Sunday 28 December 2014

A crash and a wake-up call for Irish cycling

Breifne Earley in Hungary

Given that it is almost 30,000k in the saddle, I suppose it was a little naive to expect not to crash at some point during my expedition.

It was always going to be a case of when and where, rather than if it would happen. Well, I finally discovered, first hand, that cycling helmets are worth the money.

Crossing train tracks on a cycling path in Hungary, my front wheel found a narrow crevice in the path. Time seemed to slow down as I was catapulted into the air. My thighs hammered off the handlebars and my head started on a trajectory towards the pavement.

The fact that my feet were clipped into the pedals turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, it stopped me from flying forwards and skidding along the ground. I ended up rotating around the front wheel, with my head hitting the ground – or, more specifically, my helmet, which broke my fall.

The curse aspect of the clipped-in pedals was that the bike was still attached to my feet and it needed to come with me. It seemed to decide that I provided the softest landing spot and duly ended up on top of me. I think I was more happy about the light-weight bike at that moment than on any of the hills so far.

I got to my feet pretty gingerly and shook myself out, making sure nothing was broken.

To be fair it's been the only dark spot of the entire trip so far. Since last week's column, which was written in Salzburg, I've been through Austria, Slovakia and into Hungary, hugging the Danube for the majority of the journey.

The EuroVelo 6 route runs for 2,200 miles through 10 countries, from the west coast of France right through to the mouth of the Danube at the Black Sea. I've been following it from Linz in Austria through Vienna, Bratislava and partly through Hungary before heading towards Croatia and Serbia

The route is a shining example of what is possible and studies have shown that the French portion of the route brings more than €15.3m into the local economy. In Austria, €9.9m finds its way from the route into its national kitty.

What stunned me most when researching the subject was that two of the 14 EuroVelo routes run through Ireland. It was the first I'd heard of it, which is surprising considering I've cycled through every county on the island.

I wasn't aware of any information on the two routes at home and certainly not like in other countries I've visited.

Interest in cycling is growing rapidly in Ireland. This is shown by Cycling Ireland having a four-fold growth in membership in the past five years; Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche winning stages in the Tour de France and Vuelta a España; Martyn Irvine winning the World Championship; a green light for a new velodrome; and the success of the Dublin Bikes and the Bike to Work schemes.

We need to ensure the success and profile we've enjoyed in competitive cycling translates to a more active population and a growing number of tourists coming to these shores to enjoy a cycling tour with proper facilities.

Breifne is taking part in the World Cycle Race. See www.pedalthe planet.tv

Irish Independent

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