Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Armoy Road Races: Women make their presence felt on starting grid

Maria Costello
Maria Costello
Veronika Hankocy
Sarah Boyes in action
Yvonne Montgomerry
Maria Costello taking a corner on her bike

Move over guys, the biker girls are coming up fast on the inside.

This year six women will be barreling around the narrow north Antrim roads for the Armoy Road Races – the biggest female entry in the event, taking on the boys wheel-to-wheel.

It is perhaps appropriate that so many women are competing in Armoy this year as the course is in the Moyle Council area, understood to have the highest percentage of female councillors in Northern Ireland – seven out of 15.

One of those is Sinn Fein's Cara McShane, a big fan of road racing who will be attending the event over the weekend.

She said that while she had no intention of taking up the sport herself, she welcomed the enhanced female representation.

"It is good that it is more appealing to woman and more are taking part, and I suppose it is good that any sport is not one-gender-dominated," she said.

"Traditionally and culturally barriers were put up in many walks of life regarding women.

"In 2009, when I was chair of the council, I had the honour of getting involved in the first Armoy Road Races and it is great to see it is bigger and better this year."

Another woman who knows what it is like to be involved in a male-dominated profession yesterday refused to say if she would be praying for petticoat-power to come to the fore at the races.

Retired Church of Ireland minister Rev Frances Bach used to live on the course of the Armoy Road Races when she was minister of St Patrick's Church, and racers zoomed along at breakneck speed past her rectory.

She welcomed the fact that women were infiltrating what is a male-dominated sport.

"I think it is terrific there are so many women taking part this year, all power to them," said Rev Bach.

When asked if she would be offering prayers for a female to be first over the finish line, she laughed: "That would be telling."

A new trophy is in place this year – the Two-Stroke Man of the Meeting award.

But, who knows, that just could be picked up by a woman this weekend.

BACKGROUND

The six women riders are renowned road racer Maria Costello from Northampton and Yvonne Montgomery from Carryduff, who are both returning to the event.

The remaining four female riders are newcomers Veronika Hankocy from The Czech Republic, Sarah Boyes from York, and Irish riders Melissa Kennedy from Enniskillen and Suzanne Douglas from Sixmilebridge.

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