THE FINAL WEEK: Facing the fear

Fear is a wonderful thing. It can make you do amazing things that you never thought possible. It can make you run faster, jump higher, think quicker, well, in my case, fear had better make me cycle like a demon this Saturday.

Fear is a wonderful thing. It can make you do amazing things that you never thought possible. It can make you run faster, jump higher, think quicker, well, in my case, fear had better make me cycle like a demon this Saturday.

I am frightened, not least of all because the bike I was training on has now gone to bicycle hospital - in a critical condition i.e. the brakes are stuck on and the gears have become all unionised and gone on strike. So while my wheels are getting life saving surgery the very helpful people at Moran’s Cycles in Drumshanbo have given me another bicycle so I can continue my, um, training uninterrupted. Clearly they have much more faith in me than I do.

Random strangers are now asking me if I think I’ll make it to the finish line and I can safely say, after nearly four weeks of slogging it up and down the hills of south Leitrim, that I have absolutely no idea. I mean, forget Selton Hill, there’s also that horrific slow incline on the N4 at Annaduff to contend with. I now find myself driving round the county taking into account every incline and super fast slope and the most up to date accounting I can give you is that there’s an awful lot more climbs on the proposed route of the South Leitrim 80km cycle, than hilly descents and that could be a small problem, or a very large problem, depending on the size of the hill.

Forget getting into technicalities like wind factor or bum slippage, revolution ratios or gear planning, it’s this country’s lack of forward road planning that will stuff us all in the end. Why couldn’t we have had planners who believed it building roads which bulldozed their way in straight lines instead of caressing the local landscape, flowing up hills and down dales and round rocks of dubious historical significance? That approach would have taken at least 10 miles off our proposed cycle route this weekend and that could be the magic number deciding whether I’ll be able to sit down next week or not.

One huge positive will be the sheer number of cyclists who will be out there this Saturday, all because of the cheerful persistence of organiser Tracy Kivlehan - who shall be forever remembered as the only person on the face of this earth who can successfully start a conversation with “Have you ever wanted to cycle 80km?” The answer to this question should be “no”, clearly it should be “no”, but somehow, from Tracy, it all sounds wonderfully simple. I mean, she sold the whole idea to me and I didn’t even have a bike to start with.

Another driving force will be the fact we’re all pedalling furiously for the North West Hospice - a fantastic charity and one which is worth cycling a 1,000 miles for - please Tracy, don’t get any ideas from that statement. For those interested in showing some extra support we’ll be starting in Mohill before heading for Dromod, then its up the N4 to Carrick, into Leitrim Village and Drumshanbo and onto Ballinamore and Fenagh before arriving back in Mohill - some estimated six hours later.

I’d like to thank everyone who has been so encouraging, offering words of support, advice and, in general, at least waiting till I leave the room before falling over in convulsions of laughter. I’d especially like to say a massive thank you to the many people who dug deep and sponsored me. Thanks also to the lads at Trailblazers for your helpful advice on clothing and planning for the big cycle.

I’d like to also thank in advance, the wonderful gardai who will be pushing, sorry accompanying us as we cycle this Saturday. Please bear in mind that it’s your civic duty to make sure we get back to Mohill, if that has to be in the back of a garda van because we’re going so slow we cause a massive traffic obstruction, then please feel free to arrest me... no seriously, I’m not kidding.

To everyone cycling with me I’d just like to wish each and every one of you the very best this Saturday and like that Irish blessing says, may the road rise to meet us and the wind be ever at our backs... or I’ll be in serious trouble come lunchtime.