On an Irish hillside, one racer had become a rock star.
As the noise reached a crescendo, one man sat silently on the hilltop, dressed brightly and eyes focussed, steadied by the hand of a marshal gripping his shoulder. He was the last man. Below him all was chaos. Thousands of fans lined the rocks, screaming and yelling one name, surging closer and closer to the boundary of the tape. Again the helicopter thudded overhead, its powerful downdraft pulling the sea of Tricolour flags taught against their stays, rippling green, white and orange.
‘Greg, Greg, Greg!’ The chants built into a fever pitch, whistles, air horns, and chainsaws ripped at the peacefulness of the Carrick hillside. Voice lost in the clamor, the marshal released his grip and with a powerful crank, the Cube Action Team racer Greg Callaghan was released from the gate. In front of him, the wave opened as he charged, pitted deep inside a tube of green and orange. A thousand cheers rumbled behind him, a roaring shadow chasing him down the hillside. Like a surfer riding a barrel, he was lost from sight, a flash of orange beneath the riotous crowd. Greg had become more than a racer, he was a rockstar.
Songs and chants filled the hill, many did not know the words but it did not stop them from singing – humour is the gift of the Irish and blarney is their superpower. It’s these very fans that have made Ireland an iconic destination on the EWS calendar, many destinations are more exotic, many have longer trails but none can rival the passionate pride of the locals. Prior to the event, hashtags of #fillthehill and #paintthehillgreen trended through the country’s social media, and Greg Callaghan even made the 6 O’clock news. This was a matter of national pride, their man was leading the EWS and there would be no way he would race without a proper party.
Leprechauns stood shoulder to shoulder with clowns, riders with non-riders, old with the young. The Coillte Emerald Enduro had connected with not only riders but also the general public – for one weekend enduro was a household name. For the hundreds of children who stood on the sidelines, the racers had become role models, dedicated, motivated and pursuing a dream that they love. Could Greg Callaghan take the top step on home soil for three years in a row, would the moment once again be glorious?
As the riders rolled one by one through the finish, their times flashed up on the mighty scoreboard. When the young French superstar Adrien Dially posted his time of 23:57.48 the Irish knew their dream was over. Greg would not win that day for the luck of the Irish was not with him, but Leah Maunsell and Sophie Bagnall would carry a Tricolour onto the podium. Even though he didn’t take the number one slot, Greg Callaghan did enough to hold onto the overall series, the fastest rider in the world, a rock star, surely that deserves a pint of Guinness or ten.
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