Ever considered entering a 200-mile, non-stop cycle race through Donegal, the Sperrin mountains and along the Antrim coast back to Londonderry? Probably not, but North Down Cycling Club’s endurance athlete Louise Togneri took on this new challenge and was the first woman to cross the finish line – a magnificent achievement!
This inaugural race was organised by the legendary cyclist Joe Barr, with riders required to complete the 200-mile route solo, but with a support vehicle and a crew of two. After a rigorous safety check and the installation of GPS tracking technology, Louise set off at 8.00 on Saturday morning (28 April).
Louise said, “the first 70 miles went well, I was making good time and felt strong but I knew the hardest sections were still to come”. After 85 miles Louise had a quick stop for food in Strabane, but there was still 115 miles to go – including some 60 miles of hard climbing in the Sperrins. The scenery was beautiful but with rain, hail and wind, Louise was cold, wet and tired. Digging deep, she made a big push for the finish – still about 50 miles along the scenic Antrim coast. She added, “this was the most difficult time for me, fatigue set in and I had aches and pains all over. My support crew [NDCC members John Hunter and Douglas Ruddock] were brilliant, making sure I ate properly and providing much needed motivation – I couldn’t have done it without them!”
Louise was welcomed across the finish line as the leading female competitor, in darkness, in an impressive time of 15 hours 29 minutes. She was delighted to complete this super tough physical and mental challenge, and huge congratulations from all at NDCC.