Fast paced, corkscrew hills and plenty of banter along the way!!
The dust has settled, and the van is unpacked after a hard but wonderful life experience, six days spent supporting my son Steven Crowley and his teammates from Comeragh Cycling Club, Miceál Hayes, Niall Hogan, Luke Griffin, Ciaran Frisby and James O’Shea at the Eurocycles, Eurobaby Junior Tour of Ireland held in Co Clare.
I better start with explaining a bit about the tour so you will get a better picture, not that I am an expert on the specifics, so this is all coming from a parent’s point of view. The Junior tour is a six-day international cycling race for under 18’s, which as far as I’m aware the criteria is to be aged between 16 to 18 depending on where the cyclist’s birthday lands by the end of the year. (Again, showing my lack of insight on the logistics). The race is traditionally held in Ennis Co. Clare and is in its sixth consecutive year, whilst our riders competed for the first time. Though not the first team from Comeragh CC to enter this event as they have had teams entered over the past three years. This year there were 140 riders competing coming from Europe, England, Scotland and even a couple of teams over from America to mention but a few. There are six gruelling stages for the riders to complete ranging from 48 km loops to 127km with steep hills and inclines to contend with, depending on the course and the stage, with the final stage being a very fast loop around Ennis. While the first stage took place on the Tuesday, I did not join my family for the fun until Wednesday evening so came in on the third stage.
The day comprised of roll out from Tracey’s Hotel, driving the van out to a spot to watch the cyclists pass where we acquainted with a lovely couple who had travelled over from California with their son. They opted to follow us to the next viable place to watch the riders since we were classed as having better local knowledge than they had. Our co-pilot and navigator Katie brought us around some pretty narrow and winding shortcuts, but the van held her own and did us proud, our new American friends declaring the drive as Awesome and like a Disney ride. Our next stop we handed the riders bottles of water, all in good spirts and looking fresh considering the miles they had already covered and the hills they were climbing at the time.
Then it was a race for us parents to find a viable road leading to the finish line before the riders themselves, no speed limits broken!! However, we were stuck in a queue of traffic, everyone with the same agenda, though this is not what was causing the build-up it was the tour buses trying to get around the very sharp bends, still this did not dampen the good humour only added to the euphoria as we made it just in time to watch our riders sprint for the finish line.
Each stage being pretty much a repeat of this with early rises (on my holidays!!!) and late to bed for the parents and technical team which brings me to mention the behind the scenes work that goes into this event. The riders themselves will have been training and preparing for months but they are not alone and could not compete without the support they get from the club, this comes in the form of Colm Dillon, team manager and mechanic, driving the support car for the riders. Soigneur Cian Power, and logistics co-ordinator Sinead Power. Although this may now sound like an Oscars speech, I cannot omit to mention Pat Power and Aaron Dillon who were also present supporting the riders and giving them valuable advice from their own experience in racing.
The cyclists’ siblings, the lovely sisters’ who navigated, supported, took photographs and videos, handed out water, got squirted with water and never once complained. Would you believe they are only twelve years of age all three of them, so they definitely deserve a mention Katie Crowley, Hannah Hayes and Amy Hogan. Well done ladies you did your brothers proud.
Although by day we did not get much time to explore and enjoy the wonderful views and landscape of Clare, we did get to walk around Dromoland Castle since we were staying at the Dromoland Inn, and yes I was tempted to stick in this picture and lead you to believe we stayed at the Castle itself but somehow, I don’t think you’d have been convinced!!
There is not much left for me to say about these crazy six days, only it was not only an experience of a lifetime for the riders themselves who did us very proud, three of them from here in Tramore, but an experience for the supporting parents and siblings and the grandparents who travelled up from Tramore to see the races, giving something to reminisce over in years to come.
Here are a couple of videos taken on stage 5 and 6