Q & A with Marie Finnerty
Bike type: Kona Kahuna MTB bike, an extremely old Raleigh road bike (which I bought 2nd hand in Dubai) and my Grandmothers High Nellie.
Discipline: MTB and road
Cycle for fun (Leisure)
Questions in cycling
How long are you cycling and which discipline do you prefer?
My first cycle of any significant length was the Ladies Sportif in 2015. I was persuaded to do it by Ken McCarthy on an battered old hybrid. I barely knew the front of the bike from the back of the bike, most people would agree I still don’t. I prefer MTB in the Winter and road cycling in the Summer.
What’s your favourite bike? and if money wasn’t a problem which one would you get?
My favourite bike is my Grandmother’s High Nellie, which I plan to restore this summer. If money wasn’t a problem a purple Specialized Venge would be nice to replace my rickety old Raleigh.
What’s your favourite training route? To do it solo or in a group?
Clonbur/Cong Woods MTB spin in a group. I absolutely love hurtling past the Pigeon Hole in the pitch dark during Winter club spins.
What’s your favourite food/ beverage at a stop?
The WLCC Ladies Sportif has to have the best food stop of any sporting event. Club members come together to create homemade deliciousness that will surely make the ascent up Maumtrasna worth it. Anna Sheeran’s baked ham along with Clare O’Neill and Eimear Flannery’s deserts can only result in you thanking your lucky stars the next part of the journey is downhill.
What’s your favourite time of day to go out?
Mornings because you feel great then for the rest of the day.
Winter or summer time spins?
Both, Winter in the woods and Summer on the road.
Hills or flat?
Flat, although I made it my mission to cycle up the highest peak in the UAE, Jebel Jais, before I moved home in June 2019. Left Dubai at 1am and started cycling at 3am as the daytime heat in the Summer there would hit over 40°C. Cycling back down those hairpin turns was great fun! I also loved cycling the Máiméan Loop with the club last July. It’s a really tough climb but worth it for the beautiful scenery.
Most memorable or favourite events?
Memorable moments include cycling with Dan martin in the desert in 2018 and meeting Sam Bennett to wish him luck before watching him cross the line to win the final stage of the UAE tour in 2019. Favourite events include Ironman UAE and Spinneys 92 in Dubai, the Ring of Clare and Westportif. Great times with the best of company!
Favourite piece of kit?
My pink clip-ins and of course the latest Western Lakes kit.
How many times a week do you go out to train ? and how long is your average spin time. ?
Twice a week on club spins when we’re not in lockdown, average 2hrs.
Indoor session what’s your favourite: Turbo, Zwift, rollers, gym, classes or other ?
I don’t do indoor cycling. I’ll rather face any weather to be outside.
The best thing about club spins? The worst thing about club spins?
The best things are the camaraderie on group spins, making friends along the way and all sorts of random conversations, and being pushed out of your comfort zone to achieve more than you would alone. Worst things are feeling like you’re holding the group back on a club ride or crashing into trees in the woods.
Sum up cycling for you.
Exploring the great outdoors and having a laugh along the way. Can’t beat that feeling at the top of a mountain or after a long distance ride. If you’re not feeling great, you definitely will after a cycle. Joining Western Lakes Cycling Club has been a great adventure. I’m looking forward to our next club spin!
Over the next few months we are going to talk to as many members that will come forward and share their thoughts about their cycling experiences to date.
Michael Kelly our PRO will send you a list of questions you fill out and its as simple as that. Every member has their own personal story of cycling to tell and we as a club would love to hear about them..
Eimear Flannery one our youth coaches and is the club's OFF road Rep has a long history in adventure racing and now she brings her love of adventure to the off road scene..
Bike type Custom titanium MTB, Ridley carbon road bike, Kona Rove gravel bike.
Discipline Off road/gravel/road
Race or for fun (Leisure) I’d describe myself as “Competitive Leisure” !!!
Questions in cycling
Q. How long are you cycling and which discipline do you prefer ?
I cycled a bit when I was young but took it up again in 2012 when I entered a few adventure races. I joined WLCC in 2016 and was introduced to Off Road cycling in the Club in 2017 and fell in love with it immediately.
