The Ironman Ireland Route Miles 40-49

Fair play Cork County Council, you’re on the job

Miles 40-49 of the Ironman Ireland Route

The beginning of this occasional blog series on the Ironman Ireland route began with a reverie about the Milan San Remo cycling race and concluded with the right turn for Mount Unicake. Today’s short section begins more Paris-Roubaix than Primaverra but true to the words of event organisers and event sponsor Cork County Council the road is under ‘athdhromchlú’ or road resurfacing.   Resurfaced or not, this first section of road at 40.5 miles has a beautiful crest on which most of you will cycle, but there thankfully ends the comparison to the dreaded pavé.

So, after steadying yourselves from the right-hand turn pedal-on on this false flat till you meet an opening on the right, you can crank it up.  If it’s a day anything like yesterday the sun will pour over you on your second lap.  On your first, as the sunlight comes into play, you might be lucky to hear the gorse plants ‘pop’ as they scatter seedlings, nicer still the coconut aroma in the warming yellow avenue, filling the air with the smell of high summer.

Four miles done its high time we got back to the bike.  The road while lumpy will all be in a big gear, when, eventually, you drop down by a thatched roof cottage.  Easy for me to turn back to take a snap, you must just remember to look in on your second lap.  With any luck this dip will too be visited by a County Council truck, for you it’s an aide memoire to notch back a sprocket or two as the road rises from the dip.  You’re now speeding to Mount Uniacke and the left hand turn to Inch.

Inch used to be big in cycling parlance.  Races were run on the basis of which inch gear you were riding, chainsets and chains were sometimes inch pitch, some of us still measure our seat tubes in inches (22 ½ for yours truly).  This is a completely different ‘Inch’.  Inch, anglicised from the Gaelic word Inis can mean an island or indeed land by a river.  You drop and drop down to our Inch by the River Tohrig and so too does the temperature by several centigrade.  So steep the descent there’s a grotto if you don’t stop and take the turn for Youghal on the right.

Forget Youghal a second, for athletes this road is exactly why you came to Cork and to Ireland.  A joy of this series is I’m riding some of these roads for the first time too and seeing them with your eyes I’d happily like this one never to stop.  To begin it’s got a quality surface so you’re not looking for bumps, the ‘Inch‘ to your right will be a wildflower summer meadow in June.  Are these the once cultivated fields that might have given the river its name (Tuath Riagh) or maybe further back the valley there are steep cliffs (Toraigh) as explained by the Irish nameplace website*?

Meanwhile athletes pedal on, the trees overhead forming a canopy of green, inviting pedal stroke after pedal stroke further into their verdant tunnel.  Great news too, it’s mainly flat.  A hollow on the left is where you’ll remember the spring fall that splashed my bike. Don’t get overtaken here by either competitors or thought as no distraction should dare come between you and this road.  “I’m so glad I’ve come to Ironman Ireland” you will think.

Let’s return to Gaelic.  Is fada an bóthar nach bhfuil aon chasadh ann.  It’s a long road that has no turn and true for us our two-mile accompaniment to the river Tohrig does come to an end.  The proverb, or seanfhocal, suggests for better things, but not for me today.  As it’s exactly about here, after leaving the river, my mind elsewhere (obviously!), nine miles in, I took a wrong turn!  No marshals for me, I’ll just have to come back.

(*A beautiful tributary to Irish river names is the ubiquitous River Owen, namely River River when you translate abhainn!)

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