BY LEO McMAHON
A WEST Cork cyclist who is undertaking a marathon cycle of over 3,000km in 35 days to raise funds for his sister, has blasted the behaviour of Irish motorists, claiming a cycling fatality is inevitable.
Bandon man Liam O’Reilly is half way to completing a mega marathon cycle of 3,325 km (2,066m) at the rate of 95k a day around the roads of West Cork.
He is raising funds for his sister, popular journalist Deirdre O’Reilly, who suffered a severe stroke just before Christmas and is currently in the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire.
However, Liam says Irish motorists are putting his own life at risk on a daily basis, and that he’s lucky to have survived a serious incident involving a lorry last week.
‘I had just started my daily cycle out of Bandon and was on the Dunmanway road when a lorry started to overtake,’ he recalled. But, he added, the truck was pulling a wide trailer, and it cut in on top of him. ‘I knew I had no choice except go into the ditch. I lost control and down I went with cuts to the leg, wrist and hands, but I got up, pulled the de-railer so that I could get back on the bike, and out of temper cycled to a chemist, got bandages, cleaned the wounds. I rode all the way to Murph’s at MTM Cycles in Clonakilty who sorted out the damage to my bike, while I had a coffee and then I completed my 95k.’ As is so often the case, said Liam, there was no need for the lorry driver to overtake. It was going around a bend governed by a continuous white line, and only had to wait ten seconds to complete the manoeuvre, without putting him in danger.
Liam is angry that the area is being promoted as a cycling haven for tourists, even more so now with the launch of the Wild Atlantic Way driving and cycling route, at a time when motorists are showing scant regard for cyclists. They do not allow for the space required or the vulnerability of riders, he added.
‘I’m now cycling 420m a week, and it’s happening all the time. Forty cars passed me this morning and only two indicated to overtake, which means that anyone travelling behind wouldn’t see me until the last second and have nowhere to go. I was lucky but hundreds are not and someone is going to be killed,’ warned Liam.
Speaking in the aftermath of the Giro d’Italia stages and the upcoming Rás, he said he heard similar stories from members of Bandon Cycling Club, who have been very helpful and accompanied him, of being clipped by passing vehicles whose drivers simply didn’t make allowance for them being on the road.
BY LEO McMAHON
Friends of the Deirdre O’Reilly Trust are urging everyone to sponsor her brother Liam O’Reilly in his quest to ride 95km every day for 35 days, at an average speed of 27kph ahead of the grand finale in Bandon on Sunday, May 25th.
Relaxing at home in Innishannon last Monday, Liam (53) confessed that at times, it could be mentally tiring and tinged with emotion, but knowing it was for his sister made it all worthwhile.
He showed me his silver necklace with Ogham writing inscribed ‘Dee and Liam, April 21st to May 25th’. ‘I put it on when I started and I’ll give it to her when I finish because of course, I haven’t been able to visit her since I began on April 21st.’
His daily 95km ride comprises 13.1km circuit times seven starting and finishing outside Kelleher’s DIY, Glaslyn Road and via Bandon Bridge, Dunmanway Road, Baxter’s Bridge, Gaggin, Clonakilty Road and Bandon town centre. When he finishes his 3,325k mega marathon, he will have cycled the equivalent of well over five journeys Malin to Mizen trips!
‘I deliberately set an average of 27kph to make people sit up and take notice. I usually start the day with porridge for breakfast, ride to Bandon, have a coffee in Warren Allen’s and get on the bike just after 9am. The daily cycle usually takes about three and a half hours and I would have one coffee stop at Chapel Steps or Mary Rose’s. I have Kinetica gels on the journey and have a recovery drink when I get home, have a sleep, sometimes a massage from my sister Sheila, and after a hot bath with Epsom salts, go to bed early.’
To date, Liam has shed 7kgs and admitted to feeling the strain in bad weather.
Liam bought his Time racing bike from Brian Lynch in Douglas Cycles ten years ago because it was his ‘only way of keeping fit’. A former athlete, he got a serious injury, which prevented him running or walking as an exercise.
A former Garda, Liam, who grew up in Convent Hill, Bandon, has a degree in PE and history from UCC and is conditioning coach to Killeagh GAA Club.
His sister Deirdre, a journalist with the Evening Echo in Cork, suffered a major stroke on December 22. ‘She’s making some progress but she can’t walk, talk (except the words ‘O my God, O my God, O my God Almighty!’), she can’t read or write and is paralysed down her right side. Yet despite all of that, she still has a beautiful smile and great sense of humour and is learning to use new technology such as Facetime and Skype. Her cognitive awareness has improved but because of the 25% brain damage, it’s like learning the same as a child’.
The challenge for Friends of Deirdre O’Reilly is to raise around €200,000 for long term care at home, and Liam’s personal target is to raise at least €15,000 to purchase a specialised wheelchair for Deirdre.
‘It’s a grueling challenge but I just think of Dee and the day after I finish my last lap on May 25th, it’s up to Dun Laoghaire to meet and hug her and tap her on the heart, just as she tapped mine when we last met.’
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