By Jerry Towey
Lets start at the start. Someday, somehow you get a notion and it happened me walking down them very familiar bars in the Rehabilitation Hospital trying out a new prosthetic leg. After losing my leg in 1990 it was in 2010 an American Prosthetic Company cracked the age old problem on ways prosthetic s were fitted. With every limb I ever got having a hard life over the previous twenty years I was the guinea pig. After only taking a few steps with this new system walking limb I remember thinking I could cycle with this.
Spinning Classes held in CBD Complex in Charlestown with Western Lakes Racer, Donal Harrington opened the door to competitive racing for me and Western Lakes adopted me. I was involved in GAA and Soccer as a coach however with the aforementioned Donal Harrington training for his first RAS with Western Lakes, being honest, I never seen anything as grueling as the training the lads were doing and I got hooked. My first Cycling leg I designed it myself (obviously not the socket) but it was basically a bar attached to the socket that held a standard cleat so I was clipped in to the pedal. Next big step was getting Padraig Marrey on board. Based on the principal of working on your biggest weakness to make your biggest gain, we started to get every ounce of power into the prosthetic leg.
At this point I was competing in the National Para Cycling League and had one National League Title under my Belt so got the call up for my First World Cup in 2013 for Ireland. I also got the first Cycling Prosthetic leg made in Ireland over the line with Ability Matters for the event, together with my beloved Giant TCR, sponsored to me by a local business man for the event held in Spain.
People have a watered down opinion on disabled sport and you learn to live with that but reality is the guys that your racing against are almost all fully pro at International level.
I’m going to bring you on one of my experiences in 2015. A 6am start in Kilmovee for training in Sundrive Velodrome in Dublin at 9.30. I was after being picked by the UCI to train in Switzerland in the World Cycling Center prior to a track event in Manchester. I couldn’t afford any mistakes as Aer Lingus would not permit two bike cases for one passenger and I had to bring two bikes so I had to fit two frames in one case and get everything else into a suitcase, so it was back down to Kilmovee after training in Dublin to engineer this. A 4.30 am start on the Sunday and back up to Dublin to get the Ferry to Hollyhead and the drive to Manchester to catch a plane to Geneva on the Monday Morning. The spin from Geneva to Aigle has amazing views but If you’re a cyclist there is nothing like the view the first time you come out of Aigle and catch the first Glimpse of the World Cycling Center Velodrome with the back drop of the Alps behind it. I don’t care who you are it would put the shivers up your back. First morning in the hostel, there where a group of around 20 of us with various levels of disability. From Ghana to Texas to Poland to Mayo it was cordial around the porridge with language barriers but after getting road bikes built we were sent for a group spin that breaks down the barriers every time. Built up the track bikes that afternoon and it was down to business!
A 200M track as opposed to the normal 250M was great for training as the corners come faster and much more technical getting through corner one after leaving the start gate. Training was hard as there is nothing to hammer you like a track bike on a Velodrome. The environment we trained in was 100% professional as were all Coaches and Staff which included Lauren Gourley from Kilkelly who was on her journey to becoming a professional Coach. Padraig Marrey from Western Lakes also served his time in Aigle on his Cycling journey, Martin Munroe was there for a stent in 2006 as UCI trainee espoir and Eoin Mullen (Aran Islands)who has strong connections with Western Lakes was there when I was also being trained by UCI so the Mayo & Galway flag was flying all be it virtually. Ten days there and a flight back to Manchester to meet the rest of the Irish squad for a taster session on the track on the Friday night and racing proper on Saturday afternoon, remember this is the GB National Cycling Center.
I managed to get into the Bronze medal ride off in the 4KM individual pursuit against the GB rider which was described as the ride off of the night. I knew something was happening and I didn’t know was I going to get him into sight after every corner or was he trying to kilo me (that’s where you come out of start gate like a scalded cat and try to catch your opponent in the first few laps and its game over if that happens in the ride offs), but it was the fact there was never any more than a meter or two every time we crossed the opposite side of track that was causing the reaction to the handful of people that were track side. I knew there would be nothing between us as he only put a few seconds into me in Germany in a 20km TT a few weeks previous and only put 2 seconds into my time for the Bronze ride off. It wasn’t to be as Adrian Jones pipped me by .32 (yes point .32) of a second for the Bronze medal in the 4km effort.
I had better days and much worse ones on a bike but this was one of many experiences I had and I would like to thank everyone who gave me that platform which would not be possible without my Club Western Lakes and its members.