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Bonding with the bike


CHALLENGE MET  Novice cyclist Neill O’Neill back in Westport after finishing the 80k Westportif route. Pic: Conor McKeown

Neill O’Neill

SO, about five weeks after getting on a bike for the first time in many years, I took on the Westportif cycle last Saturday … and lived to tell the tale. Cards on the table, I enjoyed it. I never thought tackling a long sporting event like a marathon, a Sportif cycle or Sea2Summit would ever be my thing, but in just a few short weeks I’ve turned a corner. No, I’m not hooked, and won’t be making a permanent move to lycra, but I no longer view those who regularly do such challenges as stark raving mad. And, if I’m honest, the bike has not seen the last of me.
I never thought the trusty two-wheeler and I would be friends, but we’ve bonded in the run up to non-stop three hours and 38 I was in the saddle for the 80k Westportif last weekend.
Gone is the saddle-sore behind of earlier weeks, and with a better understanding of cycling, gears and pacing yourself, learned primarily from chats on Wednesday spins with the friendly gang from Covey Wheelers, my ability has improved enough to make me want to keep it up to some extent.
There is a huge sense of satisfaction to be had from challenging yourself, stepping so far outside your comfort zone, and surviving. As each week has passed, the cycles to Louisburgh with the Covey Wheelers leisure group (I completed three and one to Roonagh with the Multisport crew through my sister-in-law Gemma) became less of a chore.

Happy out
Although taking on an 80k cycle after so little training might not be recommended, I felt ready for it last Saturday morning when I woke around 7am.
The sun was beaming and there was not a wisp of wind. After checking in at Westportif HQ in the Leisure Park, and learning that the weather was to turn around lunch time, I decided there was no time like the present and hit up Quay Hill and out the Louisburgh Road. I was not the only one who had this idea; I came across plenty of other participants along the way.
I was happy in my own company, as I could set my pace and increase or decrease it at my will. I also had a few things I needed to talk to myself about!
It worked a treat. I never really wilted along the route. I didn’t feel under pressure; I just went with it. I know the countryside along the way well, but you do get a different perspective and renewed appreciation for it cycling from Westport to Louisburgh and onto Killeen, Doolough and around the Killary Fjord to Aashleagh Falls and back through the Sheeffrey Hills and Erriff to Westport. I never saw a drop of rain, and apart from the hurricane headwind that made it seem like I was pedalling backwards at Doolough, the conditions were absolutely perfect.  
I’d told myself that I’d start this article by saying that I have never been so happy to see Dermott Langan (MC at the finish line), but there was nobody in the James Street car park when I arrived back (Dermott did give me a big welcome later in the day). The Westportif is not a race, it is not even timed officially; it’s a leisure event, and my much-earlier-than-scheduled departure meant that nobody was expected back so soon.

Persistence pays
The Westportif was a very great event, very competently and professionally run. I have to thank the Covey Wheelers – particularly Stephen Breheny – for taking me under their wing these past few weeks. They haven’t seen the last of me.  
I have never been to a spinning or turbo class (I’m not even sure what the latter is), so don’t fret if you want to give cycling a go but aren’t sure where to start or if you’ll be able for it. I thought the same. I’ll never be a Yellow Jersey contender in a race. In fact, I’ll never be in a race, and I’ll always wish cycles didn’t include hills, but I’m glad to have given it a go. And if I could do it, anyone can.
Michael Flynn is responsible for my participation in the Westportif. Though I riskily shortened the training to just four spins to Louisburgh and back and the Pink Ribbon charity cycle (which though 30k shorter I found much more difficult than the Westportif), I’m very glad Michael persisted after I laughed off the initial proposal.
Oh and Tommy B, thanks for the lend of the bike and all the gear … You’re not getting any of it back!

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