Raison d’Être

In the Tour de France and other professional bike races, the major ascents along the route are assigned to categories, carrying points towards the King of the Mountains prize. According to legend, these categories are based on the gearing of the Citroën 2CV. Minor ramps that the 2CV could roar over in fourth gear were assigned to Category 4, and so on up to Category 1 for long, steep climbs that the car could barely crawl up in first gear. Climbs that defeated the humble deux chevaux entirely, towering eminences such Alpe d’Huez or Mont Ventoux, were declared beyond categorisation: hors catégorie, or HC. In Spanish races, these climbs are dubbed Especial. The Italians, demonstrating an insouciance befitting the nation that gave us Fausto Coppi, do not acknowledge the concept — even leg-breaking monsters like the Stelvio or the Mortirolo rate only Category 1.

None of the climbs in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains come close to HC status — the longest might be a thirty-minute effort, and the gradients are usually forgiving. But I believe that the overall cycling experience is HC. Few European capitals are blessed with such a wealth of quiet roads and beautiful views so close at hand. Residents of central Paris or London can cycle for hours without escaping the suburbs; in half an hour I can be high above the city, with only the calls of the birds and the creak of the bicycle in my ears. This blog will be a guide to the pleasures of cycling in Dublin and Wicklow, my favourite routes, unsung back roads, the climbs worth seeking out.

Other pleasures in life can be HC. Marquee Moon, Rock Bottom and Spirit of Eden. Sonic Youth at the Top Hat in 1991. Antonioni’s alienation trilogy. J G Ballard and Joan Didion. The London Review of Books. Slate and shell Go stones on a kaya board.  A thick, oily shot of espresso, a well-mixed negroni, 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze. These too will feature.

Thoughts, hopes, exhortations?