The weather for this year's BCC Camlough CC early season sportive was dry with clearing skies and a west-north westerly breeze. Overnight rain had wet the roads but they dried out as the morning went on, leaving beautiful conditions for the sold-out event.
Around 500 cyclists including thirty Cuchulainn members signed on at Carrickcruppen GAA and set off from St Mark's School in Camlough. The inevitable congestion at the start was well managed by the plentiful marshals and the climb to the Mountain House for the first 5k or so fairly strung out the peloton to leave everyone plenty of room.
It was a fast and mainly downhill section from there to Fitzpatrick's award winning restaurant with a lot of helpful tailwind on the way. At Fitzpatrick's we were treated to hot soup and sandwiches, happy and unsuspecting about the second half to come...
After refreshments and social we re-mounted our trusty steeds and turned left up the hill to Ravensdale, into the face of a moderate but persistent headwind. After the first half, we all thought we were Chris Froome or Marianne Vos, our illusions were quickly shattered as we puffed and panted our way up the never ending climbs, consoled only by the breathtaking scenery around us. At Ravensdale forest there was beautiful woodland on our right, climbing up to the Cooleys. On our left, the green glacial valley, carved out several millennia before.
Through the Gap of the North, heading for the Ring of Gullion we passed by Jonesboro and through the village of Meigh. With only 10 km to go we were nearly home, but with the hills, wind and fatigue in the legs setting in, I'm sure others would agree it was the toughest 10k of the whole ride.
Eager to get to the curry before the queue got too long, we pressed on and climbed again until we were high above Camlough Lake, sparkling dark and mysterious in the valley below to our left.
Finally the last descent to Camlough with a sturdy gallop along the last stretch to the finish with the wind on our backs again, giving us a helping hand.
The food at the end was, as always most welcome and delicious. Curry and rice followed by tray bakes and tea, fabulous!
Many, many thanks to all the organisers and marshals, volunteers, ambulance, motos, car drivers and all at Camlough Cycling Club for an enjoyable and safe day out!