Race day 3 – 170km and 2,200m climbing – The day I vowed to do more hill reps.
It was a great morning – amazing what a good night’s sleep will do. I really do want to get better at bivying though. I love camping and if I can figure out that aspect of the racing and get some good sleep each night (even a couple of hours) then I think that will make a big difference. Either that or try the ‘one hour power nap and crack on’ approach which I’ve heard can also work really well. Anyway, plenty of time to ponder these things.
Off I went, pedalling along very happily towards Glenveagh National Park, rolling hills and a fair bit of climbing but a good gradient and nothing too horrendous. As I rolled along towards the first gravel section of the race I saw a distant dot on the horizon, Keith having a little snack and photoshoot, he’d done it again. He clearly just really wanted to let me beat him.
I let Keith go first down the gravel towards the castle and had a few more snacks on my own before deciding to attempt it myself. When I saw the shingle and jagged slate sections I was considering just walking the whole way. It then dawned on me that it would take me an eternity to get to the cakes at the castle at the bottom if I walked the whole way (and Keith would have eaten them all) so I jumped on my bike and engaged Freddie Fondriest’s inner gravel bike setting. It reminded me of the time when I was descending the Bosua Pass in Namibia on my mountain bike where I nearly went over the edge of the trail and down a ridge (luckily no-one was looking!) I was going much faster than my limited skills really allowed but it was fun to give it a go.
Freddie Fondriest – gravel bike! (Credit – Keith Donegan and Iona)
Fuelled up in the castle, I then headed out again. I almost made a silly error when I forgot the info from the briefing which was something about a bus lane and not going down there after the castle – oops. I was unceremoniously waved at by a bus driver and found my way back to the castle a short way and back up onto the cycle path (took me a while to find my way back to the road though!) I decided to get to Ardara that evening. I was pedalling along quite happily when one of my bags managed to detach itself and fall off my handlebar – sooooooo annoying (and another reason I should’ve got my set up right before I headed out!) The midges hadn’t been anywhere near me since leaving Dublin but tonight they were out in force. They were absolutely tiny and I had their little teeth nibbling me as I tried to re-attach my bags. It was beyond irritating. I was due to collect a new tracker that evening (mine hadn’t worked since setting out from Dublin) but Adrian gave me a buzz and we decided to do that the following day.
Veloforte bars at the castle – yum! (Elastic band and tape bottle system holding well too)
I rolled down a hill into the little village of Ardara, the smallest village but with, quite possibly, the most number of signs on one post I have ever seen. There was some Irish music playing in a pub so I popped in there for a quick lime and soda and a bag of chips. I met some lovely people, I forget everyone’s names but the music was great and a lady called Caroline played Scottish tunes on the piano. Brilliant to hear some live music, I miss it a bit when I’m on my bike trips!
Ardara – they like signs there.