breda Horan, Liz, and Mairead were setting out on the 85km route – a delightful spin for all.

The next challenge in the Figure of 8 course was a "false" Healy Pass followed by the real thing. This 5.6km of 5% climb is a good test when the legs were fresh – but we still had to revisit it. I see two people I follow on Strava did it on the same day earlier this year. Given the disparity in times (both better than mine) you'd get to wonder was one chasing to, or escaping from, the other?

The foodstop followed – and while the queue was way too long it gave us a chance to regroup and myself, Colin, Diarmuid, Helen, Jonny stayed together for the rest of the day with Lynda joining us at the second stop.

If I may permit myself a spot of musing here; over the summer I have been in many pelotons, seen many, gone past and been overtaken by many, and the Orwell-led pelotons are invariably among the most enjoyable to cycle in. I'm not saying we're the best cyclists, as that would be a pointless accolade, but I can state when there have been a few Orwells in the ones I've been in, they've moved very efficiently and safely along the road. Usually from my vantage point behind I can see Jonny O'Reilly up front taking a monster pull, or if we're going up then Paul Perry seems to find himself on the front until the end is in sight and the rest of us start to move forward. In smaller groups it's usually Colin Caesar's butt I see going up the road ahead of me while Diarmuid Donnelly steams by me on the downhills – with Jonny already out of sight. Along with Helen, Eugene and Dave Carroll I've spent a lot of cycling time in their company over the last few months and am always pleased when I see us lining up as I know that no matter how hard it gets I am going to be in good company and with great cycling companions.

Here we are at the top of the Healy Pass the second time around – Diarmuid with stomach sucked in, me with mine stuck out:

The Healy Pass

And so we barrelled off the top of the Healy Pass, down what Sean Kelly would surely refer to us a technical descent, past the water stops, up a long long drag and then the cables were cut for the high speed gallop back into Glengariff where 7 creamy pints and an ice cream awaited us.

Here you can see perennial photographed pinters Paul and Jonny (see also Inch, etc.…)


Judith was by now safely home thus making her the 2014 Leisure Cyclist of the Year – chapeau!

And in true Leisure, Touring, Sportive style, a wonderful day was rounded out with a wonderful group dinner organised by Helen – and including our new friend Muriel:

With Muriel