Ballylicky → Kenmare via Dursey Island and the Ring of Beara
Mileage: 89.9 miles Elevation gain: 5,679′
Total mileage so far: 218.1 miles Total elevation gain so far: 13,523′
We’ve agreed to meet at the Dursey Island cable car. Not that either of us wants to risk our lives taking it across the bay to explore Dursey Island—it’s so old and rickety, rusted through and through—but the area is beautiful and will be a great spot to share lunch.
I tell him I’ll leave early, around 7:30 AM, to get a bit of a head start. He’ll be eating breakfast at 8:00 AM and head out around 8:30 AM. An hour should do me well and I text him at 7:30 AM to confirm that I’m off. What he doesn’t know though is I’ve actually been on the road since 6:45 AM. See, I can be tricky too.
I’ve got Bulletproof Brain Octane mixed in with my sports drink today and I am determined to prove to Noel that I am, at worst, a mediocre cyclist, not a terrible one!
An hour and a half in, I come to a place called Gahrain Gour that has a steep winding hill. It looks to be about a mile long. It’s the biggest one I’ve come across so far and I don’t even mess with riding it. I jump off my bike and jog it up the hill. Anyone here ever run up a hill in cycling cleats? It’s quite a spectacle. The mama cows on the side of the road stop munching, and their babies, lying next to them, gaze up at the oddity racing her way to the top.
“Hi guys!” I yell with a wave. “Good morning!”
I feel great and I’m quite energized but if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that Noel can climb this hill on a bike faster than I can run it. I keep at it with everything I’ve got.
The hill goes on for so long I start to feel shocks shooting up my shins every time I land on my cleats. I dare to look for Noel off in the distance and there’s still no sign of him, so I slow my pace to a walk and allow myself to take in the rolling hills of farmland along the stunning Beara Peninsula. At the top it’s just me and the sea and the land and the cows. It’s so beautiful. I wish I could take pictures for you but I can’t stop. I know if I can put this hill between us, there’s a chance I can be the first to arrive in Dursey.
For every near impossible climb we know there is an equal and opposite descent on the far side. At the crest I re-mount my bike and move up into my big ring, churning down the hill at full force. The race is on and I’m hauling now.
I still have about 12 miles to go but the hills are more manageable and I’m keeping a good pace. The distance clicks away and I make my last turn onto the road that leads to Dursey. It’s only 5 miles now.
Before I know it I have done the impossible. Ladies and gentlemen, I have beaten Noel Boyce in a 42.4 mile race from Ballylicky to the Dursey Island cable car with only an hour and forty-five minute head start!
I jump up and down and make a video to text him so I can rub in my victory. Then I sit in the grass to inhale the sea air and take in the bay. The sun comes out as I bite into a banana, reveling this gorgeous day and the simple yet extraordinary fact that I get to be here.
Twenty-three minutes later Noel arrives which means in reality he rode this race an hour and twenty-two minutes faster than me, never even knowing it was in fact a race. But let’s stay focused on the positives, shall we? I was the first one here.
We lunch at the Cable Car Café basking in the sun streaming through the window with a view of the ocean that goes on forever. Noel can’t believe I left so early and razzes me non-stop.
I don’t ask him to, but after lunch he stays with me. “Well now the whole world will know if I don’t!” he laughs, alluding to my blog.
We head down the five mile offshoot back to the main road. Through Allihies all the way up to Ardgroom we cruise through some of the most beautiful coastline I’ve ever witnessed.
We climb and coast up and over, around and through as if we’re on a roller coaster. Remember the other day when I was groaning about 11% grade hills? Today our steepest is 24%.
Noel stays with me for forty-seven miles all the way to Kenmare, either by my side or behind me, except on the windy flats where he pulls out front so I can draft behind him. I push as hard as I can, always grateful for the encouragement and company, and he’s impressed. At the end of the day we are both equally exhausted and satisfied. From his perspective I’ve ridden well. And from mine, I’ve had someone to talk to all day.
At the door to my inn he gives me a high five. “Thank you for you today,” I say. “I really appreciate it.” I make my way up to my room and marvel at the apropos artwork on the walls. The universe will always step in to remind us when we’re on the right track, won’t it?
Sending love & light ❤