Lure of the Ring never wanes for cyclists

In 1998, 70 cyclists took to the start line for the Ring of Kerry cycle. That was the 15th running of the event, and having been down in Killarney by chance for the official send-off on a gun metal grey Saturday morning, the sniggers from a few curious onlookers took me a little by surprise.

On May 10 of this year, a tweet flashed up on the official twitter handle of the event; the monster they created in the Kingdom got out of control. They had to put out a statement. (A twitter handle? A statement? What is this?)

They closed the entry. News spread like wildfire. Entries went up on donedeal and eBay at grossly inflated prices.

With nine weeks to go before the cycle was due to take place, a staggering 9,500 had signed up in record time.

The organisers said, while fundraising last year reached a record €1.2 million and many more wanted to sign up this year, they felt they had no option but to halt entries.

I was there again last Saturday, not by chance this time, and knowing the crowds would definitely exceed 9,500 (you’ll always get the few chancers, won’t you?), I said I’d do the wise thing and leave at the ungodly hour of 5.30am. Beat the crowds, be home good and early.

Arriving into the town at a time of day I rarely get to witness, it was clear I was late. Very late. It was traffic like you’d see at a Munster final on Lewis Road.

Hector Ó hEochagáin was doing his thing and when he announced “people have been leaving the last hour and a half” I stared incredulously at my Garmin Edge 510 speedometer which told me the time was 6.40am.

The car parks were clogged and when I do find a spot I witness a man displacing his bike from his car with the precision of a surgeon. Slowly, so as not to scrape the paint (on the bike, not the car). Maybe he is a surgeon, because he’s wearing surgical gloves! Incredible. He then pulls a baby-wipe from the boot and gives his machine a wipe and lubricates the chain. I estimate his machine cost him €6,000, at least. His car, by the way, a 04 Polo, is probably worth around €1,500.

He has his legs shaved and his Lycra all matches. This man is definitely all about the look. I’d witness thousands more like him. “What does that weigh,” I enquire. “6.8kilos, lightest frame on the market . . . come over, have a feel. UCI legal limit” and he grins. Phenomenal. He has a lighter and better bike than many who started the Tour de France the same day — but his bulging waistline tells me he’s in for a tough morning, afternoon and evening.

The day is a resounding success and the craic is mighty for the six hours it took me; stopping in Caherciveen for a cake and Sneem for a refill (which by the way, comes for a container big enough to irrigate North and South Sudan). It’s all hands to the pump too from those opposite me. A phenomenal effort by all concerned.

I rolled into the car park. That 04 Polo still there parked there beside my own. The lure of the Ring never wanes.

See you next year!


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