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Bristol to Dublin blog: Day 3, 75 miles

“My whole body hates me…!”

Wexford to Carlow

After an interesting night being battered by Storm Hector, we had a later start today of 8am after a hearty Irish breakfast at the Maldron Hotel. Essentially, this is the same as a full English breakfast, but, with white pudding as well as black. Some might even say ‘mountain fayre’.

Today would be somewhat competitive at the front with Messrs. Paul Hodgson (Forever Collectibles), Teddy Edwards (Universal), Jonny French (Universal), Ashley Holman (Nickelodeon), James Hickey (Bravado), Andy Cooper (Worlds Apart), Nikki Samuels (Sambro), Andrew Carley (eOne), Niall Trainor (eOne), Taylor Hotvet (Universal) and David Bridges (Bravado) all driving the lead peloton at one time or another.

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In layman’s terms, Ireland is twinned with Italy when it comes to scant regard for the Law and because white vans were parked on double yellow lines, Warren Traeger (Jami) had the first mishap of the day 20 minutes in when he missed his turn and headed off six miles in the wrong direction on his own. He called the support vehicle from a place called Crossabeg and was told to stay put until he was picked up by the sweeper van. Duly rescued he then re-joined the group via the single track lanes of Wexford’s rural architecture.

With the added weight of the ‘yellow shirt’ equivalent silicon bull’s testicles Rob Goodchild (Aardman Animations) then got a puncture and 200 yards later got another one. Fortunately, while it was repaired by Jonathan Katz the cycle mechanic from Classic Challenge, both Teddy Edwards and Hannah Mungo (both Universal) waited for him in true cycling camaraderie style only for Rob to then bolt off and leave them both for six – simply not cricket Grommit!

After yesterday’s rather unexpected hill odyssey, along now came the morning of another and all riders and crew were blind-sided by a sweet surprise… simply put our terrain was largely pancake flat. Any moderate incline was scaled without incident. The rain had gone, the sunshine was back and we were cycling through a ‘living’ set from Father Ted! For the first time since leaving Bristol the sweeper van was empty with plenty of room at the inn.

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After a delightful re-fuelling stop in the village of Blunclody on the banks of the picture postcard River Slaney, Gideon Seligman from Classic Challenge briefed the riders on how to safely descend a steep incline… posture, balance, leg position, shoulders, forearms and hand grip are all key. Then a sobering reality caused a latent rush to the remaining packet of fig rolls as to come down you must of course first go up. Yes – it’s time to say hello to Mount Leinster!

Gingerly we left the square in Blunclody to cross the infamous valerian bearded bridge and quickly found ourselves in the extremes of rural Ireland. When was the last time you saw a filling station on the footpath outside the local newsagent manned by a Corgi dog? Yes really!

Then it started – gently at first to lull the unwary into a false sense of security and then steadily higher and steeper metre by heart pumping metre. Here we were surrounded by gorgeous desolation in a battle between ‘Beauty and the Beast’… the facial expression on our illustrious riders was most definitely the latter. Cheeks were bright rouge and yet all looked pale, the panting was deafening despite the gusting gale at such an exposed height and the sweat or perspiration depending upon your disposition was like a burst pipe on the dishwasher of painful reality. Robert Ling (Pyramid) was heard saying : “My whole body hates me!”… and so right he was.

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This was 1,250 feet of climbing and it felt like most of it was done in the last 200 metres to the ‘teaser’ summit. Our riders were spent and thought they were there, but there was another two miles just around the corner. Admittedly, this was less steep and resembled a Patagonian mountain road with single car width, no crash barriers and a drop over the edge straight back to Wexford town.

In actual fact we were on the Mount Leinster Heritage Drive – not for those of a nervous disposition even in a car. A beautiful place although everything up here was shredded – even the trees. Nature is simply phenomenally powerful and totally unforgiving. Thank goodness it wasn’t mid-January up here in what felt like God’s waiting room.

Let’s make a rather sincere declaration at this juncture… without exception none of our riders need hide behind any vail or sheepish shadow of cycling accomplishment, as after this they are all unquestionably strong enough to face any fall – in whatever guise this might ever be. This was an epic exercise in gritted determination, stamina, will power and single bloody mindedness. No wonder some deals in licensing take an eternity to agree and close as compromise means nothing in our cycling group’s dictionary and tenacity is their generic collective middle name.

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Meanwhile in the support car we were listening to an eclectic range of music and at the summit of Mount Leinster a song came on from Israeli singer Idan Reichel called Bo’i. Those on-board were immediately silenced as we heard the following words : “Don’t talk to me about joy – it will come and when it does it will fall upon us like rain.” Never was anything more appropriately said for this very special moment.

It was now downhill very fast and for a very long way to our lunch stop at the Step House Hotel in Borris. Just off the main High Street in a private courtyard we found an Irish version of the Garden of Eden and enjoyed the most magnificent chicken pasta with tomato marinara, herbs and pasta – simply outstanding.

From here it was a very enjoyable scenic ride to our next feedstop at Bagenalstown on the banks of the River Barrow. We actually felt as though we were in France at this point with canal boats and feathered cranes amidst reeds. That said, the local Spar on the same waterfront soon grounded any meandering thoughts of continental escape.

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From here we completed the last energy sapping ten miles to our overnight stop in Carlow at the Seven Oaks Hotel. Carlow was once the capital of Ireland and has a population of 23,000. It will be boosted this evening by another 70+ in body, but, tenfold this in a halo of pride and achievement.

After another group supper and final day briefing, the silicon testicles were awarded to Taylor Hotvet (Universal) for our final day in the saddle, while Mr Strong went to Jens Drinkwater (Global Merchandising) who had until this trip never cycled more than 25 miles in one outing. Our other key award for Little Miss Sunshine went to Lucy Thomas (Classic Challenge)… she does exactly what it says on the tin.

You can support The Light Fund and our industry cyclists by clicking here to visit the JustGiving page. Alternatively, you can donate by text – simply text 70070 with BDUB32 and your donation amount – for example BDUB32 £10.

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