Cyclo-Sportive: Sean Kelly Tour of Waterford

When: August 30 2009

Where: Dungarvan, Ireland
Distance: 160km, 100km and 50km

With scenic lanes, challenging climbs and wonderful views, plus a chance to meet the man himself, the Sean Kelly sportive is well worth the effort

Words Maria David

Starting and finishing in the seaside market town of Dungarvan, the Sean Kelly Tour of Waterford, now in its third year is very popular, with 3,000 riders this year.

With a 160km, 100km and 50km family ride all starting at sea level there was a good choice of routes. Choosing the160km route took the cyclist on a circuit of the Comeragh Mountains and included the quiet lanes which the legendary rider trained on.

From Dungarvan the riders headed North to Kelly’s home town of Carrick on Suir, not without facing the early challenge of the 20 per cent ramp on Seskin Hill.

british cyclo sportive, 2009, sean kelly sportive

From there, the course then followed the river West to the quaint town of Clonmel and then returned to Dungarvan via the infamous climbs of Powers the Pot, Máma Road and the much feared Mahon Falls.

With gradients along the route tougher than many continental cyclosportives, the Kelly is a serious challenge. It basically uses Kelly’s old training roads, not only did he start the ride, but he rode in the peloton, constantly filtering up and down it so that people had the chance to ride alongside him. Kelly welcomed the finishers, autographed certificates and galantly posed with fans for photos.

With the Waterford County Council on board with the event made it easy to have six feed stations, all of which were brimming with refreshments.  Two indoor feed stations full of chairs and tables provided a bolt-hole for those caught in the odd shower.

At the finish line riders were rewarded with a generous goody bag, capping a great day of cycling for all.

british cyclo sportive, 2009, sean kelly sportive

The organiser
 – Johnny Brunnock

“We put on these events to get more people outdoors and we are really pleased by the turn-out this year. A few hundred people even signed up on the day despite the weather forecast.
”We are lucky to have so many volunteers getting involved, and thanks to them we could provide enough marshals and cope with the deluge of riders at the feed stations. We have had a lot of positive feedback about the event.

Sean Kelly
Waterford County Council and Waterford Sports Partnership have done a great job in organising this. We designed the routes so that there is something for everyone – challenge rides and a family ride. The three routes now have permanent signs so people can ride them any time.
”We want people to be able to socialise on this ride, so we set up chairs and tables at the feed stations. That’s also why I like to go out and meet the riders during and after the event.”

british cyclo sportive, 2009, sean kelly sportive

Sportive Sound Bites

Una May
Age: over 40
Lives: Celbridge, County Kildare
Ride time 6hrs 45, 160km

The scale of the event was amazing. Having very little experience of group riding I found it a bit daunting initially, but later I got the hang of it and benefited from a couple of lovely tows! I enjoyed the challenge of the climbs, but mentally lost it after the last one, up Máma. The final 25k were very long. I’m looking forward to doing it next year with a bit more training under my belt.

John Casey
Age: 42
Lives: Tramore, County Waterford
Ride time 5hrs 25, 160km

I really enjoyed the day. There was a great atmosphere during the big roll out. The serious climbs came in the second half with Mahon Falls being Alpine-like near the top. The descent was even steeper, and the presence of the Mountain Rescue gave an indication of the height gain. Ignore what anyone tells you about the weather – the sun was splitting the stones! The goody bag included a stylish cycling jersey, which I will wear with pride. 

Nuala Callery
Lives: Clonmel, County Tipperary
Ride time 3hrs 20, 100km

There was a definite buzz in the area in the run-up to the event. As I was a cyclosportive novice I cycled steadily in a group. I was surprised how quickly and effortlessly we covered the first 40km. I made good use of the main indoor feed stop in Clonmel when the rain came. Overall, it was a great day and I’ll be signing up for next year, maybe even for the longer 160km.

british cyclo sportive, 2009, sean kelly sportive

My Cyclo-Sportive – 
Aodan Higgins

Age: 39

Club: Addiscombe CC
Ride time 5hrs 15, 160km

The start was relaxed and riders chatted as the first 20km was neutralised. It was only as we neared the first climb, Seskin Hill, that the pace quickened. A self seeding process followed and I fought to stick in one of the front groups.

Seskin Hill was not long, but the 20 per cent gradient was a shock to the system after the first hour of flat roads. Spotting Sean Kelly ahead gave me the motivation to pull close enough to attempt a photograph but my heart rate was maxing out and the resulting shot was as blurred as my vision.

After the first feed station, where I could have a sit down, coffee and a sandwich we entered the Comeragh mountains. The Powers the Pot climb wound up through dark woods before breaking into the open. We were surrounded by fog giving an almost mystical feel to the climb. The descent was speedy and flowing, a treat for the hard climb.

 british cyclo sportive, 2009, sean kelly sportive

Mahon Falls was next and a long steady eight per cent gradient capped off with 25 per cent ramp. Every pedal revolution was a struggle for me and at one stage I even considered walking. My lack of preparation for this ride was beginning to show. I had to slow down almost to a standstill to allow myself to recover just enough for the final push. 

Just when I thought the worst was over there was a sting in the tail. The Máma Road was not steep but it lulled me into a false sense of security. It started off easy but by the end it had drained off the last bit of energy I had. 

 british cyclo sportive, 2009, sean kelly sportive

Then the rain, which had threatened for most of the day, came down in earnest. I spotted a group of riders ahead so made the effort to get up to them and get a tow for the final run-in to Dungarvan.

It was much wetter in the group, but given the head wind it was much more attractive than slogging away on my own. I pedalled as quickly as I could to stick with the group to the finish. 

Back at the HQ I slumped into a chair and had more coffee and sandwiches. I don’t think I have ever eaten so much at a cyclosportive.


british cyclo sportive, 2009, sean kelly sportive