Cork Cyclist’s Legacy Of Love In Charity Trek To Galway
As he prepares to take part in a charity cycle ride to Galway, Cork cancer survivor Tomas Mulqueen tells ELLIE O’BYRNE about what is driving him on.
CORK cyclist Tomas Mulqueen will not only be raising awareness and funds for cancer research when he takes part in the Cork to Galway Charity Cycle tomorrow – he will also be continuing his family’s legacy of charitable work.
Not content with simply taking on the 211km two-day staged cycle from Cork to Galway in aid of Breakthrough Cancer Research, Tomas and two of his fellow cycling club members, David Minehane and Rob Horgan, have decided to ramp up the challenge by cycling Coca-Cola Zero Bikes to undertake the gruelling cycle.
Coca-Cola Zero Bikes are now a familiar sight on Cork City streets since the bike rental scheme was launched in the autumn of 2014, but their design is for commuter use and their heavier frame and 38mm tyres are not suited for the type of speed and endurance needed when pedalling from Cork to the City of Tribes.
The average racing frame is just one third the weight of the Coke Zero frame. “It’s quite a beast of a thing but once you get it moving, it goes,” Tomas says.
The 40-year-old is a keen cyclist with De Ronde van Cork Cycling Club, and a cancer survivor as well, so the arduous Cork to Galway cycle, which is sponsored by Coca-Cola Zero Bikes, supports a cause he is more than familiar with.
“Cycling has always been one of my things but it’s great to be able to do something that gives back,” says Tomas.
He was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s t-cell lymphoma in 1999, at the age of just 24.
“It was only the second case of that form of cancer they had seen,” he says.
Tomas’s parents, Tom and Bridie Mulqueen, were both cancer survivors themselves and organised the first ‘Cancer Walk’ back in 1987 to raise funds for a linear accelerator in the Regional Hospital (now Cork University Hospital).
They went on to set up the Cork branch of the Comfort for Cancer support group for cancer patients.
Tomas is proud to follow in their footsteps. “It’s a really worthy cause,” he says. “Breakthrough Cancer Research are in the middle of going through trials for a new treatment for melanoma, which affects a lot of Irish people, and they are right here in Cork,” Tomas says.
“My father had been supporting and fundraising for them for years so I’m very happy to continue that work.”
Tomas’s father passed away eight years ago, having survived the cancer that he was diagnosed with when Tomas was a child.
“He was told when I was four that he had six months to live, but he lived until he was 74. Having my parents around as a support structure when I was going through it myself was great because they had their own experiences. I had all that knowledge and the support around me.”
Although Tomas was given the all-clear after one year of treatment, he says that the experience of being diagnosed with cancer at a young age permanently changed his perspective on life.
“It sets the tone for everything else that you do when you’re handed down a diagnosis like that.”
Tomas’s battle with cancer left him keen to live life to the fullest. “Every day is a day to live and to enjoy when you’ve overcome cancer. It never really goes away,” he says.
He took delivery of his Coca Cola Zero bike last Wednesday and has been putting it through its paces close to his home in Ballincollig, where he lives with his wife Linda and their three children.
“They’re actually great bikes,” he says. “The gearing is very smart; I’m kind of in awe of the technology itself; there’s a dynamo on the front and the gearing on the back. I have to say I’m really impressed with it.”
Tomas and Linda’s children are aged 15, seven and two. Fitting his cycling training around their busy family life can be hectic.
Tomas says: “My wife works shift work so I mostly grab an hour here or there wherever I can and then the odd four-hour session is great when I can get one in.”
Tomas and his fellow club members have been influenced by the recent spate of rental bike challenges, which began in 2013 when a group of British friends hired a ‘Boris Bike’ in London – the type made famous by the city’s Mayor Boris Johnson. They drove it to Mont Ventoux in southern France– one of the most challenging climbs on the Tour de France – cycled it up and returned it to London within 24 hours – the maximum normal rental period after which there is a £150 (€200) fine.
Used to competitive racing for his club, surely there will be times on the Cork to Galway cycle where Tomas will be cursing the heavier frame of the Coca-Cola Zero Bike?
“Oh, most probably!” he says. It’s not going to be easy.” But he’s up for the challenge, quoting legendary German cyclist Jens Voigt: “At times you just have to say, ‘Shut up, legs!’ and keep going.”
More than 100 cyclists are expected to take part in the Cork to Galway Charity Cycle taking place tomorrow and Saturday.
They will cycle from Cork to Limerick on the first day and Limerick to Galway on the second day, with three stages of between 35-38km to complete on each day.
This article can be found at Evening Echo.