A brand new book, entitled 'Dundalk a Cycling History 1819 - 2010' was launched to great fan fare at the recent Cuhculainn Cycling Club prize night.
The book, written by local man Kevin Dolan, chronicles cycling in the town, and county, from it's first documented recording in 1819 right up the present year.
Researched by going through the archives and a series of personnel interviews, the book highlights how cycling has changed down through the ages.
Initially cycling competitions were mainly part of the day's activities at sports "meets. These "school sports day" like events were held by towns and villages throughout the country and run under the remit of the GAA.
A number of different sports were involved and the cycling events at these meets were grass track races over a set distance, typically one, two or six miles. They were lively affairs and many of the Dundalk men became known as being "handy with the elbows".
From here cycling moved onto the road. Initially those with the recently invented pneumatic tyre had a major advantage over those without and races often had separate categories for those without and without this "modern" technology.
The advent of road cycling, coupled with the ever popular meets saw numerous clubs set up in the town, which at one stage boasted a maximum of 4 clubs. Unfortunately all bar Cuchulainn have not stood the test of time and fell by the waste side.
The arrival of The Rs into Irish cycling changed the landscape of cycling in the country, an effect that continues to this day with Irish riders basing their season around doing The Rs or not. In it's hay day residents of Ireland had never seen anything like the travelling cavalcade that was the race. Some 100 plus cyclists would race into town, along with dozens and dozens of support cars, set-up shop for the night and then be gone again the next morning. Back when the automobile was still a seldom seen novelty The Rs was an even bigger spectacle than it is now. Many great Dundalk cyclists have done the county proud in this race while riding in the red of the Louth team, most recently the team won a stage into Monaghan in 2005.
In the late 80s and early 90s when Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche were winning all round them in Europe, cycling in the town was also flourishing, the club had a huge under-age structure, which netted many medals at both national and provincial level. Unfortunately this success was not sustained and the book explains how the club almost ceased to be early in the 21st century.
A meeting was held for the sole purpose of deciding whether to wind up Cuchulainn CC or give it one last bash.
Luckily it was decided to try again and with the work of a number of dedicated members the club has risen to be the third biggest cycling club in Ireland and one of Louth's biggest sporting clubs with close on 200 members. 2010 marked the 75th anniversary of the club and year long celebrations included hosting a stage finish of The Rs, running the Irish National Criterion Championships, a cycle from Millen to Mazin Head, and a stage race to name but a few of the events.
The club was honoured in November when it won the Cycling Club of the Year award, as voted for by members of cycling Ireland. The club's Tour of Louth leisure event was also voted as the best leisure event of the year.
All of these events and accolades were celebrated in full at the recent club Christmas party in the Fairways hotel, where the work of the volunteers was also congratulated, in particular Tony Kelly and Alan Grey were singled out for their commitment to helping the club.
The book highlights all the steps along the way, the big wins, near misses and the odd "pump in the front wheel" story.
It is a great read for cyclists and residents of Dundalk as it will become an heirloom, with many people buying a copy for each of their children.
The book is available, priced at €20 at Felda Gym, Tommy the Bikes or from Trend Ltd. Contact 086 8536338 for more details.
Nicky McArdle (RIGHT), Mountpleasant AC, pictured here with his father, after he won the 10 kilos Cycle Championship of Ireland at Dun Dealgan AC sports in the Athletic Grounds. INSET: The Book cover.
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