FINAL STAGE: Letterkenny to Muff.
Ever since I left the group in Ballina 4 days ago I have had withdrawal symptoms. Watching their progress up into Donegal and the true Atlantic coast of west Donegal. Through my old stomping grounds of Bunbeg and Ranafast and Gweedore. Wishing I was back there drilling out the miles.
But now I’m back here in Letterkenny preparing to head off on the final leg. I had a beautiful night’s sleep last night in Dillon’s hotel after a couple of pints. Sometimes it’s an effort to click back into the atmosphere and pick up where I left off.
Such a great bunch of guys it’s easy to slot back in. Trish has been doing magnificently carrying the colours of the WAW and the Naas Cycling Club with pride and it is a pleasure to be here supporting her in her quest to finish the last of 17 continuous days. 2060 km and 20,000meters of climbing.
After our safety briefing we are some 30 strong as we leave Letterkenny.
We, thankfully again have a good tailwind that will help us at least until we decide to come back down the Inishowen peninsula on our return.
To Burnfoot and Fahan, looking over the inlet towards Rathmullin was going to be a sight we would follow as we cycled, at pace I have to say, up towards and into Buncrana. These are lovely miles. With the beautiful sea pointing out to the North Atlantic. What a most beautiful part of the world.
Even though we were looking at beautiful sea views and spreading beaches of golden sand. On my right side at first, then moving around in front of me as we made subtle redirections, the sea changed to brown mountains and foothills and it slowly began to dawn on us we were not going around these babies. At some point we would have to face them head on.
The gradual inclines should have been the giveaway as I knew this thing called Mamore Gap was ahead of us…somewhere!
Rounding a slow drag to the right there it was! At first, I thought it was a waterfall gone dry. How did sheep make such a straight path between these two matching mountains? Why didn’t they meander?
Then, the later road builders could have eased the pain I now felt. Surely this can’t be where we are heading? But it was.
It wasn’t long, it wasn’t far, but it was straight up and it was relentless. Had to get off some 100 meters from the top because my legs finally told me, in no uncertain terms that enough was enough and if I wanted more from them I’d have to behave. Walked a little way and as soon as I got a little friendly piece of tarmac I mounted again. Only to fail, because it was too steep to get any momentum to get my second foot into the pedal. Tried again and somehow got enough to get on two pedals. Cresting the top I thought my lungs would come out my mouth but I had a descent to enjoy. No! this baby was going to punish more on the downhill.
I like descending but this was buttocks clenching dangerous. Extremely steep, bad surface and savage bends which sucked you into the heather and beyond. At one bend I just knew going into it I was wrong!! Just made it around on the last pebble before the bog! I had to back off and getting to the bottom my wrists and hands were the part of my anatomy that was now screaming at me. Wont be doing that one again any time soon. That’s for sure!
On through Ballyliffin and heading for Malin town were we stopped for a coffee and a few bars and bananas to recoup before heading up to Malin Head. The most northerly and truly wild, part of Ireland.
More climbing and the pull to the top reminded me clearly of rounding the last few bends of the Ventoux. Help me lungs!!
The top was an anti-climax. Utility and wild. Too wild to stay. So, an about turn and the roll down to Galdaff was pleasure in the extreme.
We felt we were close to the end as we left Galdaff after more coffee and refreshment.
We shared the venue with a wedding party and we could not have been different. Mixing Lycia with net curtain. We didn’t mind and neither did they I think.
Last leg of 35km now. all the fit guys had had their feathers plucked in the lead group going this far and theoretical we were now all equal in fitness. This was the plan. That we ride the last 30 in formation into the finish at Muff.
eeing Lough Foyle was a welcome sight as then we knew all hills had been traversed and we were sailing towards Muff and Derry border.
At Quigleys point they brought the 3 all-rounders, Trish James and Sean to the front and we rode the last 8km in 3 abreast formation behind a mobile camera crew who were recording the whole event for Failte Ireland. Unfortunately,rain came on and we were heavily soaked but unbowed we we pulled into our stop point at Muff.
There was much celebrating. Especially for the WAW3. Champagne was the order and lots of congratulations to all of us. But more so for Trish, Sean and James.
Back now to Letterkenny to celebrate a fantastic achievement . Something I will never forget.