Why I Do the Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive Every Year

Posted on July 25, 2018 @ 3:08 PM in Cycling

Aran Sheridan will be taking part in his 8th Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive on 8th September 2018. We spoke to him to hear his highlights since he started and find out what it was about this event that brings him back year after year.

 

It all started with training for a charity cycle from Galway to Omagh in June 2011.

After the training for that and the buzz and enjoyment a few of us decided to keep cycling.  It was shortly after we noticed the very first Giants Causeway Sportive being advertised and 3 of us thought we would give it a go.  In for a penny in for a pound was my expression as I signed up online for the ‘Giant Killer – 115miles’.

 

2011

The first year the first 35mile loop was reversed.  The climb out of Ballintoy was cruel and at this point I should have realised it was going to be a tough day for a complete amateur.  On the second loop the first big climb of the day was a struggle quickly followed by the 4 mile grind up Gaults Road.

About halfway round I asked the question, "What does sportive actually mean?"

To be honest the food stops in the first year was a bit of a joke that kept us amused.  You had the choice of bananas or fruit cake and I don’t like fruit cake. It was tables in carparks or on the side of the road at one point. Half way round it was half a banana or half a slice of fruit cake.

I was not equipped as the bike had 53/39 front rings and a 12/25 rear cassette.  I really struggled on the steep climb over Layde Road between Cushendall and Cushendun and was not prepared for what came next and was completely blown away when in the distance I could see riders crawling up the first hill on the Torr Road. 

I got about a quarter way up before I was off walking.  My legs just couldn’t turn the cogs anymore.  This was my first time on the Torr Road and it was my first walk of many that day.  The struggle to get off this road and away from this coastline was indescribable as were the views.  The first year there was no Easy Street. Eventually I made it to the finish line and swore I’d never do that again.

Halfway home in the car I then decided that I had to do it again the following year just to see if I could conquer Torr Head.

2012

Back again to see if I could conquer it. I came up on my own his year as everyone bailed out with all sorts of excuses. The changes for this year saw the first 35mile loop reversed so starting up the steep hill at the Marine Hotel. 

The food stops had greatly improved with proper stopping points and if I remember correctly the variety of cakes was fantastic. Again the views and the scenery did not let us down as this has to be one of the most scenic sportives in the country.

I came this year with knowledge gained in the previous year and changed my front chainset changed to a 50/34 and 12/25 cassette.  The 4 climbs on the Torr Head Road would push me to my limits but slowly I conquered each one in turn with my lungs screaming, heart pounding and legs aching.  After crossing the ridge over and out from what can be described as hell the last five miles mostly downhill into the finish in Ballycastle was euphoric.

2013

The year of the storm.

Two of us drove to Ballycastle, parked and sat in the car looking out at the howling wind and rain. What a morning for 115 miles. Some people got back into the car and turned for home. We signed in and started anyway.


Out the road we met people turning back.  Nearly got blew off the bike as we came around a corner before Carrick-a-rede.  At the Dark Hedges we were drenched as the rain bounced of the road the height of the axles.  Persevered on and in the afternoon it dried up.  On approaching Torr Road we were told that due to the weather the road was officially closed but legally open so we carried on. Halfway round Torr Road the sun actually came out and we had to stop to take the coats off.

I’ll remember this one as the Chain Reaction Jaguar was in front of us on Torr Head lifting the motivation signs (It’s only gravity / Lance Armstrong thinks this is a doddle etc).  One guy was in the back of the jag estate taking pictures and keeping us going.

2014

Who changed the route on the Torr Road!?

The most memorable thing that happened this year was that somebody changed the route direction signs on the Torr Road.  With three of the four Torr climbs done and already mentally starting to celebrate and congratulate yourself when a sign appears directing us down a road to the right just before climbing the hairpins on the last climb.  I said to James Moore ‘this doesn’t look good’.  I was correct.

Instead of the usual road traversing across and up the hill this road went horizontally across and then turned straight into the hill.  My ignorance took over and I just kept grinding away until I noticed I was the only one still on a bike as everyone was walking.  I decided to take a break and wait for James before attempting the near impossible task of trying to get started again on what must have been a 16% gradient.  If the normal route was bad this was worse. 

I thought they wanted to make it harder and it was only afterwards realized that somebody had moved the signs.

2015

As far as I can remember 2015 was a largely uneventful year which is a good thing. It still demanded a big effort as it’s a tough day in the saddle.

2016

Again 2016 was a reasonably good year with the weather doing its usual to try and spoil things but it always seems to come good in the afternoon.

2017

New starting/finishing venue which has better parking and facilities. The weather was okay but the roads in the morning had a lot of standing water. On the first major climb on the 2nd loop there was actually a river of water coming down the road towards us maybe an inch deep but later it cleared to a lovely afternoon.  The foodstop was relocated to a brilliant venue in Glenarm and the variety and quantity of food available was super.  First class job to all involved.

The slightly earlier foodstop was a good idea as in past years I know I was always running low on energy and looking for the food stop in Carnlough to come sooner as the coast road nearly always has a headwind to make it just that little bit harder.

We had a good group up this year and as usual Torr Road proved to be the pinnacle of the day.

There is just no other road in Ireland that comes close to the views and the challenge that this road lays out for you.

 

O’Connors Bar this year for some food and a few beverages before heading home and it didn’t disappoint.  Good food and lively atmosphere.

2018

Bring it on.

Good luck everyone.

 

If you'd like to sign up to this year's event, visit GiantsCausewayCoastSportive.com. There are 3 routes available, all taking in the stunning scenery of the North Coast - 35 miles, 85 miles and 115 miles.

Aran Sheridan
Aran Sheridan  Cyclist

Completed the Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive 7 Times (so far!)

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