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A wee cycling story that concerns a person in the news.

In the early nineties lots of cyclists did the Maracycle – a 100-mile trip from Belfast to Dublin on the Saturday and the return journey back to Belfast the next day.

Participants in one of the Maracycles pause at Newry for a minute. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
Participants in one of the Belfast Dublin Maracycles pause at Newry for a break. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

I, along with a few local riders, joined a big group leaving Belfast. We saw these two guys in front of us, who were obviously posers as they were clad in all-yellow gear. We stepped up the pace and passed them - but almost right away the chancers jumped to the front again.

Someone said: ‘Let them stay there … sure they’ll take us all the way to Dublin.’

So we let them stay at the front.

The pace was steady and everything was fine until we came to our own Dublin Road hill, on the other side of Newry.

As we climbed I began to struggle for breath and was having trouble staying with the yellow-clad posers.

But they seemed to be in no trouble at all. And despite the steep incline, and under no pressure, they continued to talk and joke.

Halfway up the hill I looked around and our big group had splintered all over the road with only two or three of us able to keep the yellow men in sight.

With a lot of trouble we got to the top and I moved up to talk to the pair of leaders. ‘Do you do the Mayacycle every year?’ I asked them.

I couldn’t believe it when they answered: ‘What’s the Maracycle?

‘What you’re doing today.’ I replied.

They explained: ‘No we are not doing the Maracycle. We were riding a crit in Belfast last night and we’re only out to loosen up our legs. Our team bus is to pick us up in Dundalk.’

Further questions, and we discovered the pair were members of the Banana-Falcon professional cycling team and they were in fact Chris Lillywhite, the best sprinter in Britain at the time, and Shane Sutton. Yes the same Shane Sutton who is currently at the centre of the Sky performance-enhancing drugs story along with Richard Freeman.

But in truth I don’t think Shane Sutton or Chris Lillywhite would have needed testosterone, corticosteroid or EPO to stay in front of our ragged Maracycle group on the Newry hill!

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