Ultra challenge – the riders view

Congratulations to Team Trojan who completed the Atlantic Way Ultra Challenge in exactly 23 hours.

The team consisted of Des McLoughlin, Martin Lannon, Eddie Conroy and Declan Noone with Micheal Sweeney, Oliver Donagher and Enda Madden providing back up support.

They commenced the challenge at 12 noon on Friday and cycled the 555k in challenging conditions arriving back in Letterkenny at 11am Saturday.

Team Member Eddie Conroy recalls here the torture of 24 hours in the Hills of Donegal:

There is no Las Vegas in the hills of Donegal, I can tell you that, despite the song’s claim, because the seven members of Team Trojan for Down Syndrome were up and down every single one of them in our gruelling 23 hours and 4 minutes of the 555km Donegal Atlantic Way Ultra race. We may have gambled on quite a few sharp corners but we didn’t see any casino.

It’s difficult to explain how much of a team effort is needed from Thursday morning when gear and vehicles are packed, with planning and precision, that the army rangers would be proud of, through to the start line on Friday morning; and then keep everyone going through a long day and night; and to keep spirits up, as energy goes low, but the finish is in sight. This incredible and so memorable, cycling war against fatigue, could not and would not, have been achieved without Enda, Michael and Ollie. A 5 star crew with selfless dedication to the job in hand.

With over 6000m of climbing in the 555km circuit, it is without doubt the most daunting of cycle events in the country. Mamore Gap, Knockalla, Horn Head and Glengesh are like walls in places such is the steep gradient. Fantastic scenery atop them for sure, but fantastic men required to push a bike up there so we could see it. Steep descents, sometimes at over 70km per hour are enthralling at times, but in the black ink that is the darkness of 4am, on the North Donegal coast, in a cold sea mist, with fatigue stretching your concentration and the will to sleep drawing your eyes together, it is akin to madness. However these experiences are more memorable because they are mad and 2018 was discussed within 5 minutes of crossing the finish line.

The effort that the solo men and women need to put in is mind blowing. Some of the times recorded by the teams like wise. Every facet of the challenge is crucial. Should one link in the chain fail, the cause is lost. Vehicles, crew, bikes, food, fluids and cyclists must all click together or an already difficult challenge could become impossible. I was very proud to part of an amazing team effort and we were all delighted to raise some much needed funds for a great cause whilst doing it.

Cyclists in race order: Martin Lannon, Declan Noone, Des McLoughlin & Eddie Conroy

Amazing Crew: Oliver Donagher, Michael Sweeney & Enda Madden

Fundraising to date has reached over €3,500 and much more has been pledged.

The Team are very grateful to everyone for their support. The generosity shown to this challenge will ensure that Down Syndrome can provide much need additional speech therapy sessions and continue to provide the excellent services it does.

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