Q. What’s your favorite bike ? and if money wasn’t a problem which one would you get?
My favourite bike is my Titanium mountain bike which is a custom build. I will never be able to afford a bike like it again but I hope it’s a bike for life! I also love to use my gravel bike on local roads for solo spins.
Q. What’s your favorite training route ? to do it solo or in a group?
I love to train in Cong/Clonbur Woods or Derroura mtb trails, preferably with a small group.
Q. What’s your favorite food/ beverage at a stop ?
I love a good homemade flapjack or a slice of fruitcake! But you can’t beat a banana for a quick refuel.
Q. What’s your favorite time of day to go out for a cycle ?
I’d love to get out in the mornings more, but work and home commitments means that’s rarely possible.
Q. Winter or summer time spins ?
I really enjoy Club evening spins on the road in the summer, but my absolute favourite is a winter off road spin on a dark, cold, crisp night in the trails.
Q. Hills or flat?
Hills of course! Anywhere as long as there’s a good rocky descent! The Maimean Loop from Leenane can’t be beaten.
Q. Most memorable or favorite event?
Battle on the Beach in south Wales – Spectacular!!! Lakelander Gravel Grinder in Fermanagh was fantastic. Ring of Clare 160km on the road, great sense of achievement to have done it!
Q. Favorite piece of kit ?
Five Ten mtb shoes.
Q. How many times a week do you go out to train ? and how long is your average spin time. ?
Pre-Covid, two spins a week in Winter, three or four in Summer. Ave would be 2hrs.
Q. Indoor session what’s your favorite: Turbo, Zwift, rollers, gym, classes or other ?
Hate the Turbo but Covid has made it essential. Don’t use Zwift. Love a Club class for the banter.
Q. The best thing about club spins? The worst thing about club spins. ?
The social aspect is great, testing myself with stronger/faster riders gives me a buzz. Getting dropped on a club spin is gut-wrenching…
Q. Sum up cycling for you.
Cycling is Freedom. The outdoors, the fresh air, the break from work and stress, the health and fitness benefits. It’s fantastic for mental health and a gives me a feeling of sheer bliss!
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.
‘Cycling Safe Passing’ Signs
Noel Gibbons is a founder member of Western Lakes CC and has been involved in every facet of the club. Little did he know that his years in cycling would aid him in his role now as Mayo Road safety officer. Noel was instrumental in bringing loads of different safety intuitives to make our roads safer for driving and cycling. Here is a piece from 2002 where Noel instigated signage for the famous Srah circuit..
As Cyclists , whether we are leisure , competitive or we use the bike as a form of transport , we all know too well how important it is for our safety that motorist give us adequate space when over taking us . That’s why we were delighted when a new law was introduced on Monday, Nov 11, 2019, that stated drivers found dangerously overtaking someone on a bike will find themselves on the receiving end of a €120 fine and three penalty points.
In the ideal world, we would all be cycling on segregated cycle lanes , but that’s not the case we live in a very rural County and we find ourselves intermixing with all size of vehicles on these roads so we need to be fully focused and depend on motorists adhering to the rules of the road for our safety.
As a follow on from the introducing of the safe passing law in 2019 Minister Shane Ross has (June 18 2020) announced the allocation of €446,500 to 19 local authorities for the roll out of cycling ‘safe passing’ signs.
This new sign, which has been included in the Traffic Signs Manual, advises motorists of the need to leave adequate space when overtaking cyclists.
Motorists should know that dangerous overtaking of a cyclist is an offence and punishable by a fine and penalty points, and motorists are reminded by this type of signage located around the Country.
But did you know that one small cycling club in the West of Ireland working in partnership with its local authority, was the first in the Country to erect safe over taking signage as far back as 2002.
Western lakes Cycling Club committee members working with the local Area engineer Mr John Ferguson and the road safety officer Mr Michael Gormally saw the merit of erecting signage on three roads which then became know in the cycling fraternity as the Srah circuit . The 5 mile loop or in new money 8km loop was used regularly by the then three local clubs Western lakes , Castlebar cycling club and Covey wheelers (Westport) . It was used for training spins , introducing youth to road cycling and leisure spins . Once the signage was erected it be came the home for the Mayo League for many a year , where a lot of blood and sweat was lost and unfortunately a few bones broken also .
