From Torr Head to Mallorca to The Birren, Shane Kelly’s love of cycling shines as he discusses his Man of Sperrin and related adventures.

Where are you from?
Draperstown, but currently living in Belfast.

How long have you been cycling?
2 years

How did you get into cycling?
Having not cycled since my childhood (20+ years) my sister and brother-in-law roped me into accompanying them on a touring cycle from Sintra in southern Portugal to Santiago in north-west Spain. it was a great experience and after doing that and participating in a few local sportives I knew I was hooked.

Are you part of a cycling club? If so who?
Titanic Quarter Cycling Club

How did you hear about Man of Sperrin 2017?
Word of mouth and social media

What made you decide to accept the challenge?
The Sperrins are home turf for me – its always great to get back home from time to time and get some relatively peaceful and traffic-light free miles in, plus the scenery is great too. In the past two years I’ve participated in roughly 70 sportives, both big and small, throughout Ireland, across various terrains and distances and I’m always on the hunt for the next challenge – whether it be over a longer distance or elevation, so that I come away from the event with a great sense of achievement. Man of Sperrin certainly ticked all the boxes.

Did you train much in advance?
Since joining TQCC two years ago I’ve managed to get out on the bike at least a couple of times a week throughout the year and that has definitely improved my fitness and endurance for these types of events.

How well prepared were you for the hills?
Having conquered other noteworthy ascents such as Torr Head, Mamore Gap and Priests Leap in Ireland, as well as the likes of Valldemossa and Sa Calobra in Mallorca, I thought I’d be alright, granted I’m not the fastest of climbers, but I’d make it. I knew Benbradagh wouldn’t be easy, but I didn’t expect it to be just quite as tough as it was. Now that I know what to expect, I hope to be much better prepared this time around.

Did you train specifically for the Man of Sperrin route?
No. By participating in sportives and regular club rides with TQCC I normally manage to cover a good few miles over various terrain each week – although it doesn’t do any harm to squeeze in a few more hills when I can!

What do you remember most about Man of Sperrin 2017?
The encouragement from supporters whilst going up Benbradagh and at the finish line.

Are you taking part in 2018?
Absolutely!

What is your target?
To get to the top of Benbradagh without stopping – anything else after that is a bonus!

Any tips or advice for those thinking of taking on Man of Sperrin for the first time in 2018?
I think most people should know by looking at the route profile what they’re letting themselves in for but, just in case anyone needs reminding, the first climb starts very, VERY early (only a few miles into the route) and it’s relentless – once it starts, it doesn’t really let up until you reach the top (the view is great though!). I think the key is to get the legs well and truly warmed up before starting the first climb – perhaps worth going for a solid 15-20 minute ride BEFORE the main event to prepare the body for whats to come. If you want to take it one step further, you might even consider leaving the start line without any water bottles, to minimise the amount of weight you’re carrying up the first climb and collect them up from a supporter at the top of Benbradagh or somewhere else further along the route.

What is the best cycling related advice you have ever been given?
Look after your bike and it’ll look after you.

It can be a pain at times, especially over the winter months, having to continually wash all the gunk off your bike frame and components – but it’ll pay off in the long run. It sounds like common sense, but I’ve lost count of the number of sportives where I’ve seen cyclists having to pull over after only a few miles due to some sort of mechanical issue – in most cases they really have no-one but themselves to blame. Degrease and oil your chain regularly, check your brakes and, while you’re at it, its not a bad idea to give your tyres a quick once over now and again – both for general wear and tear and to keep an eye out for any bits of metal, glass or thorns which you may have picked up over the last few rides which could eventually work their way in and lead to a puncture further down the line – and nobody wants that, do they?