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Introducing Alison Murphy - BMX Ireland

18/09/2014
Introducing Alison Murphy - BMX Ireland
Alison Murphy is one of the drivers behind BMX Ireland, both being the Leinster Rep on the Commission and a BMX Commisssaire. 

Find out a bit more about one of cycling's valuable volunteers here: 

Q. How did you get involved with cycling? 

Alison

My first involvement in cycling would have been about age 8 when I went to watch my eldest brother Linus compete in road races. I used to love it, very colourful and exciting and it was a great day out for the family. A couple of years later my brother Simon started BMX Racing and I soon followed - more fun to compete than spectate, and  for me, a bit more of an adrenaline rush than road. All three of us won an All Ireland title in the same year (1984) Linus in road and Simon and I in BMX, an accomplishment that I believe is unbeaten in Irish Cycling but I’m open to be contradicted on that one! In the following years I collected a few more All Ireland titles along with a few National Championship and Leinster Championship titles and in 1986 I represented Ireland at the World Championships in the UK. I took a break from competing for 25 years during which time I kept in touch with the cycling world by working as a volunteer on numerous Nissan Classics, Leeds Classics, Kelloggs Tours of Britain and Le Tour en Angleterre in 1994. I then got a chance to see what life is really like on a grand tour when I worked for the Tour de France for a year when it came to Ireland in 1998. That was a fantastic experience, people liken it to a travelling circus but it’s more like moving a whole town every day. The Tour has its own bank and its own post office! The best part was when I got to spend a day in a team car on one of the stages. In recent years I qualified as a Sports Therapist and have worked as s Soigneur on the Rás and a few other stage races around Ireland.

Q. Tell us about the BMX Commission and why it was established.

Alison


We have been after a BMX commission since 2009, BMX Ireland took over from the National BMX Association and the Irish BMX Federation whilst aligning with Cycling Ireland to run BMX races in Ireland. I have served as BMX Representative on the Off Road Commission since 2011 but to be honest it wasn’t a great fit and it takes a lot more than one person on a Commission to run the sport. Being granted Commission status reflects all the hard work and the skills and competencies of those BMX Ireland volunteers who have made the sport so successful. We’re very lucky to have a dedicated group of people, some on the Commission, some working quietly in the background who each bring their own unique set of skills to the table. Having our own Commission should make it more efficient to run BMX racing.



Q. How big is BMX in Ireland?

Alison


Potentially BMX racing could be huge in Ireland. We currently have about 200 BMX racers in the country which is amazing considering we are operating with only two tracks, both of which are in the same region. With the introduction of new tracks in different regions our numbers will increase exponentially. We are just about to open a new International level track in Lucan, Co. Dublin. Belfast have a new facility under construction which is due to open during the summer and by early 2015 plans for new tracks in Marley Park, Dublin, as well as Cork and Newry should come to fruition. I believe that we could be looking at 400+ riders at National level races in the near future. At one point Ratoath had 720 members and was the biggest cycling Club in Ireland by a factor of 3. Ratoath BMX Club was bigger than the local soccer club and the GAA club and for a period it was the biggest BMX Club in Europe!


With some strategic backing from governments, North and South, from local councils, the various Sports Councils and of course from Cycling Ireland our sport will really take off. BMX is the future. The investment required by parents and riders to get involved in BMX racing is also minimal when compared to other sports or even other cycling disciplines, you could build an Olympic level bike for less than €2000, a fraction of the cost of an average MTB but for a rider starting out you could get a decent enough race bike for about €200-€300 .


Q. What plans are in the pipelines?

Alison

More tracks, more riders, more clubs, more diversity and more BMX racers. We’ve recently  had a strategy meeting about where we would like to see the sport go and what steps we need to take to get it there, sort of a 5 year plan if you like.

Q. What are BMX's biggest obstacles in Ireland?

Alison


Tracks and the lack of them! Lack of funding, lack of interest from local councils who are unwilling to take risks, except for Wexford, Fingal, Cork, Belfast, Lisburn, Newry and Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown who are all leading the way. Every town in Ireland should have a BMX track of some description. We are adding more tracks to our arsenal as mentioned above but we need more, lots more. We are way behind the curve when compared to other European countries. The UK has hundreds of tracks while France has thousands, both have BMX on the curriculum in some schools. We need the Irish Governments and local councils to get more involved and realise the small cost verses the huge reward.

