A SOLO Derry cyclist, a mammoth 3000 miles across America and a breath-taking 170,000 climb…in the space of eight and a half days.
This is the epic challenge facing Joe Barr as he prepares to compete in the Race Across America on June 13 to raise funds for Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children.
Joe, a Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and winner of the 2009 Race Around Ireland is not taking this ultimate endurance test lightly and reveals he is going to America “to win”.
Race Across America (RAAM) is the most gruelling cycling challenge in the world, it is viewed as the pinnacle of athletic achievement in both cycling circles and the wider sporting community.
Joe will cycle across 12 states, covering 370 miles per day – no mean feat in the humid June climes typical of the USA. Beginning in California and finishing in Maryland, the race is 30 per cent longer than the Tour de France.
Racers must complete the distance in 12 days, Joe is planning to do it in eight and a half. He will survive on less than two hours sleep a day and all of his meals will be eaten on the bike.
Joe admits RAAM is as much a test of mental strength as it is physical prowess. It would seem the 53 year-old has both of these qualities by the bucket load – he completed a substantial part of the Race Around Ireland with a broken foot. RAAM is another challenge he is determined to look straight in the eye.
“I have been in training for this since August last year and I am out on the bike six days a week,” Joe reveals. “I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a few jitters but I am confident my courage will out-perform my fear. I will be competing against the world’s most elite endurance riders. When we take these capabilities to the extreme the result is an intense race to the finish line.”
It is this professionalism and strength of courage that will no doubt see Joe cross that finish line but there is also another force propelling him.
Joe’s world was torn apart when his son Ross was diagnosed with cancer at just five months old. Seeing his little boy go through two years of hospital visits and chemotherapy altered Joe’s life perspective significantly and gave him the urge to give something back.
“I will be taking part in this race with two hats on – as a professional athlete of course but primarily as a parent who has first-hand experience of NICFC’s Shimna Valley respite centre and the life-changing effect it has on children with cancer and their families,” he said.
“Over the past three or four years my family has been involved in many fundraising events for NICFC, including the Race around Ireland and the subsequent BBC documentary No Ordinary Joe. NI Cancer Fund for Children’s Shimna Valley centre delivers in such a profound way. It is difficult to truly understand unless you are in the situation where you require the facility,” Joe added.
Joe cannot speak highly enough about Shimna Valley’s team of staff and said the “whole mechanism delivers exactly what each family needs at that particular time.”
“I will never forget our Shimna experience and I am passionate when it comes to raising vital funds to keep it going. The majority of the general public don’t know about this facility and this is why I am doing this cycle – to raise awareness and funds,” he concluded.
Fundraising is more important to NICFC than ever as it embarks on £3M plans to replace the existing Shimna Valley facility with a purpose-built therapeutic and respite Centre which will be the first of its kind in Europe.
The impressive plans mean the state-of-the-art centre will be able to facilitate six families in fully equipped suites. This will ensure more families will benefit from the wonderful respite services already on offer at Shimna Valley.
NI Cancer Fund for Children’s Chief Executive, Gillian Creevy, described Joe as “truly inspirational” and thanked him for taking on this physically and mentally demanding challenge to raise funds for the charity.
Joe is stepping his fundraising up a gear head of his departure next month and is appealing to members of the public who wish to sponsor him to text JOE to 70444. Text Costs £5.00 plus network charge. NI Cancer Fund for Children receives 100% of your donation. Obtain bill payers permission. Customer care 08448479800. Charity No XR29768.
The text donation service only works in Northern Ireland so people from the Republic of Ireland or those who prefer to donate online are invited to log onto www.justgiving.com/joe-barr-raceacrossamerica.
Joe is also appealing to cycling clubs to inject a dose of pedal power into this fundraising. Clubs can help out by holding their own fundraising event on behalf of NICFC, making a donation to the charity in recognition of Joe’s challenge or they can nominate NICFC as their official charity of the year.
Clubs who are interested should contact Dawn Weir by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 028 90 805 599.