Nathan KingerleeRonnie IrvinePaul McArthur
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A Sea of Cyclists!

Posted on October 13, 2011 @ 10:20 AM in Cycling

The Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive was split into three routes, 57km, 126km, and the final “killer” 182km.  Due to my only training being the daily commute, I decided to take the middle option and hope that the hills weren’t too big!

The morning started bright and breezy along the marvellous Ballycastle seafront.  A large marquee pumping out music signalled the registration point, along with a complementary service centre for those last minute fixes and adjustments.  Then at 10:30 we were given our last instructions and released.

The first few km were heading out along the coast in an easterly direction, offering great views of the Atlantic and the sweeping hills in the near distance.  All along the route were either marshals at junctions or clear signage to avoiding any confusion.  The initial few km were a gradual rise before the first big climb at around 16km.  This was tackled in bright sunshine which caused a few problems for those who had dressed for more inclement weather, like myself, and saw many shed their outer layers.  The scenery was spectacular with rolling green hills and a view of the sea never far away.

The first feed station at 22km was a welcome sight and well manned and stocked, with banana, cake and water all on offer as well as the odd word of encouragement.  This stop was situated in a small dip after the climb and offered a fantastic panoramic view of the surrounding hills, forests and valleys, which alone was worth the climb up.   There then followed a long decent from the 350 odd metres gained back down to around 20 metres before the next climb started at 35km.  By this time a welcome light drizzle had started which offered a refreshing change from the warm sunshine.

As the next climb started to bite the groups on the road started to thin out with many riders having settled into their own pace.  Most of the first climbs were around 8km long and although steep in some sections were easily tackled at a steady pace.  Once over this climb the feed station at 49km was another opportunity to take some refreshment on board.  Set in a wooded area, it too was well stocked and marshalled.

By now full on rain had started but even this couldn’t disrupt the craic amongst the riders which mostly centred on the fact that Torr Head was still to be tackled in the last 25km.  Torr Head Road is a legendary road which has accounted for more than one burnt out clutch among the unsuspecting motorist.

As with this entire route the scenery kept pleasing the eye while the hills kept testing the legs.  Then suddenly at 77km we were out of the hills and descending down to the feed station at Glenarm, where on the sea front an enterprising chip van owner had set up and was doing brisk business.  I elected to load up on the bananas and water instead, although the smell was enticing, and then head along the coast along a wind-swept and thankfully flat road heading into the final 54km.  Although flat, the road was very open with a strong head wind but a great view of the sea.  Then suddenly we were heading inland again and a very steep hill was tackled in a downpour which gave a bit of concern on the downhill and a chance to test your brakes.

The final feed was at 104 km and was situated with a view of Torr Head Road in the near distance, on which you could make out the odd cyclist struggling up the incline.  Having stocked up on food and water it was time to tackle the Torr.  I have to admit defeat this time as I was over geared and under trained and ended up walking, along with a few others, up a good part of the hill.  The final few hills along this road were steep but the knowledge that you were almost home give everyone a great spur on.  A final decent along the coast road brought Ballycastle back into view with its sweeping beaches and hilly backdrop and the knowledge that I had made it.

At the finish the music was still pumping out and after collecting a goodie bag, all the cyclists were treated to a very welcome pasta dish which was piping hot and extremely tasty.

I have nothing but praise for this event.  The signage was excellent, the marshalling great,  feed stations at just the right distance, well stocked and manned,  and the route a challenge for cyclists of all abilities.

As the Torr conquered me this time I will be back next year to even the score.

Latest comment posted by Spud on November 15, 2011 @ 4:31 AM

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Ed McCann
Ed McCann  Cyclist and IT Trainer

Ed works as an IT Trainer in Belfast and is also a keen cyclist, having spent the last 20 years in the activity he also used to race for West Down Wheelers.

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