With the 2014 Giro d'Italia, one of the world's largest annual sporting events beginning in Belfast and Dublin this month, cycling fever is at an all-time high in the country.
This Grand Tour, famously won by Ireland’s Stephen Roche in 1987 after crossing the race's finish line in Saint-Vincent in north-west Italy, will see the world’s best cyclists race 187k from Armagh to Dublin on May 11 and offers a fantastic opportunity to experience the carnival-like atmosphere of this sporting spectacle.
However, the day before 200 elite cyclists battle it out for the coveted pink jersey through the streets of Dundalk, Drogheda, Malahide and Clontarf and race with all their might to the finish line in Dublin’s Merrion Square, all budding female cyclists are being encouraged to take part in the One4all Women on Wheels, Ireland’s biggest women’s-only cycle on May 10.
‘I want to get out and support the city as it’s a great place to cycle and it’s time us girls gave the lads a run for their money in cycling terms’
It’s not about putting the head down and trailblazing the course for the female cycling enthusiasts but rather a fun and exciting 22k cycle that will ride the final leg of the Giro Cycle d’Italia route, the day before 200 of the world’s top professional cyclists grace the track.
Forget super cyclists and titans on two wheels, this is for women who want to have some light-hearted exercise on a saddle.
And TV3’s roving reporter Claire Solan, from the chat show Late Lunch Live, is one such lady.
“I decided to take part in the One4All Women on Wheels Giro Cycle as its Ireland's first ever female-only charity cycle and it’s an opportunity to cycle part of the Giro D'Italia route and be part of Ireland's Giro celebrations. I think it’s a great idea as it’s the first women-only charity cycle the country has ever had.
“Cycling is predominantly a male sport and in my experience it can be a little intimidating for us girls so it’s a great way to get more of us involved. I also am in training for the Ring of Kerry cycle so it’s kick-starting my training while raising money for a great cause.”
An active person by nature, the ginger beauty enjoys pushing the pedals after taking it up in 2012 when she ditched the rusty tyres lying in her shed and invested in a decent bike.
“I got myself a giant road bike on the Bike to Work scheme and promptly signed up for Paris2Nice which was 700k in six days, a super event that raises much needed funds for Special Olympics Ireland and many more Irish charities.
“I had no idea what was in store and when I cycled the Wicklow 100 and the Ring of Kerry (180k) in preparation for France, I nearly quit altogether. However, I've stuck with it and as cycling is low impact, my knees don't suffer as much as they would if I was running. It’s also a great way to see the world.”
Claire, who used to co-host 98FM's breakfast show with The Hit star Aidan Power but now does weekends, finds it a lot easier for her limbs to clock up the miles on the bike rather than running on the road.
“Running is something I've tried and tried again but as I have some tendonitis in my knees I can't get my distances up. Having done many spin classes, it's lovely to get out on the bike at the weekends and see the countryside. I've also looked into cycling holidays in Lanzarote and Majorca, so I'm a complete convert.”
With cycling on the up and pedalling in our capital city more accessible than ever, the manageable 22k race begins from Merrion Square, Dublin, at 8.30am on Saturday, May 10.
Avid cyclist Claire, who presents her show with co-hosts Lucy Kennedy and Martin King, sees this as an “enjoyable little jaunt out to Bull Island” rather than a morning of excruciating saddle soreness.
“This distance is a perfect way for me to get back into cycling as I don’t cycle over the winter months and it’s also great for those just starting out on a bike.”
As the race is in partnership with Oxfam Ireland, this made Claire, who used to present Tallafornia: The After Party on TV3, want to get involved more.
“As cycling is my sport, I wanted to |raise money for Oxfam Ireland. Oxfam is a charity I have always admired and contributed to in the past but I was keen to get involved in this project as breaking the cycle of poverty begins with women. Also, as a Dubliner, I want to get out and support the city as it’s a great place to cycle and it’s time us girls gave the lads a run for their money in cycling terms.”
Heather Boyle, PRO and programmes co-ordinator at Cycling Ireland, is keen to stress that this is a participation event, so it doesn't matter what one’s level or experience is on the bike, the most important thing is that you enjoy yourself.
With a real push taking place in Ireland to close the gender gap in sport in general, Oxfam and One4All came up with the idea to make it a women's only event.
‘This cycle is a great opportunity for women to take part in a women's-only cycle. While the number of women cycling has more than quadrupled over the past number of years, the percentage of female members in Cycling Ireland still sits at 17pc.
“When women look at cycling clubs and cycling groups and they don't see too many women, they are less likely to join. Having women-only cycles like the One4All Women on Wheels is a really great opportunity to get all those women together on their bikes, and celebrate cycling on the eve of Global Women's Cycling Day which takes place on May 11.”
So get the Lycra cycle shorts on ladies, put your foot on the pedal and see you at the starting line.
The One4all Women on Wheels Giro Cycle with Oxfam, Ireland’s first women-only cycle for charity, takes place in Dublin on Saturday, May 10. Starting and finishing in Merrion Square, the fun cycle runs 22k along the route of the final leg of the official Giro d’Italia 2014. Details at http://one4allwomenonwheels.com.
Claire Solan's personal cycling tips
1 Wear a helmet and something luminous, you can never be too safe on the roads.
2 I try and get out early at the weekends to get some practice as there is less traffic and so less stress when you are starting out.
3 For long cycles, you can't beat the padded shorts because they aren't making saddles very comfortable these days. Or buy a padded saddle to put over your own – definitely worth considering if you'll be putting in the miles!
4 If you don't want to get your pins out then wear them over some leggings, your tush will thank you.
5 And finally make sure to bring some sustenance, my gang of girls find jellies are good or flapjacks are great too.
Health & Living