This circuit became the envy of other cycling clubs around the Country, grapping local and national media attention with articles appearing in cycling magazines and papers.
The specially commissioned road sign which has the image of a racer bike not the normal image of a bike attracts the attention of motorists to this day 19 years later and set the seed for the present signage been erected presently around the Country , to create a safer environment for cyclist to take to the road.
This shows a club in the west of Ireland can make a difference nationally when we work together as members and never has it been more important in these challenging times , here to a bright 2021 and looking forward to cycling with you all if not in person in the virtual world of teams or zoom, personalities will come and go but the one common love for cycling will always exist in Ballinrobe and its hinterlands.
I joined Western Lakes Cycling Club in 2009 as a relatively late comer to the sport in my late thirties, taking up spinning initially after knee surgery on the advice that cycling would be good for my injury. I spend my first two very enjoyable seasons clocking up steady miles with the leisure riders in the club and then ventured onto the local racing scene in 2011 to see if I could stretch my ability. I got some wins in league races and time trials, and felt I was getting stronger throughout the year. Driven by curiosity I asked Padraig Marrey for a fitness assessment at the end of the season, wondering how my numbers might stack up against seasoned racers. My test numbers were good, but I was really taken aback when Padraig told me that with the right training programme, I had Ras potential! This was big news to me, and not something I was going to let sit.
I went off with my homework for the winter, which I duly completed. Highly occupied working in a new company and with two young children at home, I needed to be super-organised and worked through most of the winter programme on my own. I showed up in the new year in the shape of my life, further boosted by joining the Ras team on a week-long training camp in Murcia. My first open race was in Navan, a real eye-opener navigating a big field of riders. No result, but I was near the front all day and finished top ten. I don’t remember how many races I completed that year, but have some specific memories such as going to Letterkenny on St. Patricks day racing at my absolute limit, again finishing top ten, and then to Westport the next day completely blowing up in Ras Maigh Eo. I never got on the podium that year mostly from a mixture of racing nativity and missing the final kick to take a sprint, but I was rarely far off it either and I was starting to believe the Ras was a realistic goal for me. I was determined that I was going to make the cut in 2013.
The previous year taught me the scale of this commitment, not just to training but to a full-on racing program especially focusing on stage races. Ras Mumhan 2013 was my first big stage race – a cold Easter weekend with plenty of climbing, then Corkman 3-day on the May bank holiday weekend, with long solo rides on consecutive days afterwards and one or two races on the weekends in between.
For me these races weren’t about getting results, but getting up the road into breakaways, being combative, and training my body to recover day after day. And then there were those long rides tucked in behind a car working on sustaining speed. Having stuck rigidly to the training plan, the race program, and the diet to keep my weight to that of my 18-year old self, I was ready for the Ras.
While my successes in cycling are extremely modest with very few results to boast of, taking part in the 2013 Ras is my proudest sporting achievement. That year’s Ras is well documented and debated for the 23 amateur riders eliminated having missed the time limit on Stage 4, of which I was one. There is an unlucky story behind every one of those eliminations, and I won’t go into mine, because my abiding memories are positive. What I remember is being treated like a professional athlete with full support team – manager, soigneur, mechanic, drivers, and sponsors. Signing autographs for kids before stages. The experience of moving along with the peloton often hitting speeds of 60km/hr on the flat, driven along at the front by professional riders like Sam Bennett and company. I was told the Ras is fast but covering nearly 160km in less than 3.5hrs at an average speed of over 45km/hr is amazing.
These are my abiding memories of cycle racing, and I am truly grateful to the people in Western Lakes Cycling Club for handing me that opportunity.
Mayo League – winning on a Giant Defy – I upgraded the bike after Mike Flanagan told me “you must piss off a lot of people when you beat them on that bike”!
Murcia training camp
Corkman 2-Day – can’t find the results online but finished in a breakaway of around ten on Stage 3, held off the yellow jersey and young Eddie Dunbar in the chasing group.
Bogman 2 day 2013
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For those of you who dont know John James Flaherty, a founder member of Western Lakes CC and the Twelve Bens cycling group. A hard man from Renvyle Co Galway..
