Women Train Hard in Inishowen

On Friday night a large group of women and some support team members invaded the busy town of Buncrana on the Inishowen Peninsula. Many arrived late and tired after a week's work and some apprehensive about the weekend ahead. The Spires' CC duo of Kelly Donnelly and Dawn Gregg put everyone to shame by arriving with full cycling kit in pristine condition safely hung on hangers. Martin Tohill would have been proud of them.

The staff of the Inishowen Gateway Hotel were very welcoming even opening up their Board room to allow for safe bike storage. Once the bikes had been looked after everyone headed to bed knowing that the training ride the next day would be tough.

Saturday dawned bleak and miserable and several women from the North West and further afield in Donegal were unable to make it due to the weather conditions. However there were almost thirty women in the foyer by 9.15 to listen to the pre-run talks. The original skills programme had to be cancelled due to the weather. North Pole's Carl Fullerton arrived to do lead car while Robert Carter was there with his trusty van to do act as broom wagon.

The male riders were assigned on road tasks and the group set off at a controlled pace to the North Pole Bar at Dunfries to allow for on road training and socialising. More power to young Roisin Carter and Niamh (12 & 14) who did the ride to the North Pole.

The Indian scouts had been sent on up the Mountain Road to check out conditions but the smoke signals coming back were not good. The road was covered in snow and slush so Carl mapped an alternative route along the coast towards Malin.

The riders stayed pretty much together with only the less experienced riders dropping back but they were able to hang in thanks to back up crew. Many riders such as Gillian Orr and Antje Otto who are not keen on hills showed great determination and increased stamina from last season and were able to stay with the main group. Hannah Francis of Bikeworks rode very strongly while Tonya Moran and Sandra McLaughlin were never far from the front.

Conditions on the day were poor with high winds and driving rain and it was bitterly cold. George and Mary Boyd kept an eye on the riders in various groups while Tommy Lamb and Sean McNicholl kept everyone's spirits up. It was also pleasing to see the genuine support offered by some of our top riders such as Cathal Smyth, Matthew Ward, Paul Vaughan and Warren Francis who rode up and down the groups helping out as needed. Gentle giant William Orr was calm and collected and helped out throughout the day.

The contingent of North Pole women riders were impressive. Just over a year ago, Georgina Dixon, the driving force told me that they just went out for a bit of craic and socialising and had no intention of getting into Lycra or doing anything too strenuous. Yet on Saturday they were fully kitted out and these women were definitely not dawdling along.

The run was over forty miles long which for some was the longest they had done. The average speed of the main group was sixteen miles an hour which in those conditions was good. Warm showers and a change of clothes back at the Inishowen soon had everyone refreshed before heading for an excellent lunch in the Coffee Cup in Buncrana.

Some had time to make use of the Gateway's Leisure facilities before attending the afternoon talks. Sean McNicholl the resident mechanic for the weekend, showed them how to check and prepare their bike before any event whether it be a sportive or an race. He told them to watch out for saboteurs such as Lamb who might try and tighten up brakes to slow a rider down. He went on to stress the importance of after event bike cleaning and checks.

Chris McCann of Inspired Cycling presented an overview of a bike fitting service which he offers. The computerised system is very accurate and may well be worth thinking about. There were lots of questions for Chris after this.

Tommy Lamb was next up and tricks on sprinting, taking shelter and riding in a group were touched on, illustrated with slides. An excellent diagrammatic presentation devised by Colin Hughes of Phoenix showed how a bunch should be working on their up and overs. Time was called on Lamb several times by the rather exasperated MC, Marian Lamb, but in true style he ignored her and continued on.

George and Mary Boyd gave an overview of their background in cycling and a list of Mary's Palmares. They reiterated that there were opportunities out there for women and that age was no barrier.

Ulster Women's Association Chair, Louise Fullerton, gave a brief overview of the events that they were organising and provided templates for training plans. It was also an opportunity for gathering in contacts so that everyone could be kept informed of any training or events coming up.

Dinner that evening in the hotel was a chance for everyone to meet new faces and it was great to see some of the local women join the night's craic. One of the newer women was delighted with her day's run, particularly after she had been given a push to help her stay with the group.

She said, "I didn't know you could do that. No-one has ever pushed me before. It was so good I forgot to pedal and the poor man (Cathal) had to say to me - it helps if you keep pedalling."

Whether they were all tired after the day's training or exhausted listening to Tommy Lamb, most had an early night. Those who stayed up were subdued and just took the opportunity to relax. The weather forecast for the next day was not good and all were wondering what Sunday would bring.



Episode 2 will be screened later....

Report and Pics Marian Lamb Club Development Officer.

This event was also supported by Cycling Ulster , Sport NI and the David McCall Cycling Foundation