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“I could have been paralysed” – Top Irish cyclo-cross racer sustains broken bones due to trap on mountain bike trail

Seán Nolan broke four ribs and two vertebrae and sustained a partially collapsed lung in crash on Friday

A top Irish cyclo-cross racer has sustained a number of broken bones after riding into a trap on a mountain bike trail in County Louth.

Seán Nolan, aged 20, is based in Belgium but had come back to Ireland to compete in the national cross country championships which took place yesterday in Bellurgan, near Dundalk.

But on Friday when he was on a training ride near Drogheda at Townley Hall Woods, he rode into a wire stretched across the trail and crashed, reports local radio station LMFM.

He broke four ribs and two of his vertebrae were fractured, and he also sustained a partially collapsed lung.

The wire was discovered by his father when he went to look at the location where the crash happened.

Speaking on the radio station’s Late Lunch show today, Nolan said: “I really could have been paralysed, easily. It could have changed my life forever.

“Thankfully it’s only going to be a couple of months of recovery,” added the cyclist, who in January finished 40th in the men’s under-23 race at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Fayeteville.

Earlier that month, he was runner-up in the elite race at the Irish national championships.

He also raced seven rounds of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup during the 2021/22 season, while on the road he races with Irish UCI Continental team Evo Pro Racing.

The crash  took place on a mountain bike trail on land owned by state-controlled forestry business Coillte, which is investigating the incident, which is similar to a number of ones we have reported on from the UK in which booby traps have been laid for cyclists using trails.

Coillte – the word is Irish for “forests” or “woods” – manages around 7 per cent of Ireland’s land area, and has developed six dedicated mountain bike centres in forests it maintains.

However, other than for walking, or cycling in designated areas where signs permit it, members of the public need to obtain a licence to undertake any activities on its land and a spokesperson for Coillte told LMFM that is does not “operate or authorise any mountain biking trails at Townley Hall,” and that it “has no licensed mountain bike activity in our forest at Townley Hall.”

Coillte added that it “is the largest provider of outdoor recreation in Ireland, with 260 recreational forests, twelve forest parks and six dedicated mountain bike centres. We work with local communities to develop recreational resources and facilities on our lands.

“In the interests of public safety and for the health and safety of all forest users, mountain bikers are asked to use the six dedicated mountain bike centres that Coillte have developed with purpose-built trails tailored to suit the experience of the individual mountain biker from novice to experienced, the details of which are available on www.coillte.ie.”

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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8 comments

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nordog | 1 year ago
2 likes

Had that happened on Sustrans Bristol to Bath cycle route 4 a few years ago I was lucky that a rider hit the day before, that rider was handing out leaflets as I got there a nasty gash on his neck he showed me.

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Pot00000000 | 1 year ago
2 likes

I don't live too far from there, and I'm not surprised by the lack of police comments.
 

 

 

 

 

 

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hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
4 likes

I'm surprised there's no mention of the police being involved even though I'd expect it would be difficult to catch whoever is responsible. Whether or not a trail is managed/authorised or whatever, you can't have people going around setting traps for other people. What's next, landmines?

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OldRidgeback | 1 year ago
6 likes

I'm unclear whether this trail was a permitted one or not. However, that shouldn't detract from the fact that people placing hazards on a trail is extremely dangerous and could result in life changing injuries or even a fatality.

If people want to protest against an area being used for off-road riding, there are legal ways to do it that don't put others at risk.

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Rendel Harris replied to OldRidgeback | 1 year ago
4 likes

It appears not: "[We do not] operate or authorise any mountain biking trails at Townley Hall [and have] no licensed mountain bike activity in our forest at Townley Hall.”

However, as you say, no excuse whatsoever for laying traps.

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OnYerBike replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
4 likes

Not the most considered response from Coillte - essentially seems to boil down to "you shouldn't have been cycling there so you got what you deserved". 

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Rendel Harris replied to OnYerBike | 1 year ago
6 likes
OnYerBike wrote:

Not the most considered response from Coillte - essentially seems to boil down to "you shouldn't have been cycling there so you got what you deserved". 

Agreed, a sentence at the end of their statement saying "Obviously we condemn any attempts to injure anyone in our forests, no matter what they are doing, in the strongest possible terms" wouldn't have gone amiss.

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mdavidford replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
3 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

It appears not: "[We do not] operate or authorise any mountain biking trails at Townley Hall [and have] no licensed mountain bike activity in our forest at Townley Hall.”

That just says that there's no specific provision, though, rather than it not being permitted. Their website says you can cycle in designated areas 'or where you see the cyclists welcome sign', and is a bit vague about where the latter are.

Having said that, going by this (albeit it's a bit old), that doesn't seem to apply in this particular location.

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