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 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


From Rás to Rainbow……..

The Rás Tailteann is annual International 8 day cycling stage race which normally takes place towards the end of May. It is Ireland’s premier cycling race which features amateur “county” riders alongside seasoned professionals.

I was asked by the organisers to paint a scene from the race featuring the race leader. This was presented to the then main sponsors FBD Insurance.

In a stage race such as this the leader wears a yellow jersey. The overall winner in a stage race might never even win an individual stage but their cumulative time will be the lowest out of all the competitors. The race leader and eventual overall winner of that year’s race was the young emerging talent, German rider Tony Martin. Martin did not have one stage win but still topped the podium by a small margin of 17 seconds from Ireland’s super strong rider Paudie O’Brien.

Tony Martin wears the leader's yellow jersey in the 2007 Rás
Tony Martin wears the leader’s yellow jersey in the 2007 Rás

It must be nice for some of the amateur riders who never made the professional ranks to look back on their careers and feel proud knowing they raced against such big names. The latter being the guys who made it onto the world tour, which is home to the elite riders. Our very own Stephen Roche won the Rás as a 19 year old. He then went on to have an illustrious career, winning the World Road Race Championship, the Tour de France and the Giro D’Italia all in 1987. The prestigious Triple crown in cycling that only Eddie Merckx of Belgium can lay claim to.

A quick sketch to illustrate what a World Champion's cycling jersey is like
A coloured pencil sketch of World Champ’s Jersey by Rachel O’Hara

Any World cycling champion is entitled to wear the coveted “Rainbow Jersey”, from the date won till the following years ‘Worlds’. After that they are permitted to have the rainbow looped around each sleeve of their current cycling jersey for ever more.

Even in during a rain sodden  Spring, Summer (in Ireland!) Autumn or Winter the beautiful colours always shine through…..What a thrill to use so many tones from my busy palette. I don’t need to use much imagination when painting a cycling scene, jerseys shorts, helmets and bikes represent every colour under the sun. Even the cycling shoe which “came in every colour so long as its black” are now available in every shade from metallic to hi-viz, funky enough to wear clubbing? well maybe not that funky……The cleats make walking in cycling shoes a hazardous thing…The only time I reckon a guy will empathise with us women in our high heels!

Hmmm, think I'll stick to the flats for the bike
Hmmm, think I’ll stick to the flats for the bike

So to get back to my subject Tony Martin, his time trialling skills earned him the rainbow jersey 2011, 2012 and 2013 only to be beaten by Britain’s Bradley Wiggins for gold in this years race.  For me to paint this picture was a pleasure for many reasons, even without knowing what the future held for this young German athlete

Whilst that painting was completed a few years ago, I now find myself looking back and thinking wow Tony Martin is a World Champion…..yet another rider to go from “Rás to Rainbow”…..

You may be interested in a getting an image of yourself (or indeed of a loved one) in action on the bike (or in any sport!) turned into an original painting. If you would like to discuss this further with me, I can be contacted by email or through my Facebook page also called Drawn to Sport. My Etsy shop can be visited here. My phone number is +353 (0) 87 639 7210