At half ten on Saturday night past Colm O’Kane was giving Owenbeg the final once over before he locked up for the night when he heard the sound of screeching brakes pulling into the car park.
He put his hand up to his eyes so he could see across the car park but after a scorcher of a day it was hard to see. The sun was hanging low in the sky as it set on the Sperrins.
Tucked away in the corner of the car park was a camper van and 3 bikes tightly strapped to the back of the van. Colm is no cycling expert but they were pretty ‘decent bikes.’
Colm looked at his watch and thought whoever is in that van has got their times wrong.
The Man of Sperrin event isn’t until 9am tomorrow morning.
So Colm wandered over to the van and welcomed the 3 lads inside to Owenbeg.
On-board was Keith Hopkins, Sean O’Grady and Enda Lonegran.
Two Mayo men and one from Cork.
They had set off from Westport at 18:30 on Saturday night: destination the Sperrins.
This was their first time up to enter Man of Sperrin having heard about it online. These boys were keen cyclists.
Anyone who gets to the start line almost 12 hours before hand has got the cycling bug.
Then there was their preparation.
The boys were obviously very big on hydration. It started with tea and then progressed to cans of beer.
The 3 amigos were leaving nothing to chance.
After agreeing tactics and a race strategy meeting they settled down for the night.
Fast-forward to 06:00 on Sunday morning.
As the Man of Sperrin events team set up the PA system the boys got an early wakeup call.
No complaints just smiles. They even invited Man of Sperrin event director Ciaran Doherty and Chair of Club Derry Paul Lupari on board for tea.
The boys were ready to rock and roll.
The 75km they did in the van to get here though would pale into insignificance with the 100km they were about to do on the bike.
They didn’t realise then just how tough it would be.
Big Ben was waking up and waiting for them. It was well hidden under a blanket of fog.
Not for the faint hearted first thing on a Sunday, but that is just how these lads get their kicks.
We really enjoyed having Keith, Sean and Enda at Man of Sperrin 2018. It’s the people you meet along the way that make it worthwhile and we look forward to welcoming them back next year.