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Cyclist Debbie Barclay's glittering career blazed trail for other females


Debbie Barclay with her father Dave Kane

Debbie Barclay with her father Dave Kane

Debbie Barclay during her cycle racing days

Debbie Barclay during her cycle racing days


Debbie Barclay with her father Dave Kane

Debbie Barclay (nee Kane), who died this week, blazed a trail for female cyclists in Northern Ireland and far beyond.

Daughter of international cyclist Dave Kane - who founded the well-known cycling shop on Belfast's Upper Newtownards Road in 1978 - Debbie became a top rider in her own right, earning full international honours and regularly competing against - and beating - her male counterparts at a time of limited opportunities for female cyclists.

Debbie - a familiar face behind the counter in her dad's shop, with cycling clothing her speciality - dominated the sport during the 1980s, winning national road race and time-trial championship titles as well as representing Ireland at just 19 years of age in the 1985 World Championships.

She was also the first Irish woman to break the hour barrier for 25 miles.

But her glittering career was halted by an horrific crash in an international stage race in England in 1988 which left her paralysed from the chest down. Competing in the WCRA Three-Day International at Harlow, tragedy struck on the final stage.

She crashed on a descent, suffering an injury which would see her confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

Debbie was a regular at cycling events throughout the last three decades, regularly supporting her brothers Mark - who represented Ireland in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics - and Paul, a national championship medallist.

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She also returned to competition in recent years, taking part in the national hand cycling championships.

Debbie, never a person to lie down and wallow in self-pity, led a full life and was an inspiration to so many. Up until recently she could still be seen riding her hand cycle, affectionately christened Black Betty.

The Cycling Ulster Executive extended sincere condolences to Debbie's family, friends and club mates in Northern CC.

Posting on the VC Glendale FB page, Tracey Watson wrote: "Debbie was such a wonderful person, always smiling, always chatting and she could light up any room with a smile and had so much time for the Glendale Imps who recognised her inspiration and passion for life and for cycling."

Another post said: "She was an absolute role model and was the bravest person we know. Her life was a constant battle right to the end but a life lived to the full and always with a smile and positive outlook."

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