Monday 13 September 2010

Race Around Ireland 2010

I made it out tonight to see the start of this years Race Around Ireland. Following on the success of last years event, the second longest race in the world is back on our roads.

11 hard individuals, and two 2-man teams, set off into a wet, cold, night from Navan, Co Meath. Ahead of them lies 1,350 miles (2,160 km) of tough, tough riding on very little sleep. Some are out to win the race but most simply want to make the finish before the cut-off time of 132 hours has elapsed. In other words for the first rider off at 8pm tonight, USA's Leslie Holton, the cut off time will be 8am on Saturday. Last year only 4 of the 11 solo riders managed to finish on time.

And don't think this is simply about riding your bike on smooth, main roads while roughly circumnavigating the island. Not on your life! The organisers have gone out of their way to ensure this is a gruelling event. Climbs like the Gap of Mamore, Gap of Dunloe, Patricks Hill, Mahon Falls, Slieve Maan and Drumgoff (among many others) have all been included. To put that in perspective one competitor mentioned tonight that the Race Across America only has roughly 25% more climbing, but in approximately twice the distance.

And a lot of those climbs, and the resulting descents, will be ridden at night. Tired riders, rough roads, darkness and, probably, bad weather will all combine to make this one serious challenge.

This years field includes double Womens Ironman World Champion, the aforementioned Holton, top Swiss Ultra-Marathon rider, Thomas Ratschob, Monaco's Velerio Zamboni and Ireland's Seán Ó hIarnáin.

For me, perhaps the most inspirational starter is Ian Campbell, from Newcastle, Co. Down. Two years ago Ian was diagnosed with prostate cancer and is only recently finished a course of radiotherapy. He's determined to fight back and wants to try to inspire others to do the same.

Good luck to all the riders now battling the rain and also to all those starting as part of the four and eight person teams on Tuesday night.

To follow the race progress or find out more go the race website at

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