Bon voyage… A Paralympian and a businessman team up for the Paris-Nice cycle
A Coleraine-based business owner is set to undertake the most grueling task of his career in September to benefit a charity that supports blind and partially sighted people.
ary McClarty, founder and owner of MCL InsureTech, and the name of the online insurance brand its4women, will cycle from Paris to Nice on a tandem bicycle with Paralympian Peter Ryan.
Gary will be the driver responsible for the brakes, while Peter will be the “driver” responsible for the speed on the Paris2Nice Charity Cycle.
The duo will cover more than 700km (435 miles) at speeds of up to 110km/h – ‘definitely not for the faint-hearted’, admits Gary – the businessman hoping to raise €10,000 (£8,500) for Fighting Blindness.
“It’s the only charity in Ireland that funds research into treatments for vision loss,” says Gary of why he took up the challenge.
“To date, they have invested over €20m (£17m) in over 115 research and clinical projects. The team also provides professional counseling and therapeutic services to individuals and families living with visual impairment and blindness.
“The cycling challenge itself is a great experience for so many different reasons – fitness, amazing scenery and meeting new people. I can not wait.
Fighting Blindness invested over £17 million in research projects and in 1989 discovered the first gene responsible for sight loss.
Without areas such as genetic testing for eye health, it is impossible to confirm diagnosis or provide advice on future treatments and help make informed decisions about family matters.
Gary and Peter have embarked on a grueling training schedule ahead of the event (September 9-15), which will mean at least two mid-week 50km (31 mile) rides and a longer 100-mile ride. km (62 miles) on weekends.
“I’ve always been interested in the sport, although I’ve never taken on such a daunting challenge,” says Gary.
“I love rugby and cycling, but accepting a challenge in tandem with a Paralympian definitely took me out of my comfort zone.
“Driving the Cure for Fighting Blindness is definitely a remarkable challenge and not for those with a nervous disposition. I look forward to training with Peter over the next few weeks to take my fitness to the next level.
The weather, he says, could pose “some challenges”, given the cycle time, but stresses the importance of training.
“Peter and I were assessed by international cycling coach Anthony Walsh earlier this year. He is an integral part of the team, sharing top tips which include developing cycling skills, techniques and endurance. handling the bike,” says Gary.
“One of the hardest things is to eat well for such long cycles, because you burn around 600 calories per hour, so it’s not only important to keep eating, but to eat the right foods to provide Energy.”
Since Covid restrictions eased, Gary has taken advantage of it, traveling more or less for the past six weeks.
“That means I’ve trained in places like Portugal, cycled 30 miles in temperatures up to 34C, so I might just hold the world record for liters of water that a man can consume in two hours.
“It’s tempting to eat out and enjoy a bottle of rosé while you’re traveling, but it’s time for me to trade the vacation lifestyle for a strict training regimen that also demands a dedicated cycling nutrition plan. .”
Peter’s success in para-cycling began in 2013 when he won the Para-cycling National Championships in the 40km time trial.
He was diagnosed with Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy in 2010 – a disease of the optic nerve – and today he has only 10% of his sight. Since his diagnosis, he has been supported by the Fighting Blindness association.
“I’ve been on a bike long enough to know that it doesn’t take much for things to go wrong,” admits Peter.
“It could be the result of fatigue, or it could be something random like a dog running in front of you. I don’t have a say in braking, so communication and trust will be essential between us.
“The important thing will be that Gary gains the confidence he needs so that we can both work, literally, in tandem.”
Money raised from the round will contribute to Fighting Blindness’ core values to care for, support and empower people living with sight loss.
“For many conditions the cure is not yet available, so while research is essential to find the cure, there are other therapeutic measures to offer support,” reveals Dr Ellen Moran, lead researcher for Fighting Blindness.
“Once a patient is referred to a Target 5000 eye doctor, they are clinically examined and referred for genetic testing, which allows access to all other supports, including future treatments and also genetic counseling.
“It also allows for additional tests to try to diagnose specific conditions. Funds raised through the Paris2Nice charity cycle will support these invaluable services.
Dr. Moran adds that it is always possible to improve eye health and awareness of the conditions.
“Vision loss is a spectrum. There are a variety of symptoms, conditions and the level of vision varies from person to person – and within a person at any given time.
“A regular eye test can identify a range of health problems, not just related to vision, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Early detection often improves the outcome.
Gary is “all set” to endure six days of tough terrain, confident that he and Peter will cross the finish line.
“For me, it’s just a physical challenge and with enough preparation it’s doable,” he said.
“It doesn’t compare to the daily challenges faced by Peter and others supported by this great charity.”
Members of the public can support the Driving the Cure fundraiser at www.idonate.ie/GaryAndPeter.
For more information on Fighting Blindness visit www.fightingblindness.ie.
For more information about its4women visit www.its4women.co.uk