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Cycling Goes From Strength To Strength In Ireland.

posted 24 Sept 2013, 13:47 by Kevin Monaghan
(By Mark Monaghan)   
As the cycling calendar draws to a close for another year and with minds turning to rest, recovery & winter training plans, our beloved sport has grown from strength to strength in our fair nation and abroad. Cycling Ireland membership has been increasing over the past number of years and reaching an all time high this year with over nineteen thousand (19,000) members with our club Lakeside Wheelers the largest cycling club in Ireland. Not bad for an minority sport! Even back in the hay days of Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and Martin Early cycling was not as popular as it is now. 

So why is it so popular? It's is my belief that they're are a couple of factors to the answer to this question. Firstly apart from it being an excellent way to exercise it is also a great way to meet and make new friends. Secondly, a lot of it is down to the Government! Yes you read right, five years ago they probably made one of their best decisions by implementing the bike to work scheme. That then made purchasing a decent bicycle more affordable. Thirdly, the economic downturn was also a factor, people no longer had expendable income to pay the high prices that gyms charge. Cycling may be expensive to start out but when you after that it is predominately free. Finally the ease of access to cycling around the country with many different charity cycles, the An post series and the live coverage of professional cycling on TV. 

Internationally, Ireland is held in high regard in cycling. I only really appreciated this when I made a trip to Belgium a few years ago and when we mentioned where we were from, straight away the names of Kelly and Roche rolled from their tongues. Internationally when we think of Ireland in sports particularly in soccer and rugby we often hear of moral victories and how well we have done by putting in a big performance against the bigger nations, that is not the case with cycling. Our riders are now not only competing with the best in the world but they are beating them on a regular basis. 

Dan Martin wins Liege-Bastogne- Liege
This year our small nation has made fantastic inroads on the professional scene worldwide and in my opinion when have one of the best cyclists in the World in Dan Martin who this year won a number of big races, including one of the biggest one-day classic races , the Leige-Bastone-Leige and a stage win in the holy grail of cycling, the Tour de France. 

Not to be out-shone by his cousin, Nicholas Roche (Stephen's son) recently took a stage win and fifth overall in the tour of Spain. As well as these two riders we also have a number of other riders who have been putting in huge performances all season including Philip Deignan, who recently signed for the biggest cycling team in the world Sky pro Cycling, Philip Lavery now riding with top French team Cofidis, national champion Matt Brammier, Tipperary man Sam Bennett, who recently took a stage in the Tour of Britain, to name but a few. 

With the world championships coming up this Sunday in Florence we are not just sending a team of riders of four riders to compete and get a  “moral victory” we have a rider in Dan Martin who can actually win - the first Irish man to be world champion sine Stephen Roche in 1987.  Now wouldn't that be a great achievement for a minority sport!