Experienced cyclist and winner of various Kerry, Munster and all-Ireland titles, Conor Kissane tells us what the four key challenges will be for those taking on Ride Dingle on April 27th.
Both routes will tackle the 55 km loop around Slea head. This is a bucket list route for tourists and locals alike as you wind along rolling roads skirting the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the route is exposed which opens up some spectacular views but this does mean the you are also exposed to the elements. Strong Atlantic breezes can mean you will need to battle into the wind at points but can also be a welcome helping hand when you ride with the wind at your back.
There are no major climbs on this route but rolling roads mean a good mix of short climbs and descents to keep your legs working.
After conquering Slea Head the longer route heads up the famous Conor pass climb. The road ramps up heading out of Dingle and you will continue to climb for 6.5 kilometers gaining just over 400m in altitude by the time you hit the top. The climb averages a little over 6%. The gradient remains steady for the climb with no major steep ramps so the best way to tackle the climb is to find your rhythm and settle into a pace you can sustain for 20-30 min. Take in the views of the Dingle Peninsula from the top of the highest road in Ireland but take care, as even on a calm day the winds can be strong at the top. Ensure you are recovered and ready to focus before tackling the fast winding descent to camp.
Pacing is a crucial part to any endurance sport especially cycling, where events can last hours. For those taking on the 55km route, be aware that the ‘short route’ is still a 2-3 hour ride time. It is all too easy to push a little too hard on the early rises when you feel fresh but be cautious of ‘burning matches’ or ‘draining your battery’ too soon. Not only will the right pacing strategy allow you to enjoy the day more but it will ensure you finish as fast as you started. Who wouldn’t love cruising past groups of riders who started too fast on you’re way back to Dingle?
Pacing is even more crucial on the 120km route. Expect to be riding for 4-6 hours. It goes without saying that Conor pass is the main challenge on this route so again pacing the 55km of rolling hills around Slea head is important so that you hit Conor pass with strong legs. Don’t empty the tank on the Conor Pass either, while you have a chance to recover on the descent to Camp there is still another climb to be tackled in the form of Gleann na Gealt, which features in the Lacey Cup road race each year. At 5km long and an average of 3%, it sounds much easier than Conor pass but it is still important to keep in mind and hold some energy in reserve, again another chance to recover on the descent into Annauscaul before a rolling 15km back to Dingle where you can push on and use the last of the strength you held onto.
Just as important as pacing is your nutrition. Your body needs fuel to function every day, so taking on a 55 or 120 km cycle on top of that means you will need to take on some extra fuel to avoid the dreaded ‘bonk’.
Nutrition should start the day before the event, make sure you keep well hydrated throughout the day and eat a good dinner. Pasta, rice, potatoes etc, get some good carbs into you.
On the morning of the cycle a good breakfast is key, porridge, muesli, toast, fresh fruit etc are all recommended. Try not to eat a big breakfast minutes before you set off as it is good to give the food a chance to be digested before you start exercising. And don’t try anything new either, this can lead to stomach issues you do not want on a long cycle.
During the event it is important to keep topped up. You don’t need to stuff your pockets with fancy energy bars and gels. Bananas, dried fruit and cereal or breakfast bars work just as well. Try to eat something every 30 min or so. Half a banana or bar is enough, think little and often. Hydration on the day is also very important, keep sipping water throughout the day. Make use of the food stops to refill your bottles. As an option, you can also use electrolyte tablets to replace minerals lost as you sweat and prevent muscle cramping.
If you focus on meeting these challenges then you are well on your way to having a great day and event at Ride Dingle!