Cyclists gear up for charity trek

A group of men are taking on a mammoth cycling journey across Europe to raise funds for a Cork Down Syndrome group. EMMA CONNOLLY finds out what motivates them
Cyclists gear up for charity trek
Gearoid Beamish, Colin Murphy (fitness instructor) and Andrew Bradley promoting their family fundraising beach work out on Inchydoney on July 23.

MAMILs — the acronym stands for ‘Middle-Aged Men In Lycra’, in case you didn’t know — are a common sight these days on our highways and byways.

But many us would throw in an extra ‘M’ for Mad in relation to a group of Cork cyclists getting ready to take on an unprecedented cycling challenge.

Calling themselves Clon Velo, the group of four — three from Clonakilty and one from Kinsale — are preparing to cycle the length of France down to Nice.

So far, so scenic, you might think.

But that’s just the start of it — they will then compete in the hardest amateur cycle race in the world: the Haute Route Alps, which goes from Nice to Geneva.

We’ll do the maths for you — the first leg works out as 13,000 kilometres over 10 days — or 130 kilometres a day — followed by three days for rest and bike repair, before powering straight into the gruesome seven-day race, which will see them in the saddle for up to 10 hours a day, covering 900 kilometres.

Their motivation?

To raise €25,000 for Down Syndrome Cork, primarily for speech and language therapies.

They start on August 5 and all in all it will take them one month — but these guys have been focussed on the task at hand since the start of the year and are literally sleeping, working and cycling... and little else.

The quartet are putting in around 1,200km a month in training and are holding a fund-raising family work-out session at Inchydoney Beach this weekend.

Andrew Bradley, whose idea it was, is known for taking on a challenge, having raised €25,000 for Down Syndrome Ireland back in 2014 by kayaking the length of the River Shannon with a friend.

An avid climber, the photographer only turned to cycling last November as a safer pursuit, after a member of his team died during a technical climb in the Himalayas.

“Ours is a hard, physical effort but for the people at Down Syndrome Cork there is a far bigger effort and on a daily basis,” he said, “when you see how motivated they are, what we’re doing pales into insignificance.”

The rest of the team comprises Gearoid Beamish, a mechanic; Pat Mulcahy, who has an industrial insulation business in Cork city, and Ian Murphy, a camera man from Kinsale, but living in Dubai.

Andrew, Gearoid and Ian will complete both legs of their challenge while, due to work commitments, Pat will participate in the race only.

Mechanic Gearoid heard about the challenge through his customer Andrew and said he was 150% up for the challenge.

“One of our first cycles out was to the Down Syndrome centre in Cork and that’s what drives us and keeps us going,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pat, whose daughter Chloe has Down Syndrome, and who runs his own city based business, Secon Construction Services Limited, is taking it all in his stride.

“I do a lot of mad stuff,” he said, modestly admitting to completing an Iron man and other long distance and extreme events.

“Bring it on,” said the co-founder of West Cork’s Underwater Search and Rescue unit.

Down Syndrome Cork, based in Togher, don’t receive any government funding and Karen O’Sullivan, coordinator of its services, described the Clon Velo team’s efforts as “phenomenal”.

The organisation are currently working with 400 families, and speech and language services are their single biggest cost

Karen explains that DS Cork has been providing speech and language supports for the past 10 years and this was their main motivation for setting up the parent-run voluntary organisation.

The centre, which has one full time speech therapist and three part time, costs €250,000 a year to run and while they do charge for their services, it’s at greatly subsidised prices.

“It’s phenomenal to know that the guys are out there advocating for us and creating awareness,” added Karen, “getting the profile out there and showing the ability of our children.

“That €25,000 will go a long way and we’ll spend it wisely and carefully. We’ll plough it into our children and speech therapy — our single biggest expense.”

The mother to 14-year-old Liam, who has Down syndrome, Karen said speech was the single biggest obstacle many of their services users encountered and when mastered, she said, doors get opened to them in a different way.

As well as Togher, they offer clinics in Youghal, Midleton and Skibbereen.

Clon Velo are holding a fund-raising family workout session to music on Inchydoney beach on Sunday, July 23, at 10am with Colin Murphy from Properly Built.

Pay on the morning, €10 per adult; €5 for 13 to 17 year olds and kids under 12 are free.

To donate or to follow the lads progress, see Clon Velo on Facebook.

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