Visually-impaired Paul's cycle challenge
A MAN who is almost completely blind is set to cycle across the country for charity.
Paul Joyce, who has less than 10pc sight, will undertake the 200km-cycle on a tandem bike with the aid of a pilot later this month. And he's doing it all to raise money for the Irish Guide Dogs.
Mr Joyce, who suffers from retinitis pigmentosa (RP) - a degenerative eye disease, set up a cycling club for the visually impaired in Galway eight years ago. It currently has 17 visually-impaired members with 40 volunteer pilots who help steer the tandem bikes.
"It's been hugely popular since we set it up. We usually try and get out for a cycle every two weeks, covering 20 to 30 miles. It's great to see more visually-impaired people getting involved. Some are a bit wary at first but once they get out on the bike they think it's fantastic," he said.
Mr Joyce said one of the biggest challenges of the group is matching the cyclist with the right pilot, taking into account speed and weight among other factors.
While the trip from Maynooth to Galway will be daunting, it's unlikely to phase the avid cyclist who competed the Ring of Kerry last year and is planning to cycle from Berlin to Prague this summer.
The cycle begins on Friday, March 27 and will see 300 cyclists take part. After a day of collecting on the streets of Galway for the Irish Guide Dogs, they will take to their bikes again on the Sunday morning for the return trip to Maynooth University.
"I'm planning on doing the first leg of the trip down to Galway and then a few of us will accompany them on part of the journey back up on the Sunday. This is the first cycle I've done as part of such a big group, so that will be interesting," said Mr Joyce.
All money from the cycle will go to the Irish Guide Dogs Assistance Dog Programme which is aimed at children with autism, and has proven to be extremely successful.
The demand for the Assistance Dog Programme far outweighs the supply, and the waiting list for new applicants is closed due to lack of funding and the over- demand.
People can follow the group's progress on the day on Facebook and Twitter and at galwaycycle.ie.