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Surviving the Wicklow 200

By Sophie

Today is the Wicklow 200, a cornerstone of the Irish cycling calendar. Often compared to the renowned Fred Whitton in the UK, which Cycling Weekly describes as "the daddy of them all," the Wicklow 200 spans 200 kilometres and includes 3,445 meters of elevation gain 😮

My Irish friend, whose family has a tradition of participating in this event, suggested I join. Foolishly, I signed up.

5am and my alarm goes. Snooze once. I'm up.

I heave myself out of bed and prioritise eating. I put fruit loaf in the toaster and begin to get dressed. Minutes later, a piercing noise fills the house—the toast has set off the fire alarms.

We frantically open all the windows and doors, letting in the icy air. After a few minutes, the shrill beeping stops, but the freezing temperature serves as a warning of what’s to come.

We drive to the start line and I sit in grim silence. I'd been awake since 3am and managed only 4 hours sleep.

Shivering as we take our bikes off the roof rack, we make it to the start line and start the slog. I watch my friends fade into the distance and realise I'm on my own.

I start the solo climb into the mountains and a bitter wind stings against my bare legs. I reach into my pocket to grab a biscuit but my hands are so numb I can't feel it. A dense fog ruins any views.

I look down at my Wahoo and see my average speed is just 9mph. I register that I've got no chance of finishing by the cut off time.

80km in and we reach our first stop. I see my friends whilst queuing for the toilet. They're in much higher spirits having found a peloton for the first section.

I inhale a sandwich and grab a flapjack for my bar bag. I'm on my way again. Minutes later, I look down and see that my flapjack has bounced out. I grieve the buttery treat and press on.

I'm now on the flat, being blown around once more by the brutal Irish wind. After a few miles, I catch onto a peloton and feel sweet relief as they drag me along. I make friends, chat away and my spirits lift. I watch my average speed creep up. For the first time, I know I will make it.

I stop at a shop to buy some water. Getting ready to go again, I look behind me before I pull out and see my two friends. 

What a nice surprise. I greet them warmly, but I'm met with accusations that I cut out a section of the course. They are incredulous that I’ve somehow managed to get ahead!

We press on with a sense of impending doom, ready for the two big climbs before lunch. One down. The second one is just as painful. Psssttttt. I hear a puncture half way up the second one.  My tubeless just about holds and I make it to the lunch stop.

I plug my tyre and head towards the food tent. We stand shivering, exchanging few words. The rain continues. I head to the portaloo and collapse onto the seat. My main concern is getting the strength to get off it again. 

A few sandwiches and Mars bars later, we're on our way. 100 miles down and only 25 left.

We agree to complete the final leg as a group. The finish line is within reach; we just need to push through. Another hour in, the heavens open and the rain streams down my face. Sunscreen stings as it runs into my eyes. We slow down, realising our braking distance is impaired.

More slog. More grinding. The mileage slowly rises. I smash a couple of gels and finally, we're at the finish line. We proudly collect our medals and take a couple of photos.

Around 2 hours and a hot shower later, my body temperature is restored and I have a chance to reflect. Did I enjoy the Wicklow 200 ? Replace 'enjoy' with 'endured' and you get a more accurate answer. That said, I'm definitely proud I've done it.

My latest promise to myself is that next time I pick a challenge, I'll do it in a hot country. 

And as always, a big thank you to the incredible Birdie Bikes for servicing my bike just before the trip.

Check out Sophie's ride here: 👍

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