Pierre Bischoff on the Race Around Ireland start ramp in Trim, County Meath.

Pierre Bischoff  and Philip Culbert led the way in the early stages as the 11th edition of Race Around Ireland got under way today.

Former winner Valerio Zamboni was the final rider off the ramp in Trim, Co Meath with 2200km of near non-stop riding in prospect as Ireland’s  toughest sporting challenge began under blue skies.

The ride around the circumference of Ireland attracts world class ultraendurance riders from Ireland and further afield including Germany’s 2016 Race Across America Champion Pierre Bischoff who shrugged off a broken collarbone to trade positions with Ireland’s Phiip Culbert as the riders race north along the eastern seaboard towards Northern Ireland.

The solo riders were the final competitors into action after the eight-person, four-person and two-person relay teams had begun their epic journey from the picturesque surroundings of Trim Castle during the Salmon of Knowledge Festival in the historic Meath town.

With full support crews for all teams and solo riders, Race Around Ireland is a logistical, physical and mental challenge without parallel in Ireland and among the toughest events in the extreme world of ultracycling.

Only the most talented, committed and organised can even hope to enter Race Around Ireland and the time limits imposed mean that recording a finish elevates riders and teams to legendary status.

Culbert, from Dublin, is a member of Scott Orwell Wheelers and an experienced ultracyclist having won the companion event the Irish Ultra Challenge in 2018 over approximately half of the distance of its big brother.

In Bischoff he faces a rival who won the original ultracycling event Race Across America, or RAAM, in 2016. Bischoff, though, broke his collarbone recently and his ability to rest his arms on the handlebars and get out of the saddle on the frequent climbs that make the RAI course one of the toughest, will be sorely tested this week.

Graham Macken, William MacLennan, Nicholas Longworth, Tucker Sorrell, Valerio Zamboni and John Musgrove were all closely packed as darkness descended on the opening night while the only woman riding solo, Aoife Henry, was also riding strongly at the conclusion of day one.

Among the teams, the experienced two-rider combination of Peter McKeown and Andy McAfee from Whiteriver Wheelers had caught and passed their rivals by Lough Neagh on Day One in a clear statement of intent.

James and Norman Beech from Britain lay second overnight in their bid to become the first father and son combination to complete Race Around Ireland.

Among the four-rider squads, Velo Club Balrothery’s quartet of John McCormack, Edward Guildea, Martin Casey and Gareth Dargle were charging up to the north coast on day one with a useful advantage over Team Recycled

The fastest teams are generally the eight-man crews and on day one, H8 Lawlors and Carn Wheelers were trading blows some way clear of Team Make a Wish Waterford.

The solo riders in the companion event the Irish Ultra Challenge were also well into their first day of racing around 1100km of the northern half of the island with Tony Keane and Christopher Beattie locked in combat, closely followed by Noel Cusack and Sean Hernon.

For further details see racearoundireland.com
And to follow the progress of all the competitors see the live tracker: https://gps.blackblox.si/race/54