The quite man seen here just beaten in a sprint but always a fierce competitor.
Did Trojan work on the front for our first Mizen to Malin bid in 2002
The man of the Bogman 2 day and Gogarty cup, JJ's ability to organise is second to none.
Fulfilling his dream of taking part and finishing the 2012 An Post Ras Tailteann
The picture that is still doing the rounds when it comes to portraying what county riders go through in the Ras Tailteann.
Have a read of John James (JJ) first race .. http://paulgannonheritage.com/?page_id=268
Back in the 1990’s, down tube gears, narrow saddles, and even narrower tyres were all the craz, people cycled everywhere with little more than a cap on their heads. It’s hard to believe that cycling helmets had only been introduced into the Professional peloton. All those years with huge pelotons, manic bunch sprints and not one of them wore a hard shell helmet.
The country was coming out of lean times and cycling wasn’t a popular sport, especially after a terrible 1998 tour. The tour started in Dublin and ended in a fiasco when drugs were found in a team car at a ferry port in Belgium. It has since transpired that drugs were ruining our sport! The Kelly / Roche era had been forgotten and a cycling club was been formed in the small South Mayo town of Ballinrobe.
Western Lakes Cycling Club was founded in the winter of 1998 but it was 1999 before we got affiliated to the National Governing body, now called Cycling Ireland.
Eight friends (John Halloran, John Holian (RIP), JJ Flaherty, Dessie Woods, Paul Maguire, Eamon Marrey, Noel Gibbons and Padraig Marrey) set up a club to cater for the cycling needs of South Mayo and the West Galway region.
The late John Holian was the club’s first chairman; he gave us the use of his car so it could be used as the club’s first team car.
Since its foundation in 1999, our membership has grown to over 160 members. We have always been known as a cluster club, we have pods of cyclist littered everywhere from Clifden/Renvyle to Shrule, Partry & Hollymount with Ballinrobe the hub.
You might ask why the name Western Lakes Cycling Club? Well it came from a number of reasons, first, most of us lived near a lake and with the whole area being associated with the “Lake District” (an organisation for promoting tourism and enterprise in South Mayo) and with the club based in the West it was just a case of combining the two.
Ballinrobe is beautifully situated in the middle of a cluster of lakes or Loughs called The Mask, Corrib and Carra, for any cyclist there is a great sense of achievement just to cycle around any of these beautiful loughs.
With the club barely formed and under the leadership of Eamon Marrey we set about putting Western Lakes CC and Ballinrobe on the map by first looking to host a stage of the infamous FBD RasTailteann and secondly securing that bid. Bringing over 500 riders, managers, helpers and supporters to the town for a night in May was some feat by the bunch of novices.
Main street Ballinrobe was going to be the finishing straight for a peloton of nearly 200 riders, local man Padraig Marrey was hoping to be the star of the show!! riding for the Hire Equip team from county Kildare but his ambitions were dashed a long way from home with a serious of mishaps… The stage winner was David McCann who went on to win with a solo effort. The following day was to Sligo, Padraig got the chance to redeem himself which you can watch here… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZWVFZwAaVU “see Ballinrobe stage end from 2 min 09 seconds on”.
This was now the standard, leisure spins, youth skills and a host of competitive events brought scantily clad lycra cyclist of all shapes and sizes to the area, ex footballers and rugby players got in on the act too.
Looking for something adventurous to aspire to, these new enthusiastic members were mad for road, an idea was floated… Why don’t we try and cycle the length of the country!!! The goal was set (680k Mizen head to Malin Head), and for the next 5 months elaborate training plans were hatched so that everyone would be fit enough to complete the challenge. Most of the spring of 2002 was spent getting men in rugby and football shorts converted to lycra. Getting them used to the saddle was a whole different ball game! The road was the new football pitch, miles were the new terminology, and the game had changed. There were no more balls, just bikes!
A few recce spins in June and July told their own stories, training plans were great but practice was another thing altogether. The crew were in poor shape…
Against all the odds, the poor accommodation, faulty speedometers, spluttery vans and cars, the strong headwinds and at times even hail stones. There was lashings of sudacream and a huge amount of sacrifice, the group of 16 made the 680k trip a huge success. The club collected a small fortune en-route putting all the coins into a large galvanised garbage bin that they couldn’t lift out .. it was OK as it all went to charity.
