In early March I signed up to cycle 280km over 2 days in late April to help raise funds for 2 worthy charities, namely The North Westmeath Hospice and The Parkinson’s Association of Ireland. Mullingar to Sligo and back sounded like a good idea at the time, but as the big day approached I wondered if I’d taken on a little too much. The weekend before the event was the Easter Bank Holiday and I decided to test my legs on Good Friday and headed off into the wilderness, not sure how many kilometers I’d cover, but came back 121kms later. On Easter Sunday I went for a spin with the local Wheelers club and clocked up another 120kms so was confident if the weather was kind, I could take on the challenge the following week.
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Day one – Mullingar to Sligo – A beautiful, sunny day and 120 cyclists arrived at the Downs GAA club outside Mullingar, ready to cycle approximately 140kms to the Clarion Hotel in Sligo. After coffee, bananas and a safety brief, we cycled off and with motorcycle outriders stopping traffic on the roundabouts and junctions along the way made it the 70kms to the first stop without incident. After taking on nutrition in the form of sandwiches, several bananas and coffee, we headed off again. Ahead lay the Curlew mountain range which I’d been warned about earlier. They were a test on the legs for the next twenty kilometers but once they were behind us it was plain sailing into Sligo with a Garda escort and the first days cycling was behind us. Sauna, a fine evening meal and an early(ish) night followed.
Day two – Sligo to Mullingar – again we headed off into a beautiful day and were quickly heading up the long climb out of Sligo and towards the Curlew mountains again, which seemed even steeper from this side. Once we’d cleared that hurdle it was pretty easy going with no wind and only the occasional shower to contend with as we covered the 140kms to Mullingar at an average speed of 28kph and arrived back at the Downs GAA club to a great reception of sandwiches, coffee and more bananas!