Thinking of volunteering on Race Around Ireland? We’ll be catching up with some of the dedicated crew of supporters to discover just how rewarding their experience is.
Christina Cutliffe started off crewing with her company team and couldn’t get enough of Ireland’s toughest sporting challenge. Here’s her story…
RAI Volunteer Q & A, Christina Cutliffe – Generali PanEurope
How is it you first came to be involved in Race Around Ireland? I understand you have also been involved as a crew member?
I joined Generali PanEurope at the end of September 2013 and the Company was still buzzing from competing in the RAI for the first time. It was amazing to see how the whole company got into it. When the Company decided to enter a team again in 2015 I knew I wanted to be involved. I am bossy and organised so crewing seemed like the logical fit for me apart from the fact I am a disaster on a bike! I started out as Deputy Crew Chief and then a couple of months before the race our Crew Chief had to step down and I took over.
Could you tell us a little about your volunteer role as a Race Official? How does it differ from your other experience in RAI?
Having crewed the RAI I was bitten completely by the bug and I knew before the race was over I wanted to stay involved. One of my colleagues has been in headquarters since 2014 having crewed in 2013.
I have been really lucky and gotten the full RAI experience. I was at headquarters for the registration days and then went out of the road as an official to follow the Ultra Race from Sunday to Wednesday and then returned to headquarters to man the phone and welcome the racers back with Emmett and Lorraine. I have gotten to see the race from all angles except the back of a bike!
The main difference between crewing/racing and being an official is that as an official you are on everyone’s team. When you take part in the race you are completely consumed by your team, taking care of them, getting them to the next climb or the next rest.
As an official you are there to see to the safety of the racers and crew and to ensure that they are following the race and rules but beyond that you are an ambassador for the RAI, working with the teams and generally assisting where possible including answering questions from members of the public who have never come across the race before. You can have some of the most amazing conversations with people just standing at the top of climb waiting on the next racer to come through. The scenery is amazing and the people you meet on the route are fantastic. You also get less sleep as an official than racers or crew members so it’s ultra endurance for us also!
What advice would you give anyone looking to get involved in the Race Around Ireland (in any capacity)?
Just do it! There are so many ways you can become involved – you don’t have to be a cyclist or involved with a cycling club. You don’t have to give up the eight days to be involved for the full RAI you can cover the stages in your local area, do a couple of hours in Headquarters or just make tea! You will never laugh so much or be as tired in your life but it is worth every second.
What has been your most inspiring moment on RAI?
There have been so many really funny stories but of the inspiring type there are two that really stick in my mind: The first was watching Alan talking to a solo racer who had to pull out around Cork due to an injury and returned to the headquarters to return his black box tracker. Alan sat with him and his crew and chatted to him about the race and what had gone wrong. Alan had organised for the racer to speak with a specialist physio familiar with the race and explained that if he kept in contact with Alan he would help him with this training so that he could come back the next year to try again. The RAI is Alan, Emmet and Lorraine’s baby they genuinely care about every person on that race and they want you to finish. They want you to get that medal and stand on the podium. People don’t necessarily realise that the three of them are there 24/7 for the full race and at least one of them will be there when you finish no matter what time of the day or night. They bring that professional yet personal touch to the race that other events just don’t have.
The second inspiring memory is coming out of the Kerry Mountains into West Cork with the sun shining over the ocean and a very loud rock tune on the radio. I was just struck by how amazing the experience was! I think I may have broken into tears shortly afterwards with sheer tiredness and I’m not sure if that added to the experience or not!
If you’d like more to know more about becoming a Race Around Ireland volunteer and what roles are available, see HERE.