Twenty-five London-Irish cyclists are to pedal an arduous 290 kilometre east to west route across Ireland – in just three days – in order to raise funds for British and Irish heart charities.
Members of Our Lady and St George Eire (OLSGEire), led by Noel Sainsbury, will ride from Bray to Sligo on 28-30 May. The majority of the group are from north London – Enfield and Palmers Green in particular – and are first and second generation Irish.
The group has organised an annual bike ride since it was set-up 15 years ago and has raised over £500,000 for various charities. In total, more than 400 participants have travelled across Ireland, the UK and as far as Africa since the inaugural ride along the English coast for brain charity, Headway.
Journeys through Connemara and to Giant’s Causeway were tough on both body and mind but Noel admits that this will be the group’s toughest feat yet. “It’s going to be a big challenge, the biggest one we’ve done,” he said.
“We’ll be covering a lot of Ireland, passing through ten counties or so, and it’s going to be tough on everyone.
“We’ve all got a lot of aches but we’ve still needed to do plenty of extra training to get up to the fitness levels required.
“We’re now training twice, sometimes three times a week, and the whole group recently passed the 30 mile mark.”
Noel added that although completing the challenges brought great satisfaction, their main purpose is raising money for charity and having a laugh along the way.
He explained: “The whole concept is about raising money for a good cause, making new friends and getting healthy – what’s not to love about that?
“What I enjoy the most is the fact that everyone gets involved – we’re expecting to encounter lots of cyclists along this route and will be in touch with groups at both ends in Bray and Sligo.”
Getting fit is one of the main reasons for choosing such a challenge. Noel suffered four heart attacks last year, spending five months in various hospitals, and he is working his way back to full fitness.
Several of the 25 taking part also have a history of heart problems, while one member has lost four stone during his training. And while fitness and the beautiful scenery they encounter are important – Noel made particular reference to the beautiful landscapes around Sligo – they are superseded by the effect the money they raise will have on those who need it.
“The reason we’re doing it for heart charities isn’t actually because of our group’s history with heart problems; that’s entirely coincidental,” Noel said.
“My cousin’s daughter was born with half a heart and, as such, was given a very low life expectancy.
“She’s 12 years old now and we settled on raising money in her name – people in similar situations need this support.”
The route will begin in Bray before taking the cyclists through Enniskerry to Mullingar and then Johnstown Bridge.
The second day will see them head to Arvagh in Cavan, a sleepy village made famous as the meeting point for the provinces of Ulster, Leinster and Connacht. Finally they will make their way to Sligo, passing through Carrigallen and Drumshanbo and alongside the waters of Lough Allen before finishing at the Riverside Hotel.