Left at the Whiskey Woods – A Post Covid TT

Left at the Whiskey Woods

With my head resting on the handlebars and my legs barely able to hold my weight, I sucked oxygen into my heaving lungs.  Others looked on pityingly and waited for words to come out.  But there were no words, all I could do was listen.  At first it was just the drum of my heartbeat: ”drum, drum drum”;  then snatches of words: “first”, “second” “third”. These then became full sentences.  “Mossie just got caught on the line… Sally took the win.”.  Above the receding drum, I was now hearing full conversations,  the pleasant sound of roadside repartee which had not been heard in the longest time. 

Club philosopher Murphy was opining that the bike was basically “the internet of its day”.  He was going on about the accessibility of fresh air and leisure for the working man; independence and freedom for women; the evolution of cycle engineering that brings us to the present day and was making an analogy with current broadband and wifi when he turned to my trike. “I see you’re still using dial-up connection Hennessy”.  You could tell he had finished this time trial long before me.

The time trial was a handicap affair, another one of our OldVelos’ Pursuit of Man series.   With restrictions eased to the point of allowing mini-peletons, we felt we could try to host an ‘on the night’ rather than ‘Solo on Strava’ time trial.  Always looking for a twist, we invited riders to join 5 year age brackets.  The question was, within our expanding community of cyclists, would people be so revelatory?   I needn’t have worried as WhatsApp messages filed in with entries for under-40; 40-44; 45-49; 50-54; 55-59; 60 plus.  We even have a category for ‘permanently 21’; no revelations required ladies!  With the riders confirmed, all I needed was a route.

This is where the Trike really had come in to its own, being the perfect steed for route selection.  Whether it is its ability to allow you look around and take note, or maybe because uphill is slightly slower, or whether it’s just the state of mind it invokes, the level of higher consciousness the Trike excites is responsible for the perfect route.  Just shy of 18 miles and 1400ft of climbing, and with only 2 left turns on an imperfect triangle on the pick of the best (of a bad lot?) of roads in East Cork, this challenging test was definitely worthy of the sobriquet ‘The Age of Man’.  (Past events have included ‘The Pursuit of Man’, ‘The Open’ and ‘The Ten Commandments’).  As with any local route it had the road names to go with it: Start at the Bottom of Kathleen Doyle’s Hill, over the Poggio to Dungourney, turn for the Whiskey Woods, left at the Castlelyons Cross.  Whiskey Woods lies just outside Dungourney, a hidden home for Irish Distillers’ casks of Jameson, Paddy and Powers.  But that’s another trial of time altogether!

The next test was how to handicap the riders and how to judge the winners.

The return to group riding decided the first, and most hotly contested category, ‘first on the night’.  This was followed by the age category winners, both handicapped & fastest, and at the last minute we threw in a reliability ‘predict your time’ competition.  The handicaps themselves were drawn from a year’s data of the multitude of ‘Pursuit’ events, however this, as always, caused some controversy.  “How am I behind so and so?”; “Ten minutes, you must be joking?” as well as the obligatory offer of a brown envelope or its virtual equivalent “Do you take bitcoin?” messaged one competitor on Strava to which another responded “Bitcoin? Have you seen his Trike? Sure he hasn’t even accepted carbon yet.” It is hard being a Mercian tricycle in a sea of Shimano equipped carbon.

All of this brings us to the bottom of Kathleen Doyle’s Hill last Thursday.   You know the drill.  Quick warm-up, discard the outer layers, pinch the tyres, prepare for the mood swing from serene to serious as the starter says 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.  With only one rider on handicap 2 minutes ahead of me and the rest up to 14 minutes behind, I had my hopes.  Surely, I’d catch my 2 minute man before the carbon whoosh would eat me up.  I made it to Dungourney without being caught, swung left for the whiskey woods, when the starters cars beeped as he passed by.  I listened for the same salute to the rider ahead of me.  Ominously there was none.  Next I knew was “whoosh, whoosh, whoosh”.  I was being chewed up my competitors.  Spying the starter and his camera at Castlelyons cross I zipped up my top, straightened my shades and tucked in my tum and prepared for the perfect turn.  Alas, the photographer had been a figment of my imagination. 

I must admit I cursed my stupid course selection climbing those last miles from Castlelyons to Midleton.  I thought why couldn’t I have chosen an easier route for myself, or even an easier sport, like badminton, say?  I had one of those cresting-the-final-hill-only-to-discover-there-were-two-more-to-go moments.  Man I was slow. 

Finally I heard ‘here comes Brendan’.  My competitors stirred themselves from their deep discussion to slow clap my arrival, and promptly returned to their chats. “Mossie just got caught on the line… Sally took the win…I could see you up the road…Did you see how strong Mick finished… Tough route… Great surface…God, it was great just to get out.

 I may have been last, but we had created a first: the first post lock-down time trial of 2021.

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