Ride time: 17.92 hours in the saddle
Distance: 238 miles – Day 1 – 78 miles; Day 2 – 68 miles; Day 3 – 92 miles
Climb: 7,800 feet
Calories burnt : 13,878
Across Ireland on a Bike
“I have just come from Galway. It’s 140 miles and it took me just over two hours on the motorway”. My heart sank as I tried to digest the friendly tones of my taxi driver as I headed into Dublin on a sunny July day. “But our trip is over three days and 240 miles”, I replied sheepishly. “Oh well, you’ll be going the long way via Tipperary………… !!!”
And so it was the long, and certainly testing, route via (County) Tipperary that the group of 60 cyclists took from Galway on the west coast to Dublin in the east. It was a group of young and old, fit and “slightly out of practice”, all dressed in pink that set off under police escort from Galway on a bright, dry September day. We had been briefed, perhaps warned, that we were in for a challenge but, while apprehensive, everybody was committed, to go the extra mile in the memory of our dear friend Sarah.
What followed was an epic journey; dramatic tales of punishing climbs, break-neck descents and bone-shaking road surfaces were the talk of the weary at dinner, emboldened by the free Guinness (thank you sponsors!). The weather was the other source of concern or complaint; headwinds on day one, a deluge on day three, but two clear days out of three in Ireland meant that somebody was on our side.
And what of Ireland? Beautiful by nature (emerald for good reason), blighted by hideous, new architecture and planning chaos but with a warmth and humanity that humbled, as passers-by dug deep both to support our cause and applaud our effort. From the postman taking pity on me with a tube of Deep Heat to address a failing knee to an impoverished mother demanding that we took her €20 note, they were genuinely supportive. Perhaps less so were the ubiquitous, barking dogs defending their turf (or new, bank-financed tarmac). I have yet to work out how to deter an errant terrier with feet clipped into pedals!
Despite, or perhaps because of, the harshness of our journey, there was a great camaraderie amongst the team; we were spoilt for support and good advice and nothing managed to dampen our spirits. Rousing speeches by Jane Walker from Breakthrough Breast Cancer were better than energy bars. Not only did we hear of growing donations but also of exciting announcements in The Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/7977757/Major-advance-in-tackling-aggressive-breast-cancer.html) of progress by our team of scientists in the battle against triple negative breast cancer. Hills and headwinds seemed less formidable!
On the final afternoon we were led into Dublin by police outriders in a “pink procession” to hooting horns and cheering pedestrians. Our limbs were weary after 92 miles in the saddle, much of it in driving rain, but morale was high. The dual carriageway was cordoned off from Saturday afternoon traffic, the roundabouts blocked; as I looked up from the back of the procession I felt a lump in my throat: Sarah would have been astonished by what had been done. She would have been humbled or should I say embarrassed by your support and perplexed by the wonderful generosity of everybody in her name.
In closing, I can only add my profound thanks for your support and in the words of my Gaelic forbears: “Go Mbeannai Dia Dhuit” (which doesn’t mean “never put me on a bicycle ever again”!).
Mark Stacpoole 9 September 2010
C2C Route Presentation
Galway to Bray – A 3-Day Cycle Challenge
Distance: 350 kms total
Elevation gain: 3,800 metres total
Terrain: almost exclusively quiet country back-roads. Hilly in places but never too steep. (Maximum gradient is 10%) The main climbs are gentle but sustained, the longest being 5 kms.
Day 1 : The Day of the Sleive Aughty
Start time planned for 9am.
The road out of Galway soon leads us through flattish stone-walled pastures. This will prove an easy section for all riders. Quiet lanes where it will be safe to chat to each other as you all settle into the reality of 3 days on the saddle. Ideal for loosening up the legs, this section will take us to the first ‘fruit stop’ at just under 30kms. We will re-group here before spinning along the remaining 12 kms to our lunch stop in Lochrea.
