As internationally renowned cyclists from across the globe take their places at the starting point of the Giro d’Italia they could perhaps do with some words of wisdom from a 70-year-old Co Down man who recently took on part of the route as a birthday challenge.
Having achieved success on the horse racing track both as a jockey and trainer, Raymund Martin swapped one saddle for another and is now a cycling enthusiast – one of a growing contingent in Ulster who are especially looking forward to Friday’s race opener in Belfast.
Raymund, a father-of-three, is no stranger to sporting success, having come seventh in the Grand National in 1990, and won the Fox Hunters race in Cheltenham that year, following on from the Fox Hunters race at Liverpool in 1989.
But after playing rugby in his youth, riding horses and being partial to a bit of squash and mountain biking with his wife Andra, the grandfather is now firmly fixed on cycling as his hobby of choice.
Most people entering their eighth decade may be thinking of slowing down and relaxing, but Raymund – helped along with some inspiration from his son Shane – decided a 70-mile cycle would be the perfect way to mark his milestone birthday. Followed in the car by Shane, who runs visualnarrative.tv, Raymund tackled the twists and turns of the route from Portballintrae all the way to Belfast, passing Ballymoney, Bushmills, Ballintoy, the Coast Road and Carrickfergus.
Bathed in sunshine but braving a chill in the air, raymund said visiting cyclists are in for a treat this weekend as they sample some of the delights of Northern Ireland’s scenery.
“It really is beautiful up round that part,” he told the News Letter. “It was a very pleasant ride. Although I travel at around 16 miles an hour while some of them reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, so I’m not sure they’ll get to appreciate the views,” he laughed. “Nonetheless it will hopefully be a boost for the Province, and tourism here.”
In a commemorative video created by Shane, his father speaks of the similarities between cycling and horse racing, speeding down hills with the wind in his face. And as a pensioner still picking up speed on his trips with Dromara Cycling Club as well as solo runs, Raymund said he would recommend the two-wheeled hobby as a great form of exercise for young and old alike.
“I suppose it is a bit easier on the joints than running for example,” he said. “You get out on the road and you’re just with your thoughts. It is a great way to spend a few hours.”