Seamus Maloney’s account of the 2002 M2M
“We set off for what I thought would have been one of the biggest cycling challenges I have ever undertaken; most people said we were mad, and I nearly agreed with them but a challenge was set and who were we to refuse it, especially when it was all in aid of a good cause.
It turned out to be the most rewarding 3 days spent with a group of 16 guys along with a big fund raising crew, the craic was 90 and just full of encouragement all the way to the finish by everyone involved. Myself and good mate Pat Grimes (both novice cyclists at the time) learnt that a ‘leisurely spin’ from Mizen to Malin is possible when the company is good. Don’t get me wrong we were challenged along the way, day 1 saw 175 miles clocked (we were told it was 175k), day 2 the head was feeling down but we covered 155 miles and on day 3 when the hail poured down on us in Donegal, I thought we might never see what Malin head looked like but we got there in the end. We had a great celebration I think …I was drunk after the first pint, I suppose the 436 miles took its toll.
With the opposite direction planned the following year it wasn’t too hard a job to convince us to do it again for the Blazzing saddles and NCBI charity. For anyone who does not know Padraic Marrey the consensus is ‘leisurely spin’ does not come into his vocabulary!”
This was the Celtic Tiger era for the club, in these years the club built up monster numbers in our youth ranks with weekly skills and road sessions; the club was getting a name for itself winning numerous national titles across an array of age groups.
In 2004 we brought a new kind of cycling event to Ballinrobe called Cycling superstars, this was a national championship. The name changed in 2005 to Talent Spot. The championship was like a decathlon for cycling, participants had to be good at cycling skills and maneuvering around an obstacle course, have exceptional explosive power which was tested with a short timed sprint. To top it off be good at controlling their bikes at speed on a slippery grass track loop.The winner who accumulated the most points from the three disciplines would make the podium.
The club still pursued more leisure cycle challenges, this time with a Malin to Mizen effort. Going this was way was supposed to be downhill…
More ideas were floated, this time why not go from the most Easterly to the most Westerly points so the Carnasore Point to Erris Head challenge was invented for another 3 day epic cycling adventure, guys talkng to cows, arses covered in white cream! that 3 days seen a lot of unthinkables or was in untalkables …
The racers were up and down the country winning prizes and representing the club in valour!
We were lucky to get our hands on an auld factory building on the Kilmaine road. With the help of the Ballinrobe scouts we secured a lease from Mayo County Council that we have to this day.
03 to 06 Martin Munroe and Willy Connolly were regulars on Irish teams both on the road and in the velodrome. Martin even got to race the European Youth Olympics in Paris in 2003; a great achievement for any cyclist.
Loads of youngsters cycled and raced their bikes locally, and the lifelong activity of cycling was becoming infectious.
In 2006 Padraig Marrey and Mary Mulchrone dipped their toes into Ultra cycling for the first time, when they both completed the Mizen head to Malin Head in under 22hrs (non-stop).
Later that year Padraig Marrey had caught the bug and went on a solo bid to break the record from Mizen Head to Fair Head (the two furthest apart points that can be cycled in Ireland) with an incredible time of 17:49hrs. That record still stands...
These were lean years for the club. Our youth program went quite for whatever reason? The country was coming into a recession and money was scarce.
In 2007 we built the BMX track at the Cycling Centre, we even got the great Sean Kelly to ride around it on his racer.
The aim was to have another stepping stone for our youth members. A discipline of cycling that looked exciting was BMX, and that fitted the bill nicely.
BMX was to be an Olympic sport in 2008 so we wanted to capitalise on it.
In 2008 the Professional Tour of Ireland was back on the cycling calendar. Eamon Marrey pulled another rabbit out of the hat and got one of the five stage starts for Ballinrobe. Considering the town didn’t have the accommodation or infrastructure to hold such an event, this was a master stroke.
A yellow jersey clad Mark Cavendish led the race for Team Columbia from Ballinrobe, looking through the results it’s amazing to see the stars that were in our home town that day.
