Outspoken RTÉ pundit and Dungiven man, Joe Brolly, is the latest cyclist to sign up for Man of Sperrin.
Speaking to the Irish News, Brolly revealed how one of the event’s organisers and personal friend, Paddy Heaney, pressganged him into doing the Five Peaks.
“Anyone who knows Paddy Heaney will appreciate that he doesn’t really ask you to do something. That’s not really his style. He just told me I was doing it,” said Brolly.
“I tried to explain to Paddy that I hadn’t been doing a lot of cycling and I wasn’t fit enough for the Five Peaks. I was duly informed that because the event was in aid of Derry GAA, I had a moral obligation to do it. I was also informed that as a Dungiven man, I would be betraying my people and my heritage if I avoided climbing Benbradagh!
“Paddy was also of the opinion that cyclists would love to see me panting and sweating like a dog as I struggled on those climbs and that would encourage more people to sign up. To be fair, he might have a point about that last one,” joked Brolly.
He added: “If any cyclist has ever wanted to give me a good, tight beating, they’ll get their chance on June 11.”
Of the five mountain climbs facing participants in Man of Sperrin, Benbradagh, which provides the backdrop to Brolly’s hometown, is undoubtedly the toughest. Brolly has warned entrants not to underestimate the difficulty Benbradagh will pose.
“Cyclists don’t know about Benbradagh because the road up to it doesn’t lead anywhere. During World War II, the Americans built a Naval Base on it.
“But I’ve been on a bike in the Alps and I’ve climbed Mount Ventoux. Give me the Alps any day,” said Brolly.
“Of course the Alps are much longer, but the gradient is much more forgiving as it usually ranges from five to seven per cent and you can develop a rhythm.
“Benbradagh just sucks the life force out of you. By the time you get to the bridge, where the gradient is 27 per cent, it’s a struggle to turn the pedals.
“Paddy [Heaney] organised a trial event for this last year and he said more than half of the cyclists had to dismount at the bridge.”
Brolly has encouraged Derry’s GAA cycling enthusiasts to get behind Man of Sperrin. The former All-Ireland winner believes the event provides a chance for for ordinary people to support Derry GAA.
“Derry people are obsessive about the GAA and a lot of people would have no problem supporting the county if they could. This bike ride will provide the opportunity for them to do that,” he said.