Last Saturday Galway’s Karen Cassidy toed the startline of her first ultra endurance race as a solo rider in the Mondello 24 hour cycle race. A member of the Galway Baybes she was part of team who set the Irish Record in the Race Around Ireland in 2017 and The Race record in 2018 for Donegal Ultra 555k for a four person female team. This race on Saturday however was a completely different type of race, an adventure into the unknown as a single rider racing against the clock around the track for 24 hours.
Starting at 12 pm on Saturday she lined up against a stacked field of solo riders and it quickly became evident that Karen would hold her own on the track, as long as she got to the finish line in one piece on Sunday she would win the solo female category. Covering 171 laps of the track in the 24 hours she completed a total distance of 598.5km, an impressive feat considering how little sleep or rest she took throughout the race. What’s more impressive though was the fact that she finished 5th overall in the solo category against a strong field of 31 solo riders on her first outing.
Considering the fact that Karen had never gone longer than 8 hours on the bike in training, and really was heading into the unknown with the duration of the event and the solo aspect, makes this result all the more impressive. Supported by her crew of Padraic Benson, Pat Dirrane, Damien Moloney and fellow Galway Baybes riders Joanne Murphy and Bríd Ni Neachtain she was in great hands. The role of the crew was to mind, monitor and motivate Karen to keep pushing her pedals right through to the finish, managing and monitoring everything from feeding to fatigue so she finished the race. The crew plays a huge part in ensuring the safety and welfare of the rider as they progress though the challenge.
Conditions on race morning were dry with a strong breeze, by 8pm on Saturday night that dry weather and strong breeze were replaced with relentless rain and a rough wind that for many would have sent them retreating to the comfort of the pits for a rest. By 2am the weather had cleared up and by the time the sun peeped out from behind the clouds and morning had broken on Sunday riders didn’t care about the weather, the finish was in sight with many counting down the laps rather than the hours to the finish at 12 pm on Sunday afternoon.
Taking little or no rest off the bike over the 24 hours, Karen was relentless in her pursuit of the finish line, her physical fitness and more importantly her mental strength saw her power to the finish on Sunday, all the hard work, preparation and training paying off as she was crowned the Queen of the Track.
Speaking about her race Karen said: “It was an epic event that far exceeded my expectations. A technical course and tough weather conditions made it very challenging both mentally and physically. I am in no doubt that without the tireless work of my crew throughout the event, I would never have made it to the finish line. The support on the course both on the track and on the side lines was super, there was a great sense of camaraderie amongst the riders especially as we approached the later stages of the event. I am thrilled with my result and performance. Thanks to everyone for their support and to the team at Mondello24 for creating and delivering a super event. Time now for some rest and relaxation and maybe a recovery cycle later this week’”
Karen was raising funds for the RNLI Galway Lifeboat station as part of her challenge, you can still donate on the link https://bit.ly/KAREN24HRRNLI.