Tour of Sligo – 6th May

Tour of Sligo – St Tiernan’s ‘Three Musketeers’

We were a small band of brothers (perhaps I should say there were ‘two’; and me, the new lad) and although we didn’t see much of each other, St Tiernan’s Cycling Club made its impact on the An Post Tour of Sligo. I met up with Robert (the ex-Dublin man who is really from Sligo) at the start, and when the mayor sent us on our merry way, that was the last I saw of him!! He was off like the proverbial rocket and he was probably on his second pint, after a shower and dinner, by the time I rolled in just after 15.00.

Since neither of us had heard from Joe, we decided to write him off. But man, how wrong was that? We had travelled about 10kms when, like a vision, he was on my outside in his lovely Movistar gear. That big grin of his was appreciated, and we set about creating a wee group that powered along for nearly two hours – in which we clocked 65km.

As some of you have found out on Saturdays, I tend to get left behind on the descents, so I picked Joe up again at the first food stop in Dromore West. He was in his element regaling the locals with stories. I pushed off after a cup of tea (in a lovely china cup, I kid you not) assuming that he’d catch up, but that was the last time our paths crossed. The St Tiernan’s lads were all now flying solo.

I struggled a little towards the end, but managed to get it together in time to clock the total distance in less than six hours. The sun shone, the wind was absent and the day was mighty!

The Route

We left Sligo at 09.05 and made our way along the coast to Strandhill, taking in fabulous views of the Atlantic Ocean and Coney Island, while Ben Bulben began to disappear out of sight as we made our way south. Passing through Ballisodare Bay before pushing on to Coolaney, we completed our first ascent through the Ox Mountains and then down into Cloonacool/Coolaney, before heading to towards Ladies Brae. The road up the Brae wasn’t great, and was very narrow too. On descending, we arrived into Dromore West before heading back into the Ox Mountains for a second climb, this time in the direction of Masshill. Passing Lough Easkey, we took the rather awful road back down to Cloonacool, before returning to Coolaney, where I took on some food.
After about 20 minutes, I joined a group from the Foyle Cycling Club (and Richard, no-one from their ranks knew that two strong Derrymen were in Dublin showing them how to cycle!) and headed off in the direction of Sligo, passing through the villages of Ballygawley, Ballintogher and then Dromahair. We were now on the final leg and after negotiating some tricky, but short climbs (while admiring the spectacular scenery around Lough Gill and Parkes Castle), I finally returned to Sligo I.T.

The Verdict

Sligo is a great place and the route was fantastic. The three climbs in the Ox Mountains were challenging, but not severe. Indeed, the journey home from Dromahair past Parkes Castle to Sligo Town was probably the most challenging. It was reminiscent of cycling around the Blessington Lakes at the end of a long, hard day in the saddle.
Like many other routes in Ireland, road surfaces were pretty poor. If only the local authorities would do something about this, then such ‘challenges’ would be a lot more fun. (Okay, so ‘fun’ is probably not the correct word, but you get the meaning.)
And as for St Tiernan’s? Well, I’m going to assume that Robert & Joe both made it home in one piece. Perhaps in 2013 we can go west en mass to put up a real show?

Tour of Sligo Images

Photos of the event are available on their website:

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