See from 1:27hrs onwards https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4loyqklLLk
The Western Covey League kicked off in the summer of 2008, the idea was to tier riders by using a handicap system. The stronger riders were put back X amount of minutes with the aim of all riders finishing together. This didn’t happen often though; it was great training for everyone. Most were encouraged to try out the open racing scene for the first time.
This league nurtured some great talent for both clubs and helped build a great relationship with the Covies. The league is still going strong today, 12 years on.
Above the Western Lakes CC team and Mary Mulchrone at the last round in Swinford, Mary with the help of her team won the Connacht cycling league, she was and believe still is the only woman to win that league against male competition.
In 2009 we were back cycling the length of the country but with a specific Goal in mind, the challenge was to cycle from Mizen Head to Malin Head as fast as possible with a group. Western Lakes CC organised the challenge and had 7 of the 18 riders in our club colours, plus all the backup crew. It was completed in 18:53 which was some feat when you look back at it. It is still the record for a group today…
Looking back, this was the Ras Tailteann era. An Post sponsored the event for 8 years. Once they came on board the race’s profile increased significantly.
A stage end of the 2012 route was announced for Westport. That was the catalyst the racers in the club needed... The Goal was announced Western Lakes were going to put a team in the race. All types of favors were pulled, sponsors, cars, vans and accommodation were all summoned for the project. The aim was simple, get to the start line and be ready to duke it out with some of the brightest stars in the sport. Teams could only enter under the county from where the riders were from, so with the help of Centra as a main sponsor, Team Mayo Centra was born. For three golden years Western Lakes fielded the Mayo Centra Team, what a unique experience for all involved and a huge Thanks to Gary Higgins Centra for making this happen.
In 2012 Mark Cavendish was after winning the Green Jersey in the Giro d’Italia but Donal Harrington from the Mayo Centra ras team took the front cover of Cycling Weekly (a UK Magazine). He also got a 4 page spread on the inside of his journey in cycling.
The photos from that 2012 Ras are still doing the rounds such was the extent that people associated the Mayo Centra team as the real county team of the event!
In 2012 we built a great event with the Covies called Westportif. Using the tourist town of Westport and the know how and infrastructure from our experienced Western Lakes CC members, the event grew to be a thee go-to event for all leisure riders nationally.
Another great event was born in 2012 called The Ladies Sportif. The brainchild of Fergal O Neill, Andrea Heneghan and Marie Fraser the idea was that there were only ladies aloud to enter but there was a little twist, the men of the club had to do all the behind the scenes stuff, like sign on, marshal, look after breakdowns and man the food stops. The event was one of the first only lady events for cycling that now is a trend for the sport.
In the summer of 2012 the BMX track was revamped with a new starting gate and ramp. Over 200 tons of materials was shaped by Shane Gilligan in his digger along with the help of a few committed members. The new makeover completely re shaped the track making great use of an old container donated by Tim Kelly ltd this doubled up as a starting ramp and storage area. Flood lights were installed and now the track could be used during the dark winter months.
Martin Joyce got the leisure scene back on the road with another 3 day effort of Mizen to Malin.
Also in 2012 the Hollymount Wheelers group formed their own branch of the Western Lakes CC reuniting some of the older members with their original roots.
In 2014 for whatever reason the racing side of the club slowed. Most members of the club really got into the leisure scene especially Sportifs (Leisure events with numerous food stops…).
In an effort to get more members racing we started our own club league, based on the format of the Western/ Covey league. With members now multiplying in Clifden (Twelve Bens) and with the (Hollies) in Hollymount plus a scattering more from around the South Mayo area the league was a great success. The early years of the club league were full of hot air with a lot of bragging going on. At the conclusion of each event, there was allot of showing off...who had the best spread, as it was all about the grub on offer, which was just delightful. I’ll have to admit that the Robeen and Renvyle rounds were the most appetising with all sorts of goodies on offer pre and post race.
Sportif’s turned into the new races, members claimed they won this and that sportif’s without ever a result being published or recorded… That didn’t stop the likes of Westportif, The Ladies sportif, The Great lakes challenge, Tour of the Bens and the Hollymount sportif going from strength to strength with big numbers turning up to sample the beautiful routes in the West of Ireland.
