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Club spotlight: Galway Bay CC flying the flag for cycling in Connacht’s only city

Club spotlight: Galway Bay CC flying the flag for cycling in Connacht’s only city

Since being established back in the nineties, Galway Bay CC has developed into one of biggest and best clubs in the entire province of Connacht. The club has flourished in recent years having capitalised on the substantial catchment area that Galway City and its environs provide. Indeed club chairman Mick Ruane believes that cycling in general is on an upward trajectory in the city that lies on the River Corrib “it’s growing massively. There’s more and more people cycling be it leisure cycling, commuting, racing and there’s just a huge growing interest in it”.

Galway Bay Cycling Club initially started life following an amalgamation of a couple of local clubs: Thermo King Racing and Corrib Wheelers. “They were sort of folding” says Ruane “so there was a meeting called about setting up a new club and out of that came Galway Bay Cycling Club”. Despite some of the struggles of their predecessors, Galway Bay have managed to ensure that cycling has not only survived, but thrived in a city where there are a number of other sports competing for people’s attention and time.

The club currently has roughly 150 members and caters for a wide variety of cyclists “
we have a mixture of everything so about half our cyclists would be leisure cyclists and the other half would be racing of different types, either club, league racing, youths, women, and then open racing cyclists. It’s predominantly a road club, but a lot of our members would also do mountain biking and then some track” explains Ruane.

As well as catering for different skill levels and disciplines, the club also gives people of all different ages the chance to enjoy cycling. Some of their oldest leisure members are over the age of 70 whilst on the other end the club has an extremely strong youth setup, which had enjoyed success on a national level. Most notable amongst these triumphs have been the successes of junior Shane Higgins, who got the opportunity to compete for Ireland at the European Junior Track Championships in Portugal this year. He attained two impressive results at these championships placing ninth in the team pursuit and 14th in the scratch race, a discipline in which he is national champion. Aside from Higgins, the rest of the youth branch of the club is also very active as Ruane mentions “they would partake in races like the Junior tour, the Errigal Youth tour or the National Championships, and all the major races for youth and junior cyclists”.

Ruane concedes that it can be a challenge making sure the club provides something for everyone and as he says “it’s all a balancing act”. Like most clubs, their Sunday spins are geared towards leisure riders, while the racers would usually train separately in small groups. There are two types of Sunday rides the club does, the longer distance cycles are generally between 100 and 120 kilometres, whilst the shorter intermediate routes range from 60 to 80km.

Ruane is quick to point out that these shorter cycles have been essential in helping to increase female numbers, which is one of the club’s main aims at present “we’ve ran three Bike for Life courses for women in the last year. About 40 women cyclists have gone through those three courses and that has really increased our female participation. Now for the first time in the history of the club, we have an active, vibrant and growing women’s section of the club” he added.

Galway isn’t is in short supply of scenic routes that Galway Bay CC have gotten full use out of. One of the most common routes that members take advantage of is the Lough Corrib Spin. It’s unsurprising that this spin is so popular when the stunning surroundings that the cyclists get to experience on these spins are taken into account. However, as Ruane mentions the club’s routes are not just limited to the confines of their home county, with other parts of the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ being explored “there’s a lot of beautiful cycles down around Clare too, through the Burren or through the Slieve Aughty mountains. If you want flatter routes you can go east Galway or Mayo up towards Balinrobe.

Of course within the city itself, the roads can at times be quite dangerous for cycling and Ruane feels that a greater effort is required to make cycling safer and more accessible in the city, “the city centre isn’t too bad because the traffic is slow enough, but a lot of the ring roads around Galway are dangerous for cyclists, because of cars driving too fast squeezing by not giving traffic enough room. It would be great to have better bike lanes separating cyclists from traffic”.

Galway Bay is also a club that runs plenty of events throughout the year, whether they be competitive or leisure. Amongst these events is their highly regarded summer league which draws riders from far and wide to participate “we run upwards of twenty league races a year, and we would get big numbers in those races upwards of 70 riders in them. Not just from our club but from other clubs as well, some would come from Mayo, Clare and from other clubs in Galway” explains Ruane. The club also run a couple leisure sportives namely the On Your Bike cycle in January and the Western Lakes Atlantic challenge.

This year the club also had the honour of hosting another major event, the National Hill Climb Championship. The race director for the championships was Ruane’s clubmate Roan Campbell, and a climb in Loughrea known colloquially as ‘the scalp’ was where all the action took place. Having been satisfied with how the championships went Ruane would like to see the club bring more National events out west in the future “yeah, we would be interested in running other championships. We run a criterium every year in Galway, the Galway City Crit, it’s not Connacht’s turn to run the Crit (National Criterium Championships) next year, but we would hope when it’s Connacht’s turn again that we will get to run it”.

Perhaps the most well-known member of Galway Bay CC is Paralympic and multi World champion Eoghan Clifford. Clifford was club secretary for a period and he has been and continues to be a fantastic servant for the club as Ruane describes “Eoghan is one of the most generous people in the club… I remember once contacting him and him sitting in his hotel room doing secretarial work while preparing for his World Championships, which were a few days later. He’s just a really great fella”.

With cycling currently booming in the city of the tribes, Galway Bay Cycling Club want to “keep building” in the words of Mick Ruane. The key areas they want to focus on is ensuring the youth side of the club keeps prospering, and also that the number of women club members continues to grow “hopefully in a few years we have equal numbers of men and women in our club” says Ruane thinking ahead. Galway Bay CC have already come a long way in their relatively short lifetime, and no doubt they will keep striving forward into the future.

Written by Graham Gillespie

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