Tour de force as thousands saddle up in Kerry

You know when Irishmen start talking about organic pomegranate juice with the same fervour that once applied to pints that things are getting serious.

But just as the barstool philosophers of old thought they could solve the world’s problems over an afternoon tipple, a new breed of Irish male believes he can take on anything with a bright Lycra uniform, a shining bike frame, and the right potions to get him through.

They took to the roads in their thousands for the Ring of Kerry charity cycle on Saturday. And anyone confronted with the sight would have wondered whether there was a male left in the rest of country aged between 30 and 65.

I took part in my sixth Ring of Kerry Cycle with my dad, who has been doing it for over 10 years.

We set off from Killarney just before 7am, the bright, warm morning making a change from the usual drizzle that greets us on the annual pilgrimage. Another first was a checkpoint at the start. Organisers were anxious to ensure everyone had registered, made a €60 donation to charity, and had a yellow wristband.

The hard work only really begins after the first feed station in Cahersiveen with the first climb, the Coomacista pass.

Before you get there, you see tiny bodies climbing up like red, blue, and yellow ants. “It looks just like the Tour de France,” said one of the new breed of Irish male. “It’s actually quite like the Galibier,” his friend replied. But the only part deserving of comparisons to the Alps is the view.

It was mostly down hill until we reached An Siopa Dubh — the pub in Castlecove where we always break for a Coke.

Sneem to Kenmare is, most people agree, the worst part — a long drag that seems to never end.

From Kenmare there is a slow long climb up the Molls Gap. “Put the head down and do the hard work,” is the advice of Taoiseach Enda Kenny to his fellow cyclists. The Taoiseach takes part in this event every year and is joined by Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan and MEP Seán Kelly.

From the top of Molls Gap it’s an easy breeze home to Killarney.

The finishing banner made all participants feel like they really were racing in the Tour de France.

Labour TD for Cork East Sean Sherlock said it was “a real privilege” to cycle the Ring on closed roads and when the weather was fine. “Great credit is due to the volunteers who kept us well fed and watered.” he said.


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