The Western Lakes Cycling Club Ladies Sportive was established in 2012 as an opportunity to meet likeminded female cyclists in a non-competitive environment without feeling a need to keep up or be elitist. The Ladies Sportive is for cyclists of all abilities and is not just for racers or cycling club members.

The inaugural ladies sportive took place on Saturday 20th of October and 30 ladies took part on the day. The longer route took the group to Clonbur and on to Ail Dubh and home by Cornamona. This route took in many of the hills of North Galway and South Mayo. Some of the participants took the shorter route which took them through Cloughbrack and Cornamona and this group enjoyed a well-deserved refreshment break back in Clonbur. Both groups returned along the same route back to Ballinrobe and had a very enjoyable lunch in Flannery's. Ladies from as far as north Donegal travelled to take part in this sportive and the feedback from the day has been positive with many already looking forward to next year's event! The images below show some of the ladies who took part in the inaugural ladies sportive Including the team of ladies from North Pole Cycling Club who travelled from Drumfries in North Donegal to take part. 

The sportive stayed with the Ail Dubh route for a few years before changing to the current route of the lap of Lough Mask. This is the route for all cyclists taking part in the event. It is a 64km cycle starting in Ballinrobe and heading out to Partry before turning left to Tourmakeady.

On the morning of the sportive all participants receive a goodie bag, a cup of tea and slice of cake at registration. Eamon Marrey of Marrey Bikes is on hand on the morning of the event to pump tyres and supply any mechanical assistance needed before the sportive. The sportive rolls out at 10 after a briefing for all cyclists and marshals alike. The gentlemen of Western Laked CC ensure safe passage through Ballinrobe and from there the sportive heads out the Castlebar Road to Partry. In Partry the cyclists turn left and off the main Castlebar Road onto the Tourmakeedy Road where Lough Mask is always on our left. Here the group tends to split up depending on ability, but it always regroups again at Maire Luke’s Bar for a well-deserved food stop. From there the group head towards the first big climb of the day, Maumtreasna. From the top of Maumtreasna the cyclists take in the beautiful views of Lough Na Fooey before turning left for Finny. The homeward journey takes the cyclists through Clonbur and onto Ballinrobe where more refreshments await them.

Every kind of bike is used on the ladies sportive, from racers to hybrids, mountain bikes and even a tandem has been used for several of our sportives. Every ability of cyclist takes on the sportive, from racers to leisure cyclists and ladies who have never cycled 64km before. That was the aim of this sportive, to have an event which would be open to and achievable for women of all cycling abilities. Roisin Lenehan, a visually impaired lady from Charlestown completed the sportive on her tandem proving that her impairment was not an obstacle to completing the Ladies Sportive and the team at Western Lakes CC ensured she got around safely and had an enjoyable time on the sportive.

The sportive has also attracted ladies from all over Ireland with clubs from as far afield as Wicklow, Clare and Donegal being represented. 

No lady is last at any stage, there are always two male cyclists at the back of the sportive who support and encourage everyone along. The lads are always on standby for punctures, mechanicals or assistance of any kind. The sportive is also fully supported with lead cars, support cars and a broom wagon. Support and encouragement are in plentiful supply on the day. Everyone gets home safe and always with a smile, some having achieved a distance that they never cycled before.

Over the years the Ladies Sportive has had several event directors. Marie Frazer was the initial event director and put together the template for the Ladies Sportive. Patricia Harte and Fergal O’Neill led the sportive after Marie and lastly Kenneth McCarthy who is the current event director for the Ladies sportive. There has always been a great team behind the sportive, made up from all members of Western Lakes Cycling Club who are always willing to help out wherever necessary to ensure everyone who takes part on the day had a very enjoyable experience.     

Charity

The WLCC Ladies Sportive has contributed to various charities since its inauguration. Over the years the sportive has supported AIRC, a local Mayo based charity supporting children with disabilities, Jack & Jill, Rock Rose House, National council for the Blind and Diabetes Ireland to name but a few. The sportive is not a profit-making event and is always happy to support charities while promoting female cycling.

Male Marshals

While the WLCC ladies sportive is for female cyclists, the male members of Western Lakes Cycling Club play a major part in the annual sportive. Our gentlemen are involved in all areas of the sportive from organising the sportive to marshalling the junctions and bringing the food to the food stop. As well as that each year at least 15 lads take to the bike to support the cyclists along the route from carrying excess gear to giving a helping hand up the hills and providing gentle encouragement where needed. The involvement of the lads is always to support the ladies on the cycle and to make the event as enjoyable as they can for everyone taking part. Pictured below are Gerry Sheridan and John Hughes assisting Susan Lenehan and her daughter Roisin as they ascend Maumtreasna on their tandem. The second shows Earnan Naughton leading a team of ladies on the sportive.

Food stops

The food stop has always been a major part of the Ladies Sportive. In recent years Maire Luke’s Bar in Tourmakeady had hosted the food stop. While not quite the halfway point it provides a beautiful view overlooking Lough Mask and allows the cyclists to take in the required nourishment to allow them take on Maumtrasna which is only a short few kilometre on from Maire Luke’s. The buns, cakes and treats for the mid-way food stop and the post cycle tea stop have always been baked by the ladies of the club who we cannot thank enough and have always gone down well with everyone involved on the day.

Order Of Malta

The Ladies Sportive has always been supported by the Ballinrobe Unit of the Order of Malta and Western Lakes CC is grateful for the continued support of this dedicated team. In 2017 the proceeds of the Ladies sportive were donated to the Ballinrobe Unit of the Order of Malta as a small token of gratitude for all the Order of Malta does for the club.  

Sponsors

The Western Lakes CC Ladies Sportive is very grateful to its generous sponsors for all their support over the years. Some of the female owned businesses in Ballinrobe have been very generous in sponsoring hampers which were won by one of the lucky ladies taking part on the day. Other businesses have been very kind in sponsoring items for the goodie bag and food for the food stops. The event is a real community event with lots of businesses getting involved every year and all of those involved in the Western Lakes ladies Sportive would like to thank the event sponsors for their continued support. The following image shows some of the local sponsors of the Sportive  

Cycling Ireland Awards

In 2019 the WLCC Ladies Sportive was nominated in the category of Best Leisure Event at the cycling Ireland Awards ceremony which was held in City West Hotel in Dublin. Kenneth McCarthy represented Western Lakes Cycling club as event director for the Ladies Sportive. Unfortunately, we were not successful on this occasion but to be nominated for best leisure event is a testament to the hard work and dedication of all the team behind the WLCC Ladies Sportive. 

This article was written by Kenneth McCarty, the current ladies sportive director.