An ultra-endurance athlete from Northern Ireland has his sights set on an astonishing World Cup victory — at the age of 60.
Joe Barr, from Limavady, is an ultra-endurance cyclist who first took up the sport for a charity fundraiser 10 years ago, and is now in the running to become the oldest competitor to win its highest accolade.
A highly successful competitive cyclist in his youth who in 1986 claimed a Commonwealth Bronze medal, Joe entered his first endurance event in 2009 to raise money for a cancer charity his son had been involved with.
Spurred on by his son overcoming a cancer diagnosis, Joe claimed victory in the Race Around Ireland — a non-stop 2,212km journey along the Irish coast — and in the process launched a new career in a sport that pushes human endurance to its biological limit.
Age appears to be no barrier to Joe.
He’s one of only a tiny number of people to have completed the gruelling Race Across America, a non-stop race without stages that takes athletes across two deserts, high into the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, from the shoreline of the Pacific in California to the Atlantic coast in Maryland.
He now holds a host of records — no one has cycled from the north of the island of Ireland to the south faster, or from the south to the north. He also set a record for cycling from the northern tip, to the southern tip, then back again, faster than anyone else had ever managed.
And just last week he set yet another record — cycling from the most easterly point to the most westerly point in Ireland, Wicklow Head Lighthouse to Slea Head, Co. Kerry or 235.6 miles in total in just 13 hours and 32 minutes.
Meanwhile, he’s looking ahead to the completion of the World Ultra-Cycling Association (WUCA) 2019 World Cup to see if he’s managed to become the first man his age to claim the top spot.
“We compete all over the world. I started my season in Florida in February. The endurance World Cup is run by WUCA, they’re the governing body. They have different championships, so they have a 500-mile championship — which I won in 2017 — but this year we’re focussing on the big one, the 1,000 mile championship.
“These races aren’t like normal races, they’re non-stop. To ride 1,000 miles takes three days. There is no sleep, to cut a long story short. My 1,000 mile race is the Race Across America and there are 12-hour and 24-hour races as well.”
The final rankings will be determined, likely in November, by the average speed achieved in a racer’s best 12 hour, 24 hour and 1,000-mile races, from a pool of World Cup of UltraCycling races.