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Letterkenny cyclist takes well earned rest after Rás


LETTERKENNY cyclist Sean McFadden is a glutton for punishment.
On Tuesday, McFadden (41) found himself climbing over Glengesh Pass just five days after he took on the famous Pass during stage six of the 2017 An Post Rás from Dungloe to Donegal town.
“Don’t worry I’ll be in the car today,” he laughed.
“I’m going back to the scene of the crime with young Conor Halvey. It’s a recce ahead of this weekend’s Ras Dhun na nGall,” he added.
McFadden, who works in Donegal County Council, captured the imagination of the Donegal public last week when he put his body through the punishing schedule that is The Rás – an eight day stage race which took cyclists on a 1,200 kilometre journey across Ireland.
“That was my third, and last Rás. I did it in 2012 and again in 2013, but I was five years younger – and fitter – back then. I’ve left bits of skin all over the country over the past week. It was tough, tough going,” he explained.
McFadden fell just 16 minutes into Sunday’s first stage in the Rás before falling twice during the Buncrana-Dungloe leg, the longest stage at 181km, on the Thursday.
“I think I’ll go back to doing Ironmans as it’s a wee bit safer and isn’t half as dangerous as the bike. There, it’s just you and the clock and you have sixteen hours to complete the course,” he said.
The eight day stage race, which is one of Ireland’s top sporting events, made a welcome return to Donegal for the first time in five years last week.
“Together with Ronan (McLaughlin) we were the only Donegal men in this year’s Rás and I’m extremely proud of that fact. We had stage finishes in Bundoran, Buncrana, Dungloe and Donegal Town and the support was brilliant along the way. It’s something that I will never, ever forget.
“Coming towards the finish in Skerries one of the lads gave me a Donegal flag which I lifted overhead as I crossed the line,” he said.
Delighted to have completed his third Rás, McFadden admitted that he nearly didn’t make it on to the bike for that eighth and final stage.
“Ardee on the Saturday night was definitely the low point. I spent two hours chewing the bed covers in pain from the burns and scars I had collected throughout the week. I said that I can’t do this any more but I got pain-killers and went out onto the bike two hours before the start on Sunday morning to loosen up and, thankfully, I decided to see it through,” he explained.
There were many high points too – not least cycling into Letterkenny as part of the peloton and crossing the finish line in Skerries.
“Cycling past the roundabout into Letterkenny and seeing all my family and friends out cheering me on is something I’ll never forget.
“The homecoming on Sunday night was also a high point. Friends gathered at the Clanree roundabout and then we went to the Mount Errigal Hotel for tea and sandwiches,” he said.
His wife Irene (nee McCusker), sons David and Ruairi, daughters Shauna and Ciara were joined by the likes of Seamus Temple and Peter McGlynn along the route.
“They (Seamus and Peter) as well as the late Danny Murray helped to put me on the straight and narrow at a time in my life when it could have gone either way. I’m very humbled to have had those three men on my side.
“I did my first half-marathon with Seamus and Peter (who were also Sean’s underage football managers) when I was about 23. They were a massive part of my life and if I can now do my bit to help the likes of young Conor (Halvey) then I’ll be happy,” he said.
A member of Letterkenny Athletic Club, Sean is also a member of Letterkenny Cycling Club. He has competed in a number of marathons and adventure races, including WAAR and Coast-to-Coast, while he won The Race (a 250k race around Donegal) in 2015.
“Racing against pros over eight days covering distances of 150k to 180k a day at an average pace of 48kph to 50kph was tough. That (The Rás) was as tight as anything I’ve ever done in my life.
“I enjoyed the feedback from everyone in Donegal throughout the week and, in the end, I was left with little option but to make sure I finished the thing.
“There’s bits of me lying all over the country,” he laughed.
Although he’ll never say never, Sean says that he’ll go back to his roots, and to where it all started with Letterkenny AC, over the coming months.
“I think I’ll look to the Dublin marathon in October. Paddy Friel, who has been a great support me, wants to try and break the three hour mark and I’ll do what I can to help him,” he said.
McFadden ran a 2.46 marathon back in 2009, a time that was good enough for a top fifty finish in a race that attracts close to 20,000 entrants.
“I’ve ticked the cycling box with the Rás. I’ve donated my medal from the event to Danny Murray’s wife Mary. Back in the day with the Four Masters Club I did a lot of cycling with Danny while Mary looked after David and Ruairi when they were younger. I’m so sorry that he wasn’t there to cheer me on last week.
“I’m happy with how the Rás went but it’s time to leave the cycling to the younger ones like Shauna (his daughter) and to do something different,” he said.

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