Mountain biking in Northern Ireland is set to get a massive boost if plans to build a World Cycling Centre at Magheramorne quarry, near Larne, go ahead.
The site, which covers 153 hectares – the size of 220 football pitches – will cater for all levels of rider and offer five downhill courses, a four-cross track, a beginners’ skills area and a selection of cross-country routes.
Renowned trail builder Dafydd Davis MBE has been integral in the development of plans for the site and is excited at the prospect of working at Magheramore.
He told us: “The elevation is high for such a small site. It’s a hell of a cool place, and will definitely offer something for everyone.”
According to Davis there’ll be one black/’hardcore’ graded downhill run which will take around 1½ minutes to reach the bottom, along with four other runs of varying difficulty including a blue graded trail with plenty of berms and switchbacks that will offer a fun blast for less experienced riders.
A road-based uplift facility will operate, with the possibility of a chairlift uplift system being touted for the future.
The fly in the ointment of the ambitious plans is the cost of remediation of the site, says Davis, with much time and money necessary to make the works safe.
Lloyd McInally, Magheramorne regeneration project manager for Lafarge, commented on the findings of a recent feasibility study, saying: "The study has confirmed that we have a very special opportunity at Magheramorne to create a world-class facility and that it can more than pay its way once the trails and facilities are set up.
“Like all major mountain bike venues, an initial injection of cash will be needed to construct the centre and over the coming months we’ll be looking at ways we might get support for this."
The cycling plans are integral to a wider scheme to redevelop the quarry and former cement works site, which includes a new diving centre, climbing facility, sports hotel, film studio, bird watching area, heritage railway and sustainable living harbour village. The whole project received outline planning permission in September 2009 and Lafarge is now working to identify potential developers to take the plans forward.
For more information, head to http://www.magheramorneworks.co.uk. We’ll keep a close eye on the developments at Magheramorne, and hope it’s as awesome as it sounds.