• Morgan Fagg

On Yer Bike

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

The longest way round is the shortest way home

(This Adventure in Spain is actually all about cycling in Athlone)

In Ulysses, James Joyce said, “The longest way round is the shortest way home” but when I contacted a friend on Bloomsday to wish her a happy birthday, she invited me to come out cycling with her cycling group when Madrid started to open up and I took her up on the offer despite the need to cycle 15 kilometres to get to the meeting point.

In the 30º heat, we cycled around the dirt tracks outside of Madrid, around some of the wealthiest areas where Ronaldo and Gareth Bale and other footballers live.

I was exhausted and found it difficult to keep up and not making time for breakfast didn’t help, I could even see the vultures circling above me while cycling through the forests.

I was a stranger to most of the cycling group but I smiled when I thought of the impact I had made in getting the birthday girl on her bike in the past and then thought of my own youth spent cycling round Moydrum Forest in Athlone.

You see, I got my friend out cycling around five years ago when we were neighbours and now she has an electric bike and clocks up unbelievable miles in the countryside.

In the woods with the radio tower in the distance in a town called Majadahonda, a young triathlon group flew past us as we took a short break to drink some water and I couldn’t help but be brought back to Moydrum and two radio towers that once towered over us all.

Back then I couldn't even imagine being on Athlone radio never mind reports from another country.

More like Majadahonda, Moydrum only has one tower today but I remember 15 years ago trying to get people on their bikes for triAthlone 2006.

My mother was the first person to get me cycling and used to bring me to school by bike. Later on, my best friend Martin McDonnell encouraged me to join Lough Ree Mountain Biking Club where the late Liam Heavin organised a cycling league and Dermot Brennan of DB cycles sponsored the event and always carried a spanner and pump, and I always needed it.

Cycling around Athlone with Keith Morris, David O’Leary and my cousin, Tony Daly, I was consistently last in the league while my best friend made great gains week in, week out.

Martin keeps me on track with a bike, body armour and full-face helmets always ready whenever I get home to Ireland and there is an incredible rush trashing down trails, especially on night cycles and I don’t know what the question is but I know cycling is the answer and would always encourage people to get on their bikes whenever possible.

As the Spanish kids zoomed past in the forest, they were wearing triathlon jerseys and I was reminded of the work done by Liam Heavin in getting Athlone to try triathlon.

His father Liam Heavin Sr had run the mountain biking club when I was young and back in 2005 Liam Heavin set up a committee to make Athlone the home of triathlon in the centre of Ireland, even though Athlone had never organised a triathlon event before.

That dream encouraged thousands of people in Athlone to get on their bikes and train in pools and to run around the centre of Athlone to a podium on Church Street. It was incredible.

Thanks to Emilia Krysztofiak of Rua Photography for this great photo finish.
DOWNHILL: Thanks to Martin for this shot

Back in the Moydrum Forest of Spain, these strangers were held up as I struggled with the uphill sections. I was Paddy last again and tired and dehydrated, one of the cyclists had to give me a push as his electric bike powered us uphill.

At one stage, this Spanish stranger gave me his electric bike to try out and it was incredible and I started thinking of the Coronavirus cycle we are all so tired of, and the uphill battle ahead of us.

We will all need a push, some of us should consider electric bikes as an alternative form of transport and we need to appreciate those trailblazers who got us moving in the past.

Those who found new paths and showed us an Athlone where cycling is not just for children but an Olympic sport and an Olympic sport where the town bridge has acted like a stadium for people swimming Sprint distance triathlons upstream and Olympic distance courses. An Olympic sport where our roads attracted thousands to Athlone for the dream of gold medals like we saw when Athlone hosted the European Triathlon Championships in 2010.

Get back on your bike Athlone and move the world but that is just my view of the road from the Moydrum Forest of Madrid where a red radio tower still centres my trail.

There is a shortage of bikes and stocks at the moment and one Midland bike shop described bikes as the new toilet roll but if you want to try some cycling in Spain for yourself, there is even an Athlone company called CyclinginSpain.com which organises bike tours for up to ten people.

Come on Athlone, get on your bike, buy a lock and good helmet and move yourself in the healthiest, most efficient and cleanest form of transport available to us.

Who knows who will encourage you along the way or who you CAN encourage to go out cycling, and just like me sometimes you need a little push and can’t keep going, and sometimes you will need to push others as they face uphill battles of their own.

Get on yer bike, the longest way round is the shortest way home.

HYDRATE: Getting Marta started in cycling

HE SPOKE TO ME: Martin McDonnell seen through the spokes here is ready for another downhill challenge but first asked me to join the Mountain Biking club back in 1996.

UP&DOWN: This incredible downhill course in County Down.

MEGA HAPPY ENDING: David Collins and Martin McDonnell at MEGA Mission.

SUIT UP: My neighbour Rose, my brother Victor centre and a fist raised coming out of the water.

ON YER BIKE ATHLONE: Myself, sister Fiona, brother-in-law Paul and my brother Victor at triAthlone 2012 shortly before I moved to Spain.

STEEP STEP: It's all downhill from here. Wear your helmet on the way down.

Thanks to www.ruaphotography.ie for catching some incredible moments at triAthlone 2010.

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