The morning route should get you all feeling very optimistic about your abilities, but don’t be tempted to shoot along the flat lanes : you will need your energy for the climbing that starts 12 kms after lunch. A 5km climb with an average gradient of 5% awaits you, taking you up into the wilderness of the Sleive Aughty Mountains. Spectacular views reward your hard efforts. You will already feel a long way from Galway, in fact you will feel a long way from anywhere at all! Then follows a superb section 22 kms long of almost continuous downhill, although I am sure some of you will disagree with this at the time! This takes us to our next ‘fruit stop’ in Abbey, with -believe it or not – an abbey (ruins) to explore.
The 20 kms to our next ‘fruit stop’ takes us along more quiet lanes with the odd bump or two in the way, but nothing too serious. We even cross paths with the River Shannon. You will be able to enjoy the quiet and beauty of the forgotten parts of Ireland. Watch out for sheep in the road!
32 more kilometres make up the days’ tally of 126kms to our hotel in Roscrea. No mean feat for the first day, but it is the ‘flattest’ of the three days, so a good nights’ sleep will be essential.
Total distance : 126 kms. Elevation gain : 720 metres
Day 2 : The Day of the Sleive Bloom
Start planned for 8.30am
This day takes us up to the highest point of the whole ride at just under 400 metres. And the serious business starts right after breakfast. The road up to the Sleive Bloom Mountains will test your legs from the day before without really hurting you. Just getting you used to what is to come! After 20kms, the proper climb starts, lasting about 7kms in all. This is broken up by a short plateau, before which we will have a first ‘fruit stop’. Once refreshed and with heart beat back to a semi-normal rate, there remains just 2kms to the top, including a short section of 8-10% just before the top. But what a top!! If the weather is fine, the views will match anything you have ever seen before.
After this stunning section there is a superb fast downhill, to be ridden with care, and then an easier section of 40kms in all, to our lunch in Abbeyleix. There will be a ‘fruit stop’ along the way on this section, but without a full re-group, so that riders can carry on at their own pace to lunch if they wish. Lunch will taste so good!!
The afternoon will consist of two sections of 27 and 22 kms, broken up by a ‘fruit stop’. Both sections have some spicy climbs to keep you interested in your ride. What Irish architecture lacks in ‘style’ is more than made up for by the sheer beauty of the countryside that will hopefully be bathed in September sunshine for you. As well as the charm of your immediate surroundings, you may well notice threatening silhouettes of rather large hills appearing in the distance. They will loom larger as the afternoon progresses. They are your main course on the Day 3 menu.
Total distance : 116 kms Elevation gain : 1,290 metres
Day 3 : The Day of the Wicklow
Start planned for 8am
Another 30km stretch to get your (last?!) legs going after breakfast. Today starts off relatively gently, with bumps rather than hills. Most of the route is more picturesque than painful. We stop in Clonegal, by the River Derry, then in Tinahely, 20kms later. The last section of the mornings’ ride is 27kms long and includes some sharper ups and downs – just to let you know that the last day means business.
There are two tougher climbs in particular, but they will not make you suffer too long, and are never steeper than 5%. Having dipped down to the “Meetings of the Waters”, we have to climb up again to begin our approach to the Wicklow region. But we will stop for what promises to be a memorable lunch in the typical village of Rathdrum before we tackle the Grand Finale of the whole ride.
We will have a mere 40kms to ride in the afternoon, but they will be a pretty unforgettable 40! First we make our way through beautiful wooded scenery up to Roundwood “The Highest Village in Ireland”. The road climbs quite lazily, with no steep gradients, but there might be a few tired legs by this stage! From Roundwood there is just one hill in between you and the finish. But it’s quite a big one. We will have a last ‘fruit stop’ in a picnic area at 26kms after lunch, just before climbing up to the summit of our quiet road that goes over the southern tip of Ireland’s most famous ‘hills’. To be at the top will be a crowning moment for you all and a very well-deserved one. Views all around include a very welcome one of the sea below you. There remains just 12 kms of mainly downhill to get you to Bray. The finish will be held at the very charming seafront of Bray, with open grass spaces behind the ‘promenade’ and the shingle beaches beyond.
