Belfast Telegraph

The race of a lifetime as women target gruelling challenge in USA

By James Tait

A team of local cyclists are determined to let nothing stand in their way of becoming the first female Irish participants in one of their sport's toughest endurance tests – the Race Across America.

The Belles, consisting of Julie McCorry, Cathy Booth, Andrea Harrower and Taryn McCoy, aim to be at the start line on the west coast of the US in June, ready to cycle 3,000 miles continuously for nine days to the east coast.

The race passes through 12 states as competitors set off from California and finish in Maryland, with the rules stating that one person from the team must be in the saddle at all times.

Andrea explained just how big a task awaits across the Atlantic Ocean. "It doesn't compare to any race we've done in the past, it's the epitome of endurance cycling," she said. "The longest and hardest race we've done is seven consecutive days in the Alps on mountain bikes but as far as road bikes go, this will be the biggest challenge we've ever faced.

"We want to take part because once you do something and realise what more you can make yourself do, you're always looking for that longer, harder event," she added.

The major stumbling block the Belles face is financial.

They estimate that between £30,000 and £50,000 will be needed to achieve their goal and Taryn is hopeful that the 2014 target is still within their grasp.

"We can't afford it individually, so we'd love to get sponsors on board. There are 12 states we go through, so if we get 12 backers we can have each state sponsored," she said.

"We've talked about doing it ever since we did the Race Across Ireland in 2009 and since then we thought we could tackle the American challenge, but there were always other commitments."

Those include some of the girls becoming mothers and others focusing on demanding jobs. The team have also become ambassadors for breast cancer charity Pretty 'n' Pink and hope to raise awareness of cancer wherever they go.

Julie pointed out that training, fitness and seeking sponsorship had to be fitted around everyone's differing schedules.

The girls are also supported by Julie's employer, sports specialists Podium4Sport in east Belfast.

An advisor on all things cycling, she said: "We just cycle when we can. We all have different daily routines so we fit it in at nights, at the weekends and go to spin classes. Getting the four of us together is a nightmare, but we pull together when we need to.

"We don't want to just take part, we want to race it.

"That's why we're putting the work in now to hopefully be standing on that starting line come June."

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