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Very Nice Irishwoman cycling from Paris to Nice to raise funds for Irish Cancer Society

Fay is cycling from Paris to Nice to raise funds for Irish Cancer Society

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Faye training for her mammoth cycle.

Faye training for her mammoth cycle.

Faye training for her mammoth cycle.

When Fay Brophy crosses the finish point on her epic cycle from Paris to Nice, another powerhouse of a woman will be foremost in her mind — her late mother Eileen.

She will also be thinking of the nurses who made her mum’s final days a comfort for her and her family - and dedicating every kilometre to the precious work they do.

Fay took up distance cycling just months after her mum died of metastatic breast cancer in October of last year. It has sustained her as she struggled with bereavement - and she was surprised to discover she had a natural knack for the sport.

“I think I’m a walking, talking, peddling cliché where your mum dies, you go through a bit of trauma having nursed her for five, six months and watching her die,” she said. “All of that energy was put into minding her.”

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Fay with her late mum Eileen.

Fay with her late mum Eileen.

Fay with her late mum Eileen.

When Eileen died, Fay’s energy found a new home on the saddle.

“I always loved the Tour de France, watching it with my dad Michael on holiday in France in the summer. I think it’s something that has been in me. I’ve always said that we don’t know what we’re good at unless we try it. I can’t pinpoint the reason why I bought the bike - but I did. I think my subconscious was working to protect me.”

Now Fay is taking part in a major cycling challenge to raise funding for the Irish Cancer Society’s Night Nursing Service. The service and the wonderful nurses that provide it supported Eileen and her family in the final days of her life.

Fay first took to the road a couple of months after Eileen died. “I only started really cycling properly in March, and then I joined my local cycling club the Bray Wheelers.”

Even though their sessions were online initially because of Covid restrictions, Fay instantly felt a sense of camaraderie. “I’ve never come across a friendlier community,” she said of the club. “Everyone looks out for one another, and nurtures all abilities.”

One senior cyclist, Kevin Dempsey, saw her potential. “I’ve already nicknamed him my sherpa,” she smiled. “He brought me out on my first 100k, he’s been my mentor throughout this time.”

As she struggled with her bereavement and the numerous challenges that it brought, Fay realised cycling was a valuable support for her. “What I loved about it was the discipline. My whole world was turned upside down. But I could see my progress on the bike.”

Her brother, Karl, knew of the Paris2Nice non-competitive charity cycle through friends and suggested it to her. The six-day cycle to the sun starts in Paris, and meanders through 750km of French countryside, finishing on Nice’s famous Promenade des Anglais. Over the past decade it has raised over €4million, 100% of which went directly to Irish charities. This year 34 cyclists, who have been in training since early June, will take part.

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Faye takes a short break for training ahead of the charity cycle.

Faye takes a short break for training ahead of the charity cycle.

Faye takes a short break for training ahead of the charity cycle.

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Fay is currently based in Spain training for the mammoth cycle, which begins on September 10th. “I had decided to do a cycling training camp in Mallorca at the end of September.

Then I thought 'why not go there for four weeks before the camp and work from there, and cycle in the sunshine?' So that's what I did - I rented an airbnb, brought my computer to work, and met wonderful people to pedal with, and climbed the most iconic routes. It has been the best training, the stuff of dreams!”

Logistics were a challenge, and Fay was grateful to Aidan Duff of Harry’s bike shop in Clonskeagh for building a specialised bike to her measurements and getting it to Paris for her.

As she prepares to take part in the cycle, the irony is not lost on Fay that her mum was not a big fan of cycling.

“Eileen devoted all her spare time to her horse, and, as a long-standing member of the RDA (Riding for the Disabled) to helping physically disabled children enjoy horses, and experience the therapy they provide. She never stopped studying horsemanship, and was basically a horse whisperer.

“She absolutely abhorred cyclists - because carbon and high-vis lycra do not make good road mates with horses. So she admitted defeat (which is hard for a Kerry person) and stopped riding on Sundays, when cyclists took to the Wicklow roads in their colourful droves.

“She had a great sense of humour, so would love the comical irony of the fact that I’m raising funds in her name by doing something that she detested so much.”

Cycling has not only sustained her but given her a new lease of life and sense of community.

“I'm 43 next month, and have never been - or, more importantly, felt - fitter. Cycling has made me very aware of how we can all preserve our mental and emotional health through exercise in the open air.”

To follow Fay’s progress, https://www.instagram.com/beat_thebonk/

To support Fay and the Irish Cancer Society’s Night Nurses: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/fay-brophy

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