So what can I say about The Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive?
Posted on February 20, 2014 @ 4:11 PM in
I’m in my early sixties, suffer from Fibromyalgia and have only been cycling for just about four years. I seen the Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive advertised on Facebook and Cycle NI and thought now there’s a challenge that could be worth going for.
There are three routes to select from 57km which covers the Causeway Coast, 126km which covers the Glens and the Antrim Coast and the 182km the Giant Killer. As you can guess I selected the shorter route (35 miles in old money). Basically there is a route to suit all abilities from those like myself to those who want an even bigger challenge, to club cyclists who really want to test themselves against their mates and the route.
There was plenty of pre event information from the event organisers, keeping us up to date with details on training advice, lists of B & B, parking on the day etc. For those who had booked early Chain Reaction Cycles provided a free Race Pack worth over £12.00, nice touch and very useful.
I prefer to stay in a local B&B over the full event weekend so that I’m able to soak up the atmosphere, camaraderie and craic in and around the town the evenings before and after the ride. It also allowed me the meet the event organisers, complete my registration, collect my cycling jersey and have a quiet meal in one of the many bars & restaurants in Ballycastle. Not to late a night mind, there’s work to be done in the morning.
Even though on the morning of the event there was howling wind and rain, the music still pumped from the Event HQ to all parts of the town, the place was electric. With some nerves in my head and legs it was great to meet other cyclists some who were feeling much the same. Cyclists regardless to their age, size or ability are all one big family, advice and support is freely given and encouragement offered. You need to remind yourself that this is not a race although not everyone sees it that way, there is also a healthy competitive edge to this kind of event.
The riders eagerly waiting to do the 57km route where standing over all different types of bikes before we were called to the start line. After a safety briefing everyone sets off as the timing chips switch on as we cross the start line. Even at this early stage the craic and banter is mighty, everyone encouraging each other. The route was very well marshalled and the signage was clear for all to see. It was good to see signs to warn motorists that a cycle ride was in progress. It’s not long before you get the old legs into a rhythm and you pair of with cyclists of similar abilities as yourself. For me it was a steady average pace of 15 mph, what a wonderful way to view the amazing scenery along the beautiful North Antrim Coast which would have been even more scenic on a better day.
I have travelled these road so many times by car but you really don’t see the half of it. Every dip, every rise and every bend on the journey brought yet new panoramic views, oh what a wonderful country we have. The rolling hills took us along the coast road past Ballintoy, the Giant’s Causeway and in to Bushmills (no time to stop for a wee dram) where a few miles beyond we reached the feed station. It was a most welcome sight not just because the legs where starting to burn and the energy levels were running low but I was able to get one of Chain Reaction Cycles roving mechanic’s to twig the gears on my bike. The feed station was just about the right distance in to the ride and there was ample supply of bars, cakes, sweets, bananas and fluid all served up by very friendly staff. After a few minutes of rest, refuelling and both giving and receiving encouragement it was time to get going again.
Ah sure it’s only 14 miles to the finish someone said and she was right. More beautiful scenery all around us as we cycled up hill and down dale through the “Dark Hedges” and through Glentaisie one of the Nine Glens of Antrim on our way back to Ballycastle and the finish.
We arrived back to cheers and claps from our loved ones and the organisers, what a welcome...I felt I had just won the Giro. I know it wasn’t quite the Giro however I had completed my own personal challenge and when the going got tough it was good to know I had the support of other cyclists who helped me ride through the pain barrier and in to Ballycastle. On crossing the finishing line we received a Goody Bag full of yes you guessed it GOODIES. After a tiring day in the saddle it was a welcome treat to receive a warm bowl of spicy pasta, tea, coffee and energy bars all dished out with a smile and a well done. It was lovely to sit down with other competitors and chat about the day’s event and how each rider had made it through the day. The fellowship among the entire cyclist community regardless of their achievements was clear for all to see. (The time it took me to complete the course will remain my secret). It was time to head back to Colliers Hall B & B for a soothing shower and a few hours recovery, before heading out for a wee post event night on the town.
The taxi arrived at 7.30pm and we were safely driven to O’Connor’s Bar for the post event party. We arrived early and had time to sample some fine food and drinks in very warm and comfortable surroundings. Many other cyclists, their family and friends had the same thought so the craic that had started many hours earlier just continued. The party was a wonderful way to chat with the event organisers, fellow participants and wind down. During the evening a prize draw took place with many wonderful gifts on offer. I was lucky enough to win a voucher for a meal for two in O’Connor’s Bar. It was used a few weeks later on my next visit to Ballycastle.
So what can I say about The Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive? The event is open to all cyclists, of all abilities, ages and genders. The scenery is breath-taking, the route is well signed posted and marshalled, the food and feed stations are great, the goody bag is worth a few quid and the hot food at the finish was worth going the extra mile. I could go on and on enough to say it’s an excellent event, very well organised and I’ve already booked to do it all again in September 2014, bring it on!
I was delighted to learn that the event was awarded as “Leisure Event of the Year” for 2013. CONGRATULATIONS everyone.
Finally I would like to say a big thank you to the event organisers, their sponsors and everyone associated with such a wonderful event. See you all again in September!
The 2014 event will take place on Saturday 13th September and again starts and finishes in Ballycastle, Co. Antrim with an entrance fee of £35. For more information and to book online please visit the event website - www.giantscausewaycoastsportive.com