Shattering the previous course record by 19 minutes, the all-women endurance cycling group “Galway Baybes” took to the roads last Friday to compete in the Donegal Atlantic Way Ultra, a daunting 555km course. 

Donegal Atlantic Way Ultra
Image: Galway Baybes

The Galway Baybes, a group of four women from the Galway Triathlon Club, took Donegal by storm last Friday and Saturday as they raced the Donegal Atlantic Way Ultra — setting a new course record in the process. The team, Bríd Ní Neachtain, Karen Cassidy, Joanne Murphy and Marie Boyle, took on the 555km distance in a record 19 hours and 24 minutes, 19 minutes faster than the previous record, winning the Women’s Four Person category.

This was the Baybes second ultra cycling endurance race, with the last one being the 2017 2,250km Race Around Ireland, where they came in second in the Four Person Team Women’s event with a new Irish Record of 81 hours and 13 minutes. In this most recent race, the women stayed on the tails of the big-dogs, ranking 14 out of 41 teams, three of them being women’s teams and 36 of them being all-male teams.

The Donegal Atlantic Way Ultra follows the coast of Donegal and climbs 6125m over the course. The Baybes split their team into two groups, allocating different portions of the race to different riders based on skill set (strength on hill climbs, finesse on descents, speed on sprints, and so forth). While active riders were biking, the other team members were resting. Cassidy and Boyle conquered most of stage 1, then Murphy and Ní Neachtain rode most of stage 2.

A crew of six people followed them on the road, aiding them in their lofty endeavour as some of them biked through the night and into the wee hours of the morning. With the support of their friends on the road, their families back home, and their many supporters around the country and the globe, The Galway Baybes took off sprinting and simply did not stop until they came home with a win.

Two other four-person female teams, Skyway Moynalty and Virginia Vellobellas, also competed in their category, but, at about the halfway mark, the Galway Baybes held a comfortable lead while racing through Donegal. But, that was not enough for the determined women. As endurance athletes, the Galway Baybes are no stranger to pushing their minds and bodies to the limit, and they knew what they had to do to push that record. In the end, Boyle sped across the finish line in Ballyraine, Letterkenny, securing the Baybes victory.

“We have had a whirlwind 10 months, with one win and two records from two races,” says Murphy. “We are going to enjoy the summer and support our two riders and three crew members who will race at IRONMAN Barcelona in October, then we’ll look at the options for the next adventure and hopefully in the meantime [we] will have inspired a few more ladies to take up endurance racing”.

The excitement and elation in the air was palpable. After a gruelling 19 hours of grit and perseverance, four women harnessed their ambitions to unitedly accomplish their goal.


By: Bri Doherty

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