The eight riders from the UK Spokeswomen Team rolled off the start ramp at 2pm in front of Trim Castle today to get the tenth edition of Ireland’s most demanding sporting event, Race Around Ireland, under way.
76 riders ranging from solo competitors to eight-person teams have embarked on one of the most extraordinary sporting events on the Irish sporting calendar and among the daunting in the arcane world of ultrcycling.
Many of the world’s top marathon bike riders are among the competitors who left Meath this afternoon at the start of their 2,150km epic circumference of Ireland, a unique event which, for the riders and the crew calls for extreme levels of stamina.
Race Around Ireland is non-stop race where competitors sleep if and when they need it. It, and its junior sibling event The Irish Ultra Challenge, are among the very toughest races on the world ultracycling calendar.
The challenging terrain of Race Around Ireland includes some of the hilliest and bumpiest road surfaces in any event on the calendar, a five-day circumference of Ireland that takes competitors to the very limits of human endurance.
This year’s event sends the riders through 22 of the 32 counties as it hugs the windswept coast from Meath through Newgrange, The Causeway Coast, Malin Head, The Cliffs of Moher, down the Wild Atlantic way to The Ring of Kerry, Mizen Head, the Garden County (Wicklow) and back to the finish line in Moynalty, County Meath.
And all within a week.
Solo riders must complete the event in a maximum of 132 hours in order to be classified as a finisher and riders will typically spend up to 22 hours a day in the saddle and go up to 36 hours before they take their first sleep stop.
Race Around Ireland is a team event, too, and squads of two, four and eight riders will relay throughout the 2108km.
The first winner of Race Around Ireland, Joe Barr, is back for the tenth edition and the former top road racer is, as ever, out to challenge for a top three position in a race he describes as “among the very toughest in the world.”
Barr will face a stern challenge from Czech star Svata Bozak, a top three finisher in Race Across America in the past, and Migg Scherer, the Swiss Ultrcycling specialist among others.
Aiming to become the first tandem pairing to finish Race Around Ireland are Paralympic star Peter Ryan and his sighted pilot Seán Hahessy.
Meanwhile, the riders in the Irish Ultra Challenge have a 1,100km route tracing the route of its Race Around Ireland from Meath around the northern half of Ireland before heading east from Galway to a finish back in Meath. This race is seen as the perfect stepping-stone into the world of ultra-cycling. Solo riders need to make it back to Trim within 68 hours to be recorded as a finisher.
Both events begin on August 26th in Trim, County Meath when the solo racers and the relay teams of two, four and eight riders are sent on their way. This year, the start features as the centrepiece of the new Trim Salmon of Knowledge Festival treating riders and spectators alike to an electric atmosphere in the start village in front of Trim Castle.