TWO Southsiders, who are organising a gruelling 620km charity cycling event from the northern tip of Ireland to the south, have been stunned by the reaction they received from amateur pedallers keen to take on the challenge.
Part-time cyclists Kevin Feeney from Rathmines and Neal Collins from Donnybrook, are staging the Malin to Mizen Head seven-day bike riding event from May 29 to June 4 to raise funds for Barnardos and GOAL.
Initially, they had planned to convince a few close friends to take part, but since they have gone public with the idea almost 100 people from all corners of Ireland – and even from as far afield as London and Edinburgh – have expressed their interest in signing up.
“It’s not just experienced cyclists who want to get involved,” said Neal. “People who haven’t cycled since their schooldays and others who don’t even own a bike have been in touch. It just goes to show the popularity of cycling at the moment, and the enthusiasm towards these types of challenges.”
The event has even caught the imagination of those at the top of the political and sporting fields, with Minister for Transport, Sport and Tourism, Leo Varadkar, and a number of Leinster rugby stars, including Jonathan Sexton and Kevin McLaughlin, giving the challenge their full backing and support.
The route will take the participants from Malin Head in Donegal, down along the west coast through Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Limerick, and Kerry, and finishing at Mizen Head in Cork. The cyclists will cover approximately 100km each day.
Sandymount-based 2Wheels Events has agreed to offer support, guidance and advice to all the participants, both before and during the event, and already they have been involved in ensuring the cycle is fully supported with a risk assessed route, a safety officer, mechanics, massage and first aid facilities, well-positioned sign-posts, and designated rest stops along the way.
Director of 2Wheels Events, Brian McDermott, said he was amazed by the interest and the calibre of cyclists who want to take on the challenge.
“We held a get together in Dublin recently and all kinds of people turned up, from those with €3,000 carbon fibre racers, to those with the old-fashioned ‘High Nelly’s’, complete with a basket on the front,” he said. “We may need to kit some people out in more suitable gear, but the enthusiasm is definitely there.”
The first training cycle has already taken place - a no-nonsense 30km spin from Sandymount out to Howth and back – and the organisers are busily preparing further training runs in the coming days and weeks.
For Kevin and Neal, it is an opportunity to give something back to two charities that are close to their hearts. Kevin has worked for GOAL in the past, and Neal has first-hand experience of the great help that Barnardos provides to children in need.
“Barnardos and GOAL are two great charities and the potential impact we can make on the lives of children in Ireland and in the developing world is what is driving us to make this cycle as successful as possible,” Neal added.
Minister Varadkar has also given the challenge his full support.
“It’s great to see so many people getting involved for these good causes,” he said. “The organisers have put together a really tremendous event with this Malin to Mizen cycle ride. It promises to be a lot of fun, and exciting as well. I’d like to wish everyone the best of luck.”
Leinster rugby back-row forward, Kevin McLaughlin, said he was delighted to be supporting the Head2Head Challenge: “This is a great event,” he said. “The funds being raised are going to two very worthy charities and attracting awareness for their cause. I understand the huge effort that all the participants are making to fundraise and in the cycle itself so I will be cheering them all the way from Malin to Mizen in May.”
Registration for the ‘Head2Head Challenge’ is now open and those interested in taking part can sign up at www.head2headchallenge.com, or they can email the team at head2head2012@ gmail.com.
A deposit of €80 is required to secure a booking and a further €320 is payable within four weeks of registration to cover transport, accommodation and other associated costs. Each participant is also encouraged to raise at least a further €400 for the charities.