Women Thank David McCall Foundation and Belfast City Council


This year Cycling Ulster entered an all woman team in the Rás Dhun Na nGall. The team was a mixture of experienced riders such as Maryland's Heather Wilson, Bann Wheelers' Kay Hack and Ards CC rider Hannah Francis. Joining them were three women who wanted to 'give it a go' who have only taken up cycling this year. As part of Cycling Ulster's policy on increasing participation and promoting sport for women we felt that this was a good combination and would allow the new women a chance to sample a tough stage race. Their remit was to go to Donegal, enjoy it and finish the event.

When the David McCall Cycling Foundation heard of this they immediately came in with an offer to help to support the women. Heather Wilson said, "I was really pleased that the David McCall Foundation decided to support us. I was also pleased because Davy was my team mate in Maryland and was always encouraging me to push myself harder. The support by the Foundation made me determined to do Davy proud."

 

Cormac McCann of Belfast City Council was also generous in offering to help. Belfast City Council provided 50 bidons for water. When the riders reached Glengesh on Sunday, in temperatures reaching 30 degrees, it was not only the women who were glad of this help.

         


The women performed magnificently throughout the weekend, acting in a professional manner and supporting each other throughout. On Saturday's stage the organisers agreed a short handicap of five minutes for those women who wished to avail of it. Five riders opted for this. Heather Wilson remained with the pack. Hannah had the misfortune to slip a gear cable and could not get into the big ring but struggled on valiantly, delighted that when she did finish that she was not the last. In the same stage, Cathy Thompson did an extra loop around Ardara adding twenty miles to the race distance. Her only comment on finishing was that she needed to buy a decent Sat Nav for the next time and laughed and said, "Sure wasn't it good training anyway."

 


On Sunday all the women in the event except Heather and Sinead Jennings took the ten minute advantage (the time was added to their finishing times) in order to warm up. Marshalled en route by Orwell's experieinced rider, Orla Hendron, the women rode steadily and reached the start of the Glengesh climb before the main bunch drew close. The first riders over the top came from this group of women.

 

Heather Wilson kept pace with the men and finished the stage in the break ahead of the bunch. All the women in the event finished with not a single dropout. The David McCall Cycling Ulster squad did us all proud not only by finishing but by their general attitude each day - no complaints, always smiling even when mishaps occurred and a very positive attitude to what was involved.

 

    

 

It is by allowing women to experience this level of competition that we can improve the standard of Women's racing in Ireland. The Ulster Women's League organised by Louise Fullerton and the leagues run by the National Women's Commisssion provide the opportunity for women to compete and motivate them to go further.

 

For those of you who queried the value of sending a women's team to Donegal perhaps some of the comments by the women themselves will make the situation clear. I hope they don't mind me quoting them.

                                          

 

Hello Marian and Tommy,
It's only today I can finally string a sentence together, I'm not sure the 8am start on Monday morning was the greatest idea! Thank you both so much for an inspirational weekend. It was a really fantastic experience, not only to complete, but to enable us to go ahead and race competively at further 3 day events. The experience gained was phenomenal and I'm sure I learned as much over the weekend as the 6 months previous! Kay was fantastic and her attitude and help were really appreciated. Without people with experience like yourselves that have that bit of vision and a positive attitude towards women's sport, it is always difficult to move on. I hope with the bit of experience gained and the great encouragement you both provided we will all do you proud over the next few years! With role models like Heather and the positive attitute from yourselves I'm sure there'll be a lot more women involved at a higher level in Cycling Ulster. It is sooooooo easy for people to sit back and critisize but it's a lot more difficult to put your head on the line and back something that hasn't been done.
It was a great crowd of girls that were away and great cameraderie, I already have a few more girls raring to go in Louise's league next year! Between a brilliantly run league and a great opportunity to take the next step all the tools are in place to start achieving

Thank you again
Orlagh Watters Harps CC

 

Dear Tommy and Marrian
I just wanted to thank you both for your support and confidence in backing the David McCall Cycling Ulster Womens' Team. Marians' support of the idea from the word go, and Tommy's confidence in us meant that we could not fail you.

Heather showed us all what a real quality rider she was, especially under pressure, whilst the rest of the girls dug deep and also showed that they had hidden reserves. I am sure this will give them the confidence to ride a few more 'B' races through the rest of the season. Thanks again to you both and the David McCall Foundation for backing us.

Kay Hack Bann Wheelers

 

Just to say a Big Thank you again for all your support and encouragement. It was really enjoyable and a great experience. Getting ready for next year!!

Kind regards

Tonya Moran Phoenix CC

 

I just wanted to re-iterate what Kay said - thank you so much to you and Tommy for all your great efforts in getting together a women's team for the weekend. We are clearly at very different levels but just to be able to get a team together is big progress from maybe a couple of years ago where you probably would have struggled to find 2 girls to make up a team! I know we may have damaged some men's egos by completing the event and some questioned why bother with a women's team when it's so hard but think of the promoting club who certainly seemed more than happy to accommodate us and the publicity for women's cycling. As one of the organisers said, if you don't have people down the bottom of GC you can't have anyone up at the top! (ie. you need the competitors to make it a competition!) Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I am a rival for Marcus (!!) but I think I probably enjoyed it
equally as much.

It will certainly make going up the Gap at the Wicklow 200 next weekend seem like a doddle!!

 

Tommy - I hope you aren't suffering too much back pain after pushing me up Glengesh - thanks for that!! Roll on next year. Thanks again to you both, your continuous encouragement and support all weekend was invaluable.

Hannah Francis Ards CC

 

Hey Guys,

Sorry its taken me so long to send this email, I decided to come back from Killybeggs twice!?!??

I just wanted to add my appreciation to everyone for the great weekend. It was an amazing experience to race with Heather and Kay (although racing 'with' is a bit of an exaggeration) and have the
support and encouragement from Hannah, Tonya and Orlagh. Memories about events like these are not simply made by the places you stay, routes you cycle and hills you climb but moreso by the people who
leave you with the feeling of enjoyment, sense of achievement and overwhelming support and encouragement....and that's how I'll remember the Ras.

Ironman UK will be a breeze for me now.........as long as I get the route right!!??!

Hope to see you all soon.

Cathy Thompson


While the comments were sent to myself and Tommy they are meant for all those in the Executive who gave full support to this venture. On behalf of the Executive I would also like to thank the David McCall Foundation and Belfast City Council for their help and support.

Marian Lamb