Warren McConnaughiePeter LennonMark Rudds
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Road Cycling Events…Where to Start

Posted on January 16, 2015 @ 2:26 PM in Cycling

Cycling Ulster’s leisure road cycling calendar is already jam packed with events for 2015, so whether you are a serious cyclist or a novice wanting to cycle their first sportive there is plenty to choose from. These non-competitive events, otherwise known as sportives or leisure events, are normally run by cycling clubs and charities and offer a great way for cyclists to come together and enjoy a leisurely day out on the bike whilst also pushing themselves at the same time.

Having bought my first road bike at the end of 2012 I entered a few of these events myself. I remember turning up to do my first sportive, slightly nervous from not knowing what to expect but also because I’d never cycled more than 20miles at a time! However, nerves aside, I was quickly made to feel welcome by my fellow participants as we all approached the start line. Clearly bitten by the bug I started to enter more leisure events, below is a synapse of the events I have taken part in…

Dromara Cycling Club, a club well known for its friendliness and professionalism at delivering events, host the ‘Dromara Coastal’ every year which takes in the beautiful scenery along the County Down coastline and the shores of Strangford Lough. There are two routes available – 60 and 80 miles – and is a great introductory event for leisure riders. 

This 55 mile ride is organised by the Kilbride Cyclists cycling club and follows roads around County Antrim. With only one route on offer you can expect a fair amount of hills at this event! After around 30miles and just after a quick descent into Glenarm you will then be welcomed with a variety of homemade sandwiches, buns and cakes and oodles of tea and coffee at their feed station. Back on the bike for another 20 odd miles to the finish line where a BBQ awaits you and a well-earned cuppa!

The Tour of the Orchard County is a sportive organised by the Armagh Tigers, a charitable trust set up six years ago and by a group of Armagh business people with a long history of fund-raising for local charities. On the day there are two routes (36miles & 68miles) around the Orchard County of Armagh passing many historical points of interest along the way. We opted for the shorter 36mile route and were joined by array of cyclists of varying abilities. Half way round there is a small feed stop where you can pick up just enough to see you through to the finish line where a very well deserved burger and chip awaits you!

The Maracycle is a well-known event where participant’s cycle between Dublin and Belfast in support of Ireland’s leading peace building charity, Cooperation Ireland. Due to lack of training, on the day we decided to take part in a section of the route from Belfast to Newry which meant we cycled around a total of 40miles (a bit of a cop out compared to what the other participants had ahead of them!). The camaraderie of the participants is what definitely stands out about this event and is probably what spurs people on to complete the longer distances. In Newry (which was the finish for us) we received a commemorative t-shirt and medal, which was a nice touch.

Many cyclists debate the hardest leisure events in Ireland and normally the Dromara Hilly will get a mention because of its notorious climbs. However, there are a variety of routes which should suit as many people as possible (105miles/77miles/52miles/37miles). On the day of the event there had been torrential downpours from the early hours of the morning so initially we were to complete the 52 mile route but then only ended up completing around 40 miles in the horrendous weather conditions. Over half way in you’ll be greeted with a fantastic feed station at Leitrim with sandwiches, buns, yoghurts plus lots more and then when all the hard work is done burgers are given out to all finishers. To help guide you along the way and to offer some kind words of encouragement you’ll see Dromara CC club members dotted along the route.

Lap the Lough is on every cyclists list of events to complete, an event that circumnavigates Lough Neagh and started in 2006. A friend and I entered to complete Lap 9 which took place in August 2014. On the day of the event there was a feed stop every 20-25 miles which was a great way to breakdown the distance of 85miles – a distance which I’d never cycled before. The route is also fairly flat so it’s not that demanding, the most important thing is making sure you feel comfortable on your bike because you could be on it for around 5-7 hours. Half way round there was a lunch stop so we could stock up on some soup and a roll and at the finish line there were yummy wraps for everyone.

The Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive is held every September with many club cyclists considering it as their end of season sportive and one to train for because of the infamous Torr Head Road on the 80mile and 115mile routes. Luckily for me there was a shorter option (35miles) that avoids the Torr Head but follows the beautiful Coast Road as well as through the magnificent Dark Hedges instead. The scenery, the friendly atmosphere and the banter between participants are definitely what make this event plus the hot spicy chicken pasta that was laid out for everyone at the finish line.

Entering these type of events is a great way to not only motivate yourself to get out on the bike but also to meet like-minded people. One event worth considering this year is the much anticipated Gran Fondo, a legacy event from last year’s Giro d’Italia which expects to attract up to 4,000 participants. There is a 36 mile route, which would be ideal for beginners or a 109 mile route, suitable for more experienced cyclists.

It is a good idea to carry out some preparation before you take part in any event in order to make it as memorable as possible! Make sure to check your bike so that it is in good working order and it is also very important to check the weather forecast so you can prepare what you will wear on the day. Some things you will need on the day are your water bottle, some snacks, cycling gloves, shoes, helmet, some money and your mobile phone.

To see what events are on throughout the year visit www.cycleni.com/events

Beverley Magowan
Beverley Magowan  Senior Marketing Officer

Beverley used to be a keen horse rider but since joining a local cycle club in 2013 she has developed a passion for 2 wheels instead of 4 hoofs! Meaning she can often be found on a bike exploring the roads across the country!

4 comments have been posted in reply to this article

Posted by Alana on March 19, 2015 @ 10:33 AM

Hi can someone connect me or point me in the direction of a womens cycle group please? My email is a.dade80@hotmail.com

Posted by Beverley Pierson on March 19, 2015 @ 10:35 AM

Hi Alana,

There are no women's specific cycling clubs in Northern Ireland however the majority of the existing cycling clubs in Northern Ireland have women only rides. Where are you from and i can send you details of the most suitable club.



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