Mountain Biking: The European Marathon Championships Are Coming to Ballyhoura…

16th May 2014
Pól Ó Conghaile

Haven’t heard of Ballyhoura? You’re probably not alone.

Sprawling across North Cork, East Limerick and South Tipperary, the region hinges on the Ballyhoura Mountains, and it’s one of the best-kept secrets in the staycation game.

Don’t bank on it staying that way for long, however.

The main reason for this is its cracking stack of mountain bike trails. Graded loops threaded through the mountains range from a 6km starter trail to a 51km bone-rattler, and they’re the best in Ireland by a country mile. From the dummy-friendly signage to the on-site showers, bike-hire and bike-wash facilities, the whole operation is quality.

This June (14-15), the European Mountain Bike Marathon Championships comes to Ballyhoura – a ringing endorsement of the trails, and the first time Ireland has ever hosted an official UCI Championship mountain bike event.

Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trails, Diarmuid O'Leary (2)

Admission to the venue is free for spectators. Some 600 bikers are expected, including current World Marathon Champion Christophe Sauser from Switzerland, Dutch legend Bas Peters, the German Bulls team, UK champion Sally Bingham and Ireland’s 2013 Irish National Champion Jenny Fay. Up and coming riders Leah and Jonathon Maunsell, who ride with the local club Team Ballyhoura, will be present.

Irish rider Ryan Sherlock spoke of his excitement at the race being held in Ireland:

“The course itself, it is so much fun to ride, there is so much fast swooping singletrack that you almost look forward to the fireroads trails just to let your mind relax a moment – more than 50% of your time will be spent swooping left and right. With the temperamental weather we can experience in Ireland, the course itself is designed so that rain or sun doesn’t change the track very much.

“Having raced in pouring rain, and blazing sun on it, it only makes a very small little difference to the speed. The only word of warning I have – watch out for the pointy rocks!’

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Designed in a clover leaf, the course is great for competitors and spectators who can get to see the riders three times through the start/finish area. The course is a mix of wide forest roads, trail centre single-track and natural technical features embedded in some of the most picturesque countryside that Ireland has to offer.

Assisted by Ballyhoura Failte, the event forms part of the Limerick City of Culture festivities.

It’s not all about the racing, of course. On race days, for instance, a food village will be set up beside the start/finish area – displaying local food producers products.

The Rocky Mayhem Music Festival is also on in Kilfinane village from June 12-15. The Saturday night line up includes The Frank and Walters, O Emperor, New Windings, with DJ JP Dillon from Limerick 95FM, ensuring competitors and spectators can enjoy a full weekend of activity.

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For more on the Championships, contact info@biking.ie or 083-4173899.

For more on Ballyhoura and the mountain bike trails, see visitballyhoura.com.

Keywords: Mountain bike marathon championships ballyhoura