I am so very proud of this team. What we set out to achieve in the 2017 Race Around Ireland was far surpassed by both crew and riders, to an overwhelming point over an epic 72.21hrs.
I have never seen them give more, in what was the most intense experience; racing non-stop for 2,150km against the awe-inspiring The Veloroos, and mightily strong The Ninety Niners – RAI 2017.
Ultimately, it was our experience, our months of drilling, and the riders’ focus that got us past both and into second position, behind a team that wrote a brand new strategy book to win, Team Aspect.
After three years as a core member of Tiernan’s RAI crew, some may ask why I’d still want to spend 70+ sleepless, nutrition-less hours on the road with sweaty men, for no obvious glory.
To them I say this: when you pick one of these men up from the brink of collapse, with just a cup of tea, or a cheese toastie, and you ask them to not just pedal again, but to dig in, they do it, without reaction.
Every year they have put more in; every year through the fatigue, the hunger, the brain malfunctions, the cold, the wind, and the increasing hatred of pedalling, they push beyond the limits; for themselves, for the team, and for you.
There are about 16 hours in which this race for second place was won, and it began on my Pod’s shift, starting in Spanish Point at 11.30pm on Monday night.
After Pod B making substantial gains through the nightmare navigation tests of Castlebar, Ballina, and Westport, city traffic began to hit Pod A hard coming through Galway.
They squeezed through with a car reshuffle; the rider powering past traffic, up to the leapfrog car, which had already slipped through. They then fought hard on the long slog up to Spanish Point, and now it was time for Pod A to put the hammer down.
Having chased them hard through Limerick city, luck was on our side when we saw the Veloroos’s car stopped at excruciatingly slow temporary traffic lights.
Ciaran rolled up, casually deliberately, to see if a Roo was in front, and looked back with a nod and a smile.
They missed a changeover, and a turning, all the while we stayed true and focussed. Digging so deep to keep pace, attacking to test their mettle, and always applying pressure, even up that wench Slieve Mish.
For 232km this dog-fight with the Roos and 99’ers rolled, Ciaran and Lawrence utterly emptying their tanks to average 32kph and reach Killarney in an astonishing 7.5hrs.
Daragh and Dermot surpassed that then through the Killarney National Park, nobody making it to Tuesday night in any shape to cycle on, but that they did, and hard; impossibly hard.
And that’s why you go, to witness that, to be there when all-out is redefined, to piece them back together, and watch four phenomenal men fuse into an (almost) all-conquering Race Around Ireland machine.
Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?