Making a mole hill out of a mountain on The Blackstairs…

I remember many moons ago coming down to Carlow to do a women’s cycling training camp with the dedicated and hilarious to boot manager Mick Lawless.  We had great craic and we learned an awful lot on those weekends. We stayed outside Carlow town in a fabulous guesthouse where we ate like royalty. We were then set off on training spins that covered 4 counties Carlow, Wicklow, Wexford and Kildare on each outing. So, which place sticks out in my mind the most?   Borris, of course, where I now live.  Why? Because Borris lies in the foothills of the very beautiful Blackstairs mountains and also being a rookie/fred (see Stickybottle.com for reference!) at that time, I was unprepared for the first major climb of the day and keeled over forgetting to change down gears in time as that first section of the road was so damn steep. Those roads are now my nemesis, its a love/hate relationship without a Nidge in sight….

Anyway the An Post Rás (Ireland’s premier cycling stage race) has graced these roads many times and this year the infamous Corrabutt Gap featured in one of the hardest stages towards the end of a week of tough racing. I ventured up to catch the action and was hopeful of getting a few shots of those guys suffering on my now local climbs.  I encountered two of my buddies Pat and Therese who work as the ‘Blackboard’ on the race. Not only are they very experienced cyclists they are  part of the motorbike crew who work on the Rás and many other races. Their main purpose is to give time gaps to different groups of riders. This is chalked onto the blackboard and held by the pillion passenger so riders can see where they are in the race. They have to constantly whiz up and down the bunch, passing big groups of riders, a perilous job that is not for the faint hearted.

And here they are below in action…Ehhh not really…No my son Evan created their Lego alter egos after our trip to the Corrabutt Gap.

Therese & Pat immortalised in Lego
Therese & Pat immortalised in Lego

And here they really are looking very happy with themselves having climbed the almost 11% gradient Corrabutt Gap…Oh wait they have an engine…..

Pat and Therese the Blackboard King and Queen of the Rás
Pat and Therese the Blackboard King and Queen of the Rás

Anyway artistic inspiration always flows for me at cycling races, I use my camera as a tool for the first step in creating a new painting or drawing…I picked one of my images from that epic day which shows a loan rider edging forward while leading the race on the road. His legs and lungs are probably screaming out in pain, with lactic acid flooding his muscles. But he doesn’t show it….I’m not sure if I can convey how severe that climb is, this old cycling adage might explain it…”Jaysus, You could hang wallpaper off that one!”, (The climb to the  mast on top of Mt. Leinster is 796m above sea level and is an even harder climb, Ill talk about that one again!) A lot of these guys are amateurs and some are pros, they make the climb look easy,  they turn the mountain into a mole hill….What you don’t see is the 1000s of training kilometers they have to endure on lonely cold and wet Winter roads, these being the rehearsal for the big production. I hope you enjoy this drawing and enjoy the climb without the pain…just like Pat and Therese;)Rás ascent up Corrabutt Gap

My work can be viewed in my newly opened Etsy shop called Drawn to Sport and my facebook page of the same name. If you are interested in getting a unique painting or drawing done of yourself or that special person, please feel free to contact me at phone number +353 (0) 87 6397210 or click here for  my email address…Thanks for reading my blog, Rachel

Downhill mountain biker in Australia starts bush fire…….

Ah no he didn’t, but you see now I have your attention…..if you read on I’ll explain why I wrote that. My painting below is a of a Downhill Mountain biker. The subject in question is an Irishman based in Western Australia, who is a fairly keen Downhill guy. To begin with I was given a series of photos to choose from and decided on one which shows him riding towards us, but on top of this he is suspended mid-air…(I’m getting sweaty palms thinking about this!). I was trying to translate the ‘daredevil’ element which is such a part of Downhill Mountain biking on to the canvas. My cycling background is in road racing, which is a completely different discipline to….let’s just call it ‘DH MTBing’. I don’t think I’d offend any DH biker calling them slightly nutty! When you’re on the road bike, grovelling up a hill, the descent is when you can get your breath back, ‘’stick it in the big ring’’ (cycling lingo for a higher gear) and push those pedals as hard as you can go. In the world of Downhill, that’s just it, the descent is their race. It’s not on a lovely tarmacked surface with properly cambered pathway (Ok, so it’s not always perfect like that for us roadies either!). They descend like maniacs through so many different terrains, stoney, dusty, muddy, grassy, gravelly. Twisting and turning, speeding, pedalling and hoping not to go off course, fall off or be unfortunate enough to hit one of imposing obstacles such as trees, boulders, branches and exposed roots. Their race is a form of time trial which can be all over in less than 5 minutes. In comparison to a cycling road race which can go on for well over 5 hours.

Flying through the flames
Flying through the flames

This is an acrylic painting on a 50cm x 70cm canvas.

So, with my limited knowledge of DH Mtbing I wanted to portray here what I understand this daring sport to be. I painted this piece using similar colours to the photo I was working from. I wanted the end product to be slightly surreal, almost animated. So, I painted the colours of his jersey and body in a realistic fashion until I loosened up my brush stroke to convey a flame like effect. I wanted to make it look like he was escaping a bush fire….but the question remains…did he start it? In the meantime happy cycling or whatever sport makes you smile! Rachel

If you have ever thought about getting one of your own photos turned into a painting, either in a similar style or indeed in a more realistic style. I would be delighted to work with you. I feel that my cycling background gives me an unique insight into the sport. My work can be also view on my facebook page called Drawn to Sport or my Etsy Shop

My email address is rachohara@gmail.com and phone number +353 (0) 876397210