The Carrick Challenge was to cycle from Carrick-on-suir in Tipperary to Greystones in Wicklow over the course of three days. It took place from Thursday 6th August to Saturday 9th August. There were five Challengers and three Support crew – the V man, X&Y, and moaner! As part of the support crew, my job was to navigate (which I did pretty badly – think we ended up doing a few loops, thankfully the cyclists weren’t following us) and be the photographer (I took this job rather seriously ending up with around 200 snaps) and to provide support to the cyclists in the form of first aid (thankfully not needed apart from one bee sting), rescuing (again thankfully not needed with only one puncture fixed en route) and food stops (think we had this one pretty well covered). We were lucky with the weather with the sun shining for the majority of the time making the challenge all the more enjoyable. We set off early on Thursday morning and the challenge began at 10am when we arrived in Carrick. Our first destination was Inistioge, Co. Kilkenny – the pretty village where Circle of Friends was filmed. Set on the River Nore, a picturesque setting for a well deserved lunch for the athletes tackling the hard hills. After lunch it was back on the bikes for another 25 miles to our overnight in Graiguenamanagh, Co. Kilkenny. We stayed in the Waterside on the banks of the River Barrow. A lovely B&B that used to be an old cornstore in the 19th century. Would definitely recommend a visit to this pretty town that is aiming to be the ‘Town of Books’ with plans in store for the 7th Annual Graiguenamanagh ‘Town of Books’ Festival, which will take place on Friday 18th, Saturday 19th, and Sunday 20th September 2009. After a swim in the river, it was off to one of the many ‘locals’, apparently there are 13, for a well deserved drink – Doyles, a quaint pub-cum-grocery. We ate in the restuarant of the Waterside – great food and they do an early bird before 7.30. Then it was back to the pub to continue on the celebrations – this time we headed to Murrays where we had Dart and Pool competitions to keep up the competitive spirit. Another early start and after a lovely breakfast in the Waterside, we were ready to hit the road for day two. It was over the river to Co. Carlow and that day we would cover four counties and also take on Mount Leinster. The lunchtime destination was Bunclody, Co. Wexford – the roadworks kind of ruined this small town with traffic jams and detours creating a chaos. It is situated on the River Slaney on the border between the counties of Wexford and Carlow at the foot of the Blackstairs mountains. The support crew spent the time in Chantry Gallery and Restaurant, a beautiful 19th century house which used to be old Wesleyan chapel in the Market Square. They had the cutest wild kittens wandering around the pretty gardens. The cyclists decided to have a short picnic and continued on to the overnight stay in Courttown, Co. Wexford as they were covering more miles that day. Courtown Harbour is a seaside resort in Co. Wexford set right on the beach, a popular summer destination for the Dubs – lots of holidays homes and caravan parks. We stayed in the Gallery B&B right on main street, a hodgepodge of small rooms (one of which had the toilet in a closet) and not so friendly staff. It is definitely aimed at the kids with a leisure centre and lots of amusements. I aimed for a swim and a visit to the health suite (jacuzzi and sauna/steam room) while the cyclists headed to the pub next door the 19th hole for a much needed drink. We ate in Yaus Chinese restaurant before venturing into the amusements. After a few rides on the Freak-Out, Dodge’ems and the Waltzers, there were a few green faces and a few casualties! It was mostly the support crew who finished the night off in the 19th hole listening to the trad session and after a moonlit stroll! Another early start on the last day of the challenge and we waved the cyclists off for the last leg of the journey. We met up in Brittas Bay, South Beach where we had a picnic of ‘hang'(ham) sandwiches and strawberries and some treats. The support crew spent the interval walking along the beautiful sandy beach before the showers came, at least they were brief and over before the picnic commenced. The final cycle was from Brittas Bay to Greystones. We arrived in the bustling town of Greystones before the cyclists after our lovely scenic drive along the coast. Apparently there had been a triathlon that morning that was just finishing up -the King of Greystones, if only the guys had known they could have completed the challenge with a triathlon. With the sunny weather, everyone was out in force soaking up the Saturday sunshine. We sat in the beer garden in Burnaby Lounge Bar awaiting their big arrival to toast their success. The challengers arrived exhausted but happy with their achievement around 4pm. We toasted them with a bottle of bubbly before hitting the road to Dublin. One of the challengers made it all the way back to Dublin on the bike – fair play.
Five counties in three days, the scenery was stunning and the craic was mighty – what a great way to see the countryside.