On the racing front, Sean O Malley, Janis Blivous, Padraic Hughes, Barry Holian, Kieran Heneghan, Michael Gilvarry, Mark Kelly, JJ Flaherty and John Gill led from the front in their various categories.
Kilmovee native Jerry Towey nearly qualified for the Rio Olympic games after a number of podium places at para World Cup events at various destinations around the World. In the end it wasn’t to be, national selection processes dictated otherwise… saying all that, he still came along way from where he started as a leisure cyclist!
Martin Joyce again organised another epic 3 day challenge from Carnsore Point to Erris Head, 10 years after our maiden journey.
In 2017 we drew up plans to improve our cycling centre, it was in a bad state and with very limited facilities for training during the winter months the plan was to modernise the building with new showers, changing rooms and a plan to insulate the whole building.
The BMX track made a comeback and the kids got back into cycling with new coaches helping out.
In 2017 the Twelve Bens formed their branch of Western Lakes CC led by the infamous Johnny King; sorry no it’s JJ Flaherty…
Off road cycling was always a part of Western Lakes CC but it was more by a select few on the competitive front. Cong, Clonbur and Moorehall woods are now recognoised as good off road cycling areas, loads of members hit the trails be it in darkness or day light hours it didn’t matter, off road was the new craz.
The club ventured into the World of Audax… For 2 years the club created a 100k and 200k off road route around Lough Mask, this further created enthusiasm for trail riding with many members now into gravel and adventure riding.
The Mizen to Malin route is a huge attraction for members of Western Lakes CC, everyone who cycles around our area wants to say they have completed that route… It takes a big effort to get everything sorted and to get people to give up 5 days to help out, it’s such a big ask for volunteers.
In 2017 Mizen to Malin again was the big challenge when the Hollymount Wheelers put together a composite group.
In 2019 the Twelve Bens put together another challenge on the Mizen to Malin route, again over 3 days. It’s always a huge effort and achievement.
2020 our 21st year.
At the start of 2020 all sports were shut down and by March all races
and sportifs were cancelled. When restrictions lightened over the summer months youth cycling flourished and by September the youth coaches had a great idea. They came up with Bikefest Mayo, it was held at the splendid facilities of the Ballinrobe race course. Every discipline of the sport was covered and coached! There were areas set aside for Cyclo Cross, Track, Road, BMX, road safety, obstacles courses and we even built a mountain bike course. The event was huge success, it sold out. 120 kids participated from all over Connacht. Some outsiders said it was the best day out for youth cycling enthusiasts that they had ever seen. In the history of the club this event and day was definitely one of the better days for coaches, officials and volunteers who combined to pull off a great days fun pedalling.
The reward has been tremendous since, with up to 50 plus kids turning up weekly for youth cycling training.
Just before Christmas the club organisied a Christmas evening spin where all participants had to do their bikes up with Christmas lights. They paraded around the town in small pods with over 80 kids involved. This was another great milestone for the club.
Western Lakes Cycling Club at a glance.
We cater for all cyclists including;Leisure, Off-road, Track, BMX, Gravel, Recreational, Racing and we also nurture the young cyclists.Western Lakes Cycling Club is one of the most progressive cycling clubs in Ireland. It is held in high regard by other sports organisations in Mayo and Connacht. Western Lakes has a wealth of experience including youth coaches, reps for each discipline (Cyclo Cross, BMX MTB, Road and track). We have national grade cyclists and administrators at virtually all levels.
The blue ribboned event of Irish cycling is the RasTailteann, the club has had the privilege of entering four squads in the years 2003, 2012, 2013 and 2014 equipped with team car, support van and all the personal to go with it.
At Youth/Junior level our club has had significant successes – winning Gold, silver and bronze medals at National Track and Road Championships. At senior level the clubs boasts numerous national champions in various disciplines. At provincial level every year we always win at least one title and bring home a host of medals.
This is no mean feat for a club in South Mayo with no former tradition of cycling in the area.
One of the greatest honors for our club was seeing Martin Munroe and Willy Connolly wearing the Green jersey for Ireland at five different World Championships from 2004 to 2008 there is no greater honor with maybe the exception of the Olympics. Brendan Butler, Jerry Towey and Padraig Marrey also got to wear green for Ireland at various international prestigious events around the World.
