'After every cycle I visit Tonya's grave' - Woman who lost sister in tragic road accident to cycle 360km in her memory
A grieving sister has embarked on a gruelling training regime to take part in a 360km race in memory of her sibling, who tragically died in a road accident in February.
Ciara McEvoy's sister Tonya (34) died instantly when she was knocked off her bike by a passing motorist while out with her cycle club the Orwell Wheelers in Kildare.
The Rathfarnham sisters were incredibly close and Ciara (32) is now training to take Tonya's place in an intense charity cycle, which her sister signed up to before her tragic death.
Speaking to Independent.ie Ciara said: "There was only a year and nine months between us and we were the best of friends. I have two brothers as well, but the bond between two girls is special and one that will never be replaced.
"She died instantly, which in a way was a comfort because at least she didn't suffer. She died doing what she loved; she was happy and her last moments on her bike were care free," she said.
Although Tonya's life passion was cycling, Ciara never held much interest in the sport but said she was inspired to take her sister's place in 'The Big Loop' cycle in July because it meant so much to her.
In 2016, Tonya completed the challenge raising vital funds for Wexford Friends of Crumlin Children's Hospital, a group which lends support to critically-ill Irish children.
"I just want to do it for Tonya. Tonya worked in a creche and was always so mad about kids. She decided to do this race because the funds are so transparent, they go directly to children in need and that is lovely.
"I'm doing this race to have a bit of closure. When I pull that bike out of my shed and go for a cycle, I just feel her in the air."
The race takes place over three days in July and Ciara has been training every Sunday in the hope that she'll be able to complete the challenge in Tonya's memory.
"I'm really pushing myself because I just want to be able to do this for her. I know it would have made her proud.
"I feel terrible for my training partner Adrian. I just rant, cry and shout at him the whole time, but I wouldn't be able for it without him. We started out doing 15km a day, but now we're working up towards 100km.
It has been three months since Ciara lost her 'best friend', and the Dublin Airport security worker said she has good days and bad.
"I'm really trying my hardest and of course I'm still grieving. It is all so fresh. After every cycle I go up to Tonya's grave, it helps me feel close to her and it's just something I like to do."
Although determined to finish the challenge in Tonya's honour, Ciara believes it will be her one and only cycle challenge and admitted her family is wary.
"I have made a promise to my parents that this will be my only race. They've lost a daughter on the roads and I can understand that fear that they'd lose another. At the end of the day it was Tonya's passion, not mine but I'm happy to do this race in her place.
"There have been times where I have lost energy and faith but my dad has always said never say you can't do something and my training partner has been fantastic."
Tonya was the first cyclist killed on Irish roads in 2017, but Ciara said the rising number of cyclist tragedy is alarming and something that needs to be tackled.
"I sometimes wonder, on a Sunday afternoon, what are people rushing for? We were out cycling recently, and this man in a Porsche pulled up along side us to shout about cyclists not having respect for the road. It was ridiculous.
"Tonya was the first cyclist killed on Irish roads in 2017, and now eight families have lost loved ones. In 2016, six cyclists died so it is something that needs to be addressed."
To donate to Ciara's GoFundMe page visit: www.gofundme.com