DONEGAL CYCLING

Terry McIntyre's exploits an inspiration to many to take up cycling

Peter Campbell

Reporter:

Peter Campbell

Terry McIntyre's exploits an inspiration to many to take up cycling

If you're out on the roads of Donegal on a Sunday morning, chances are you will encounter groups of cyclists out for their weekly run. Cycling (along with triathlons and 5ks) would seem to be the new norm when it comes to healthy exercise.

Back in the day, the bicycle was a means of transport and people of all ages were getting exercise without even knowing that they were engaged in it.

That was the case of one Terry McIntyre of Ballyshannon, who used the bicycle as a means of transport when he worked in Dublin as a young man.

Now in his early 70s, he is back on the bicycle as a means of keeping fit and in doing so has got to see parts of Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim that he might never have seen.

It is a form of leisure, but anyone who witnessed the 'Round the Houses' cycle race in Ballyshannon on Thursday last might argue that climbing the Main Street in Ballyshannon five or six times within an hour is a little more than leisure.

The event was organised by the Donegal Bay Cycling Club, of which Terry McIntyre is one of a 100 or so members. This was the fifth year of the 'Round the Houses' event which takes cyclists on a circuit of the town, via the by-pass and it almost coincides with Terry's return to cycling, which was about six years ago.

An accountant by profession, he is fast becoming something of a folk hero, as he climbs that Main Street in this annual event. He is also a great advertisement for the sport, showing that you don't have to be a super hero to take part.

"I was never involved much in cycling until now. I would have cycled when I was young in Dublin, but that was out of necessity, to get to work.

"Swimming would have been my sport. I would have played a bit of Gaelic, but I wasn't much good," says Terry.

Asked about why cycling seems to have taken off as a sport of leisure, he says: "It's hard to know why it has taken off. People like it and I suppose it suits all ages."

As a member of Donegal Bay Cycling Club, he explains that the club would meet every Sunday morning. "For three Sundays, we meet in Donegal Town and on the fourth, we meet in Ballyshannon. A leader is appointed each week and they decide the route, which is always around 50/60k in length. The leader also makes sure that nobody falls by the wayside or helps out if someone gets a puncture. Nobody is left behind," said Terry.

"The cyclists are also in three different groups, according to our abilities. Then we always stop somewhere along the way for a coffee and it becomes a great social occasion also," said Terry, who said the Ballyshannon route can take in a tour of Lough Melvin.

Most of the cyclists would also do a number of spins during the week and when I was talking to Terry McIntyre on Monday evening, he said: "I will probably go for a spin this evening, maybe 25-30k."

That's close on 20 miles.

"The club also organise an event most Thursday evenings during the summer. That could be a Time Trial or a Hill Climb and the members come out in big numbers to support it, whether that be as cyclists or as marshals.

"They also organise a Spring Sportive (sponsored by Magees) each year which is very popular. It takes cyclists on a tour of south west Donegal and is very demanding," said Terry, who also said that some of the members were into Mountain Biking.

POPULAR

In relation to the 'Round the Houses' event in Ballyshannon, Terry says this has become popular because it is the one event that attracts spectators. "There is always great fun afterwards maybe we could advertise it a bit better."

Terry says that it helps that Ballyshannon has great facilities, especially with the Lakeside Centre, which is host to the event and where competitors can warm up and shower afterwards. "Thanks must be expressed to Erne Enterprise for making the facilities available.

"There is also great competition for those with the talent and we had 19-year-old Caolem McCarter winning it this year. To see those top cyclists sprinting up the Main Street is a great spectacle. Young McCarter comes from a great cycling family with his uncles Paul and Darragh taking part in national events. We also have young Oisin Doherty in the club and there are a big number of good young cyclists around the county.

"The event also gets great support from the other clubs in Donegal and from Enniskillen and Omagh. This year we had four girls taking part and that is very encouraging also," says Terry.

He also says that there is a great amount of inter-action between the Cycling Club and the local Triathlon Club with many involved in both.

The Donegal Bay Club are holding an Open Time Trial this Saturday with the Lakeside as the base and it will use the great facility of the Ballyshannon-Bundoran by-pass.

It is just one of a host of events which are organised on a weekly basis. But alongside that, cyclists are taking to the road in droves, many not involved with any club, just to get rid of the cobwebs, clear the head and get some exercise.

Terry McIntyre is the perfect example of that. He has had one incident on the bike, where a pothole got in the way of a group of cyclists. "Josie Boyle was in front of me but he didn't get a warning shout from others and came down and I went out over the top of him. I ended up in casualty, but thankfully it wasn't too bad," smiles Terry.

Which brings us around to the aforementioned Josie, who is in the same age category and is still on the bike. Josie limits his role in the 'Round the Houses' event to one of marshal, but many believe that he could challenge any of those in the 30 and 40 year category.

"Josie doesn't like to take part in competition because he couldn't help himself but really compete," says Terry.

Terry takes part just for the fun and in doing so is an inspiration to many to take up the sport, no matter what their age.