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James Skehan of Bridgetown and his 19 month old son Macartan, at right, with Sixmilebridge’s Adrian Chaplin. Photograph by John Kelly

20-hour days in saddle all part of Clare men’s epic charity cycle

TWO East Clare cyclists completed more than 20 hours in the saddle in one day as part of their nationwide charity fundraising cycle, writes Dan Danaher.

James Skehan (38), Bridgetown, and James Chaplin (41) Sixmilebridge, have cycled the length and breadth of Ireland to raise money for The Cleft Lip and Palate Association of Ireland.

They were motivated to support the association’s fundraising efforts as James’s son has a cleft lip.
More than €20,000 was raised for the association in Ireland this year including €3,000 from the two Clare cyclists, who just sought voluntary donations through WhatsApp messages and didn’t engage in bucket or other collections.

(CLAPAI), a registered charity, is a voluntary group formed to provide support and information for parents of children affected by cleft lip and palate and to those directly affected by the condition.

There are more than 100 new births per year and about 2,000 children in treatment at any given time.

The association distributes information leaflets, publish newsletters and provide new parent maternity packs. It also raises public awareness about this condition and provides feeding advice for young children.

The association estimates that one in every 700 babies are born in Ireland with a cleft lip.

A cleft lip happens if the tissue that makes up the lip doesn’t not join completely before birth. This results in an opening of the upper lip. This opening can be a small slit or be a large opening that goes through the lip into the nose.

The two cyclists thanked everyone who contributed for their generosity during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Former Offaly footballer, Vinny Claffey, donated €50 to the duo when he met them randomly in Athlone on their fundraising cycle.

James’s wife Joanne saw the Cleft Lip and Palate Association was fundraising, which prompted the two cyclists to embark on gruelling challenges to raise much needed finance.

James said his son had two operations for the condition, which isn’t life-threatening.

“We didn’t even know there was a charity for it. Joanne spotted it on Facebook. Macartain had a hole in his palate and his lip was split.

“This made feeding much harder. It is common. Doctors repaired his lip by sewing it together. A few months later, they packed it up on top.”

As the two hurlers kept clocking up 200 to 400 kilometres through training and completing major cycles, they decided to cycle from the top to the bottom and from the most easterly to the most westerly part of the country.

The duo cycled from Malin Head in Donegal to Mizen Head in Cork, and completed 400 kilometres from Slea Head in Dingle to Wicklow Lighthouse, which took about 14 hours in 29 degree heat.

They drank about 16 litres of water that day. Having completed this arduous cycle, they knew they could travel from the most northerly to the most southerly point.

The two cyclists planned their route including five 30-minute pit stops for the Donegal to Cork cycle. James got a loan of a van to accommodate their supplies, and his father drove this vehicle behind them in case they needed something urgently.

Starting at 8am one morning, they spent 20 hours in the saddle before finishing at 7pm the following evening at an average speed of 29 kilometres an hour.

Adrian explains the bike is treated as a “moving restaurant”.

“Some people couldn’t believe we completed all of the cycle in one day without any sleep.”

Electrolytes and powder with carbohydrates were included in their drink bottles to stop them succumbing to cramps.

They ate snacks between stops before proper food like wraps during their break.

Before he took up cycling seriously, he did a lot of running, completing the Frankfurt Marathon in two hours 48 minutes in 2017 at the age of 37.

He explains training with a friend makes all the difference because once you agree to meet early in the morning you don’t want to let him down.
“You learn every day you go out cycling.”

James outlines their motto for very long cycles – “keep eating, drinking and riding”.

“Hours in the saddle, that is what it is down to. It is a bit mad. We enjoy it. It is great to clear the head. We don’t go to the pub or play golf, so this is our hobby.”

James hurled at Junior B level for Broadford and enjoys the banter that is generated with other cyclists when he cites winning the Junior B of cycling Rás Luimní, which was his first competition race in 2017.

Using a cycling app, they map out their route and total distance the night before a cycle.

They have completed a six and an eight-county challenge cycling through Clare, Limerick, Tipperary, Offaly, Laois, Roscommon, Kilkenny and Galway.

Hearing the corncrake early in the morning when most people are still asleep is one of the rare pleasures afforded by the activity.

Checking tyre pressure and using good quality tyres ensured they didn’t experience one puncture in 3,000 kilometres.

Over the last 12 months, Adrian has clocked up 9,000 kilometres, while James completed 8,000 kilometres.

They can also cycle stationary indoors on their turbo trainer, which can be set up as part of a specific individual training programme.

Earlier this year, Adrian called to see his friend Barry Coffey in Sixmilebrige the night before he was preparing for a challenge match with Clare minor hurlers in Kilkenny.

“I told him I was also in Kilkenny. He texted me on the following day and stated ‘did I just pass you on a bike’.”

Their passion for cycling adventures was fostered by Venture Racing – running, cycling, mountain climbing and kayaking.

Two weeks after cycling from Malin to Mizen, James came third overall in the Gaelforce West in Westport, which includes a 14 km run, kayak 1.5 kilometres, cycle 37 km, run up and down Croagh Patrick and 12km cycle into the town.

Their training schedule comprises leaving their respective homes on a bike at 5am for a meeting point in Broadford or Oatfield Church.

They will then embark on a 120 kilometre cycle for about four and a half hours before returning to Broadford for a coffee at 9.30am.

If weather conditions aren’t suitable for a long training spin, they will train on a stationary bike indoors.

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