Lots of room to celebrate, photograph the moment or just keel over on the grass!
Total distance : 120kms Elevation gain : 1,490 metres
Summary of the Whole Ride
This ride will require training if riders are to complete it successfully. But it must be said that the route includes no REALLY HARD climbs. All those who successfully rode the 2008 Sarah Greene ride will be able to ride this too, even if it is slightly harder overall.
Riders should all have ridden 100kms in a day at least once before tackling this ride.
Technical tips will be given nearer the time. The road surface is fine most of the time but there were some nasty potholes around at the time of the recce and chances of them being repaired by September 2010 in Ireland are quite slim, methinks!
It is a beautiful route and one that will take most of you to places in Ireland that you may not know, that are just as beautiful as the more well-known parts. It will be 3 days that you will never forget, and not just because of the hurting!
Berkshire residents aim to raise £400,000 cycling across Ireland’s 3 Mountain ranges in aid of the Sarah Greene Breakthrough Tribute Fund!
Sixty six Berkshire residents will today (Tuesday 2nd September) embark on the adventure of a life time as they pull on their lycras and clip on their helmets in a bid to cycle 250 miles in three days from Galway to Dublin crossing three mountain ranges; Slieve Bloom & Haughty and the Wicklow Mountains. The intrepid team is hoping to raise £400,000 in memory of local mother-of-two Sarah Greene, who died of breast cancer at the age of 44 in 2006.
The Sarah Greene Breakthrough Tribute Fund was established to help raise money for the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Unit at Guy’s Hospital, Kings College London, in memory of Sarah, a Newbury resident. Friends and family have already raised a staggering £350,000 undertaking activities including a bike ride to Paris in 2008 and an ultra marathon in Jordan running 10 marathons in six days all to help fund The Sarah Greene Fellowship – a complete five year research post at the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Unit based at Guy’s Hospital. One of these posts was filled by a young French research scientist, Dr Elodie Noel, in August 2008 and her work centres on finding and developing a suitable cancer drug to fight triple negative breast cancer – the type of cancer Sarah had.
The £400,000 which the team are hoping to raise from the Galway to Dublin ride will help the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre continue the amazing work they do by supporting a further Clinical Research Fellow, Dr Sheeba Irshad. Dr Irshad will split her time between research work in the lab and treating patients in the clinic so that patients receive cutting edge treatment and benefit from research breakthroughs at the earliest possible opportunity.
Sarah’s husband, Peter Greene, 62, says,
“When Sarah died, there were many of us who said -this is NOT going to be the end of the matter – we want to help other women to have a better chance. The training and preparation that has gone into this bike ride has been immense and I can safely say that it hasn’t always been smooth sailing! But the aches and pains that the team and I are currently feeling will be worthwhile when we hit our £400,000 target. The money raised will directly help women to live free from the fear of breast cancer, and to be able to say that we had a part in that is something that we are all immensely proud of.”
The team have been training long and hard over the course of the year with many now training two or three times a week as well as undertaking weekend expeditions to get to their optimum cycling fitness.
Simon Halden, one of Sarah’s oldest friends adds,
“We’re hoping to raise a minimum of £5,000 each so this isn’t something we have undertaken lightly particularly as the majority of the riders are all in their forties and fifties!!. We’ve been training hard so that we all complete the 250 miles and raise as much money as we can for Sarah’s fund. The courage and positivity she showed fighting the disease has driven us all to make a commitment which will directly change the future for people affected by breast cancer forever. Our thanks must go also to the sponsors who include Banjo Cycles in Newbury, VW Commercial Vehicles and River & Mercantile Asset Management”.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK, with nearly 46,000 women and around 300 men diagnosed with the disease each year. All the money raised from the cycle will go directly to funding Dr Sheeba Irshad’s fellowship, the instruments she requires, and the life-saving work that her and her team do on a daily basis.
Riders and Support Crew
Louise (Squeeze) Wendin