Cyclists gear up to tackle the Tour

ONE OF the fastest-growing events on the sporting calendar, the Marble City Cyclers will roll out the welcome mat for more than 1,000 cyclists when they host the Tour de Kilkenny this Saturday.

ONE OF the fastest-growing events on the sporting calendar, the Marble City Cyclers will roll out the welcome mat for more than 1,000 cyclists when they host the Tour de Kilkenny this Saturday.

Now in its fourth year the annual event, one of the biggest cycle sportives in the country, has built up a reputation as being one of the toughest and best run events in Ireland. Charity is still the winner, with all funds raised going to Barretstown. A therapeutic camp for children with childhood cancer, to date Barretstown has benefited from more than E25,000 raised by cyclists who have tackled the Tour.

The Tour has been designed to test cyclists of all abilities, with four routes of varying distance. The 40km route starts and finishes at the grounds of Kilkenny Rugby Club, taking cyclists through Bennettsbridge, Dungarvan and Thomastown. The route goes back to Bennettsbridge and across to Danesfort before finishing in Foulkstown. There is a water stop in Thomastown.

The 70km route also passes through Bennettsbridge, but brings cyclists out to Gowran, Goresbridge and Graignamanagh. It will travel back via Thomastown, Bennettsbridge and Danesfort. There is a water stop in Thomastown.

The 110km cycle is a challenging route which is ideal for someone looking to progress to the challenges of the Seán Kelly 160km cycle.  Participants, who will have a water stop in Thomastown and sit-down food stop in Listerlin, will be challenged by the climbs in Graignamanagh, Woodstock and the final hill at Bennettsbridge. This route is suitable for participants with some cycling experience.

The longest trek on the Tour is the 160km cycle. Participants will start along the same route as their 110km counterparts, continuing further South from the food stop in Listerlin to take on more challenging terrain.

Another water stop will be provided in Kilmoganny, which will help the cyclists to keep their much-needed energy, getting them over the sting in the tail that is Kilmanagh Hill and back to base. This route is suitable for experienced and fit cyclists.

The headquarters for the Tour de Kilkenny is the Kilkenny rugby club grounds at Foulkstown. Participants can sign on or register from 7 to 9pm on Friday or from 7am on Saturday. Cyclists are advised to register as early as possible as the routes will be started promptly. The 110km and 160km cycles will start at 9am. The 40 and 70km cycles begin at 11am.

Saturday will be about more than cycling, with a DJ playing at the rugby club throughout the day. Family or friends of cyclists are encouraged to come along and enjoy the atmosphere at the club and welcome their loved ones. People available to volunteer on the day can notify the club by emailing tourdekilkenny@gmail.com.

Further information on the Tour de Kilkenny is available from www.marblecitycyclers.com.