Ireland will host its first ever closed road cycling event, the Sky Ride Etape Hibernia, in County Clare later this year.
Organisers IMG, who also run the Etape Caledonia in Scotland, hope to build on the area’s reputation as a top cycling destination by attracting 2,000 riders in the first year, and up to 5,000 by 2014.
Members of the press, including Cycling Plus magazine’s Kate Hodgins, were invited to ride a 10-mile section of the route, passing through seaside villages on course to the popular surfing spot of Spanish Point, and sampling some of the gentle climbs and breathtaking views in store for the participants in August
The proposed route is 84.5 miles long, with a total elevation of 765m. It starts and finishes in the county capital Ennis and takes in the spectacular coastline of the west of Ireland including the world famous Cliffs of Moher.
Although there was some concern at the launch about the impact that road closures could have on the local community, especially following the tack attack at last year’s Caledonian event, local representatives were mostly excited about bringing cyclists to the region.
Clare’s mayor, councillor Tony Mulcahy, was quick to point out that the event would require staged road closures for one day only, whereas bad weather caused the roads to close for nearly two weeks at the start of the year.
IMG have worked in partnership with broadcasters Sky, Failte Ireland, Shannon Development, Clare County Council, and the Shannon Region Conference and Sports Bureau to help ensure that local businesses and residents benefit from the event, as well as visiting cyclists.
Jo Dytch of IMG said “Along with our partners we are looking to lead the way in providing a prestige event for cycling in Ireland and to establish a major fixture on the Irish sporting calendar.”
The Sky Ride Etape Hibernia takes place on 22 August 2010. Entry costs €54 (approx £48).With places for the Etape Caledonia selling out in record time this year, it might be wise to book early. Visit www.etapehibernia.com for more information.
County Clare was named as one of the world’s top 10 cycling destinations in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2010 guide.