Valerie Considine

Discipline: Road, Volunteer,
Gender: Female
Date of Birth:
Born: Co. Clare
Lives: Dublin
Team: Usher Irish Road Club

Valerie ConsidineValerie Considine has for years been one of the most important people in women’s cycling in Ireland. Valerie was the chair of the women’s commission for several years, and is also currently the Race Director of the Rás na mBan, having been involved in Ireland’s only international women’s stage race since the beginning. Valerie spoke to us about her work in Irish women’s cycling.

Few people have done more to advance women’s cycling in Ireland than Valerie Considine. A prominent member of the women’s commission for 14 years and Race Director of Ireland’s premier women’s race the Rás na mBan, Considine has devoted herself to achieving progress and equality for women in the sport.

Valerie took up cycling around 2001 racing with the Irish Road Club and soon found herself becoming involved in the organisational side of the sport “I suppose when I got into racing it just needed a bit of a structure, it needed a women’s commission. PJ Nolan was the president of Cycling Ireland at the time and he proposed that those that were interested in progressing women’s cycling all come together to a meeting, which we did”.

Valerie was initially the treasurer of this commission, but after a little while she soon became the chair, remaining in that position until November 2016. She is highly complementary of the people who were around her in the early days of the commission “we had a really good crew, we had Orla Hendron, Heather Boyle, Richie and Jenny McCauley and Róisín Kennedy, and we worked closely with Paddy Doran. The whole point of the women’s commission at that time was to establish a women’s racing scene, so we set up beginner leagues, as many as we could. We set up the national league, and we started taking development squads to races in Belgium and the UK, because we wanted to get more women into racing so we could establish a better scene”.

One of the key aims of the commission was to make the pathway to success for future women cyclists easier “We wanted more women racing. We wanted more women riding the national championships. We wanted more women’s road national squads going away. If you put a structure in place, like a development structure, so there was a pathway, so that when a woman came in and she was serious about the sport, there would be a clear pathway for her to progress through… there was only so much that we could do as a group of volunteers as well. We were trying to get that balance right to ensure more equality in the sport.”

Valerie is happy with progress she made while on the commission, but she is somewhat worried that women’s cycling may be stagnating, with the average age of competitors rising “
I think in the one (National Championships) I rode in 2016,  there were 35 riders, I think nearly 20 of them were vets and over 35” she explains. She also hopes to see an Irish women’s road program to go along with the track program that is currently in place.

Despite her no longer being involved in the women’s commission, Considine still plays a significant role in Irish women’s cycling through being the Race Director of the Rás na mBan. The Rás began in 2006, when Valerie along with fellow commission member Louis Moriarty decided to run an event, after Dublin Wheelers could no longer run their women’s two day race called TQ Papers.

In the first few iterations of the race, Valerie impressively managed to both organise and compete in the event, although with the race now a five stage event her days of simultaneously racing and organising are over “it’s a very different race now, I could barely do it then to be honest with you… the problem is you can’t do enough training to be fit enough for it, because I have to do the recces, I have to lead the council, I have to do all the admin work, all the organising, contacting the teams, that’s all time that burns up energy and time when you are not on your bike training. I kind of made a decision at one point that I was either racing or organising it, I couldn’t do both well so I decided I’d stick to organising it”.

Finishing her own racing days has had its positives, providing Valerie with the opportunity to be fully committed towards making the Rás na mBan the best race it can be “
I needed to give it more time and that’s what I did and there was a big step up in the level of organisation when I stopped racing it. Even for me (personally) when I organised it and raced it I was absolutely shattered afterward. You know it was a relief to be just doing one or the other”.

As the race has grown it will come as no surprise that preparation for next year’s edition is already underway. Valerie discusses how at the moment much of their work is revolving around finding a sponsor for next year’s race, but much more besides that is also needed to be done “you have secure your routes, you’ve got to meet the county council of whatever county you’re in. So this year it's Kilkenny and we’ve already met the council, you have to meet the Gardaí, you have to go through you’re summary plan with them, so stage start, the finish, outline what towns we are going through… then we would do a detailed recce and then we go through the process of going down and meeting the council again. So we meet the council and the Gardaí four or five times at least before the race.”

Due to having more help than in previous years, Valerie felt 2017’s Rás na mBan was a huge success “I had two new committee members, and that was just brilliant help for me. We also spent a bit more on bringing more officials so we had more help and the work load was shared, and we could get more done… Another thing that I did this year was lot more planning, I had sort of a day plan and it really helped me to focus on what needed to be done and who’s doing it”.

Valerie is quick to emphasise that one of main aims of Rás na mBan is to provide a stage for women’s cycling in this country “
the whole point of it is to put the women on a very good platform, as good as any other international race. That’s the whole point of it, to treat them as well as they would be treated in any other UCI standard race. The women's race is the main event.”

She is also delighted about the race getting more coverage in the media “We get TV coverage, and the response this year that we have gotten on social media has been increased exponentially, the number of views of the videos is huge, and that's great coverage. We’re big on social media and owe a lot to Declan Quigley and Georgie Francis”.

Looking forward, Valerie harbours an ambition to increase the Irish contingent competing in Rás na mBan, hopefully to a point where there are more native riders than non-native riders involved in the race “I would like to see more Irish, that’s the goal. The dream is to have 50:50, so instead of having like 30 riders out of 120, I would like 70 riders out of 120 or 80 riders out of 120 that’s the dream and to have as many of them on the younger side as possible”.

Considine also hopes the women’s national league continues to progress and as she says herself that “the sport in Ireland for women is developed in a more structural way”. With more work needing to be done, expect Valerie Considine to continue being at the forefront, fighting the good fight for Irish women’s cycling.

Written by Graham Gillespie

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