What Ireland needs to develop world class athletes, with Olympic potential, is a Supercross style track. This is the type of track for Elite level riders and what the Olympic finals are held on. At a basic level, the difference between a Supercross track and a normal BMX track is scale, everything is bigger and more extreme, from 8m high start hills to 13m gaps in the jumps.

Ireland’s chances of being successful at this level is massive when compared to other Olympic sports, there are only about 400 Elite level riders in the world at present, although this number is growing all the time due to construction of Supercross tracks around the globe. If you compare that 400 to maybe thousands of elite level marathon runners it's clear to see we should hitch our Olympic dreams to a sport like BMX. We already have the talent, we need the facilities.


Q. Some people think BMX is a younger person's sport. Do you agree? 

Alison


Definitely not. It is the best starting point for any cyclist, e.g. Shanaze Reade, Jamie Staff , Sir Chris Hoy, Slash from Guns and Roses..... BMX racing has something for everyone. We have riders as young as 4 and as old as 46 racing at National level in Ireland. In 2013 our 30+ class was consistently the largest group. People see kids cruising around the streets on these little 20" bikes and just assume it's only for children but these bikes, while they may look the same, are specifically designed to match riders heights, sizes range from Micro Mini to Pro XXL. It's very important to be on the correct size bike. The great thing about BMX racing is that it's a family sport. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters are all racing the same track and are all passionate about it.

Some people don't realise that BMX racing is also now a fully fledged Olympic sport. At the London games in 2012 it was widely hailed as the most exciting event, just ask David Beckham. At this level the men and women are world class athletes, they put in the same amount of training and sacrifice as all the other Olympic hopefuls and truly put their bodies on the line, their injury list does not stop at a torn hamstring or a twisted ankle.

Ireland is lucky to have our very own World Champion at the moment. Kelvin Batey, 32, won the Masters category at the 2013 World Championships in New Zealand. Kelvin is now in training to defend his title in Holland during July this year before he turns his sights on 2016 Olympic qualification.



Q. What about your own BMX riding?

Alison

Yes I started racing age 10 and had the distinction of being the only girl in Ireland sponsored by a factory team (Raleigh). I stopped age 15 when the sport died due to lack of volunteers, lack of recognition or support from the governing body and the usual politics that goes with every voluntary organisation in Ireland! I didn’t want to stop and was gutted when there were no more races being held. I’m delighted to be back racing again after decades off the bike and have competed at National level here and in the UK over the last few years. I’m not planning on retiring any time soon! I read somewhere recently there’s a 65 year old Australian woman who still races in the challenge classes at the World Championships - I think I’ll make her my role model! My favourite event would probably be my first All Ireland win and the big silver cup that went with it. I haven’t managed to compete in the recent All Irelands as the my dad passed away the day before the first one in 2012 and then we had his anniversary mass and a family gathering the day of the 2013 event. He was always a big supporter of mine and he and my mum spent years ferrying myself and my brothers around the country to compete at various events. Sunday lunch in our house got postponed for years. So the BMX All Ireland Senior Ladies title that had been mine since 1986 has now been passed on to 15 year old Katie O’Neill. She’s a force to be reckoned with – watch this space! 


Q. What's the best way for someone to try BMX?

Alison


Both clubs, Ratoath BMX and DC BMX have club bikes and helmets for beginners to borrow and try out and there’ll be no shortage of riders who’d be happy to lend their bike so someone new can have a go. The new club opening soon in Lucan will be the same and in Mayo Western Lakes have a BMX track in Ballinrobe where they do training sessions for beginners. For the tinies, we have a number of balance bikes that will be available at the National Series races so the little ones can try it out. Contact the clubs via their websites or send an email to WWW.BMXIRELAND.IE

info@bmxireland.ie

and we’ll point you in the right direction. For more information check out



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