Grand day out yesterday, that was the perfect cycling day. I did the new Audax permanent, the Excelsior 200km. Hands down, the toughest 200km Audax in Ireland with 4500m of climbing.
Myself and the organiser started at Shanganagh Park at 08:45. The climbing starts from the off with a nice drag up Ballycorus road and then to Kilternan. The route loops around itself several times, in and out of various valleys. The route swings down Stepaside Lane (I was grateful not to be climbing it), over Barnaslingan, out of Enniskerry and back up the Devil's Elbow to see Kilternan again.
The sun was out, not a cloud in the sky, feck all wind, great day for a long one. A brief respite along Kilternan Valley and down Cruagh road across by the DSPCA and down Stocking Lane. My house is only 3km from here but we've only done 35km!
Back up Gunny Hill to Viewing Point and swooping down into Glenasmole. The descent was great but if anyone finds a protein bar in its wrapper, they're welcome to it. A small lane with briars and potholes and we were travelling along the valley floor. The steep climb of Cunard was our next obstacle. We had skylark song as an accompaniment to the sound of our breathing.
Across the Featherbeds where a kindly motorist told me I'd dropped my gilet that I duly went back for. Descending the suspension tester that is the road to Powerscourt waterfall I remember thinking that my triceps are going to be sore tomorrow and they are. Turning right we huffed and puffed our way up the top part of The Wall and on up Long Hill. Zooming down to the main road to Roundwood was a rare chance to use the big ring. The respite was short lived as we turned off to go down a muddy dirt track down the ravine to nearly the bottom of Red Lane. The ramps of Red Lane will test most people and reaching the top and the descent of Calary Hill were most welcome.
Back towards Powerscourt and the descent of The Wall, age has not improved the surface. We met two cars near the bottom who were intent on pushing past us. Past Knocknaree Hostel and the last few km to Glencree felt like a break after some of the roughest roads in Wicklow.
We decided to take a break in the cafe. It was 15:00 and only 95km done but over 2300m climbing. Not even halfway. :-( The cafe service was slow but the food was good. Onwards and upwards to Sally Gap and the best downhill of the day. More hills waited for us as we turned right past the army range and the top of Ballinascorney. You could see the Mournes and as far west as Offaly.
Draggy back roads to Manor Kilbride and then to Blessington where we scoffed ice-cream in the sunshine. The shadows were lengthening as we headed for Lacken and the climb around Sorrell Mountain. At Ballysmuttan bridge we could smell the barbeques that families had set out on the riverbanks. Kids were splashing in the water while parents watched from deckchairs enjoying the last warmth from the sun.
Turning back up to the Gap I remembered racing this stretch in Club League, today was not going to be my day for a fast effort. The last few ramps are merciless. The easterly wind had picked up so we stopped at the crossroads to put on armwarmers and gilets. Going past Lough Dan we met a man flying a drone over the lake. Our shadows chased each other over ditches and rocks bouncing with the effort.
The sun was properly setting as we flew down the hill and once we reached the main road it was hidden by the mountains. 20:00 and 34km left. Down Altidor and right along Tooman Road. The first rule of Audax "If in doubt turn right and up a climb". I'm partially familiar with these roads and in due course, we turned right up an unfamiliar road with a climb as steep as anything we'd done earlier in the day. It went on and on, certainly 19% in places. Not what you want with tired legs. Exiting onto the top of Slaughter Hill, the lights of Newtownmountkennedy guided us downhill.
Into Newcastle and then Delgany and the back of Windgates. Last hill of the day over Bray Head and back to the start in Shankill. 21:55 was our finish time, 13 hours and 10 minutes. A proper full value ride.
Excelsior 200, 4500m.