1998 World Junior champion and Tour De France rider Mark Scanlon of Sligo has a long history with the club as he was coached by one of our own who is now the chairman of Western Lakes CC. Cong’s David O Loughlin who was an Olympian in the 2008 Beijing Olympics also has a strong connection with the club.
Over the years the club has organised all kinds of mad, innovative and competitive events to cater to its members. All of our events benefit charities of various natures and its estimated we have collected over €250,000 for them.
The founding members still help direct the ship from time to time and are still very valuable volunteers.
Looking back is 20/20 vision but leaving a legacy is priceless, over the years people come and go into the beautiful sport of cycling, some gravitate towards MTB/Off road, others do all things road but for the club they all come under the one umbrella of cycling.
Keep the pedals turning, keep your head up and clear, open up your spirit and let the wind take you there….
To these great volunteers the cycling community owes you a huge debt of gratitude:
Salute to Breege Connolly, Gerry Butler, Jimmy Durcan and Brendan Scullion.
EVENTS THE CLUB HAS ORGANISED
Ballinrobe 2/3 day
Bogman 2 Day in Tullycross
The Sean Stagg Shield in Hollymount
Tourmakeady festival race
Tour of Kilmore Belmullet
WLCC Ladies sportive
Westportif (in conjunction with Westport CC)
Tour de Bens sportive
The Great Western Lakes Challenge
365 Mile a day challenge
Mayo coastal challenge
Family spin Cornmarket to Castle
Mizen to Malin; 2002,2003, 2012, 2017 & 2019
Carnsore point to Erris head; 2004 & 2014
Mizen to Malin non stop in 18:53 in 2009
The club holds weekly safety and skills coaching session for young cyclists. Weekly Off road spins for Adults, Sunday morning group spins for all abilities, Weekly virtual spin classes during Covid-19 times and this is only a small measure of our commitment to promoting all types of safe cycling.
The club would like to thanks all its sponsors, supporters and volunteers who have put their shoulder to the wheel so that it continues to move forward.
Aims of Western Lakes Cycling Club:
· To encourage non-competitive cyclists to take up what is a healthy outdoor recreational activity.
· To encourage children to use what almost every child has, a bicycle, constructively – learn bike handling skills, rules of the road, and the pure enjoyment and the FUN of cycling
· To organise and facilitate Coaching Courses and upskilling for our members
· To bring major cycling events to our region
· To bring cycling to as many people as possible – we aim to have 200 active members. We are putting particular emphasis on women, and youth.
· To further enhance the club’s profile through a year-round programme of activities – training camps, Charity cycles, races, education and embracing social activity.
· To provide the necessary technical and physical back-up to our cyclists that will give them the very best chance of succeeding in this Sport.
WESTERN LAKES ACTIVITIES ,CHRISTMAS WEEK, 21st -27th December
Off Road Santa Spin on Tuesday 22nd December. Lights essential. Fairy lights allowed
Be prepared to get dirty.
Meet at Cong big car park 6.45pm, on the bikes for 7pm sharp. Good lights essential.
Spinning Tuesday @ 7 pm On Teams
Hollymount Wheelers Group Spin Christmas Schedule ,Saturday 26 leaving Hollymount at 9.30 (Saint Stephens’s Day ) Sunday 27 leaving Hollymount at 9.30 routes for both days to follow. Wishing everyone a Very Happy and Safe Christmas. 🏽🏽♀️♂️
All information on this this and more is on our website, check
website/Facebook page if in any doubt if event going
Events for youths and adults and any off road bike will do. CX is brilliant for bike handling skills. Cyclo cross training race at Ballinrobe Cycling centre hosted by Western lakes cc next Wednesday evening Oct 7th. Youth races start at 6pm sharp, adult races from 7pm.events will be held under flood lights but Helmet or head lights recommended Entry only. All off road bikes allowed . CLICK ON LINK BELOW TO ENTER . ALL CLUBS WELCOME. All participants must sign up on line as part of covid regulations https://eventmaster.ie/event/b4LmI9AHjr