BALLYMENA Road Club – Chain Reaction Cycles – members and officials are still in a state of shock following the sudden death of their club colleague and founder member Joe McAuley last Tuesday morning.
Joe, who was 77 years old, was cycling on the Kilnacoolpagh road, near Carnalbanagh, whenever he felt unwell and then suffered a heart attack which proved to be fatal.
A short time earlier he had spoken to workmen who were repairing pot holes on the road surface and, typical of Joe, he had commended them on their efforts.
A motorist who was following him at the time observed him tumbling from his bike and then collapsing at the road side. The motorist summoned the nearby workmen but, despite their efforts, they were unable to resuscitate him and he passed away at the scene.
Joe was a founder member of the club in 1954 and he, along with the club’s other founder member Sammy Kerr, attended the club’s registration evening, at Rex Bonar house, last Monday evening. Joe was always one of the first people to renew his membership and this year was no different.
He was in great form on Monday night and he enjoyed speaking to and joking with everyone who attended the meeting, no one present could have imagined that this would be the last time they would see him.
Joe was a very active and enthusiastic member of the club throughout his near 60 years as a member.
In his early days he took part in both club race and open race events and when he stopped competing he turned his attention to leisure cycling and touring activities.
He rarely missed a touring event and also marshalled at the club’s two big open races each season when he would accompany his good friend Pius McKernan. In fact this lifetime of devotion to the club was recognised when he was awarded the “Friendship cup” as club member of the year in 2010.
At one time Joe was a skilful exponent at cycling on rollers and in 1981 he established a record distance of 345 miles, in twelve hours, during a marathon, charity fund raising event in Ballymena town centre.
Joe was also a member of the successful, three man, Ballymena Road Club roller racing team which won the inter towns championship on several occasions during the 1980’s.
Each season the road club’s touring section promotes their “Nine glens challenge” event which starts in Glenarm and takes in all the famous glens before finishing in Ballycastle.
Five cyclists completed this 70 miles marathon the first year it was undertaken and Joe was one of the original five. He accompanied Patsy McGurk, Martin and Pius McKernan and Richard Wilson on that inaugural “scouting ride” I was there that day and I know Joe derived immense satisfaction at completing what was a formidable challenge.
Having done the ride once, the club then made it an annual event and Joe always took part, even though in recent years he was unable to do the full route he always started with the group and was there with them at the finish in Ballycastle.
Another of Joe’s highlights was achieved when he completed “L’Etape du Tour” in the French Alps in 2000.
This is an event which gives the “ordinary” cyclist the opportunity to complete a stage of the famous Tour de France. Whilst the event isn’t a race the participants had to reach designated points within a cut off time so that they could continue to the next section. This meant that completing the event was even more difficult. Joe was successful at his first attempt.
He accompanied former BRC chairman Clifford Davison to L’Etape and Clifford was one of the mourners who attended Joe’s funeral on Friday. Clifford made the journey from Dingwall in the North of Scotland to attend the funeral.
Canon Stuart Lloyd, the Rector of Saint Patricks parish church in Ballymena, conducted the funeral service, which was held at a packed Henry’s rest home Broughshane Street. Interment was at the Ballymena cemetery on the Cushendall road.
The road club members extend their sincere sympathy to Joe’s wife (of 55 years) Aileen and to their two sons Brian and Alan and to the entire family circle at this very sad time.
On Saturday morning the touring section group visited the site of Joe’s final turn of the pedals. They observed a minutes silence in memory of their good friend. The location is marked by a simple bouquet of flowers and the verse which reads - “resting where no shadows fall”.