Fáilte Ireland announced recently that it has teamed up with cycling specialists Ride Wild (www.ridewild.ie ) to launch the Wild Atlantic Way Cycle Sportif – a series of bi-annual cycling events along the coastal route (from Kinsale in West Cork to Muff in Donegal) which will promote the Wild Atlantic Way as a cycling destination internationally and domestically as well as attract visitors across the full length of the route during off-season months. An inaugural ride will take place along the route this September and a further two events per year will take place from 2018 to 2020. The route map has been developed by Ride Wild as the most suitable along the coast for cyclists but will be subject to change as the event grows. All interested cyclists and clubs are invited to saddle up and be the first to embark on what will soon be Europe’s signature cycling route.
Stage 1 starts in Kinsale on Wednesday 13th September with a cycle of 144km to Skibbereen via Old Head, Courtmacsherry, Seven Heads, Glandore, Union Hall, Baltimore.
Kick off your your first day in the saddle with a gentle 15km cruise from Charles Fort in Kinsale westward to dramatic Old Head, a Wild Atlantic Way Signature Discovery Point where the 17th-century lighthouse still keeps watch over the crashing waves. Warm up the legs as you pedal over a few easy hills, taking in the already striking scenery of the Haven Coast for just a taste of what’s to come.
Keeping the Atlantic to your left, you’ll travel along the beautiful coast road through Timoleague, idyllic Courtmacsherry and the Seven Heads Peninsula, before taking a breather in one of historic Clonakilty’s many charming shops and cafés. After lunch, it’s off down the back roads through inviting towns and villages toward Glandore, where the unspoilt waters of Glandore Harbour invite you to pause for an afternoon refresher.
With just over 50km to go on your journey, take an easy spin through some of serene West Cork’s most rural areas. After descending into stunning Baltimore Harbour, it’s a breezy 13km to the end, where you can reward your first day’s journey with a hearty dinner in the vibrant riverside town of Skibbereen. Once your energy is restored, don’t miss the signal tower overlooking the harbour, where you can capture views of Skerkin Island and Cape Clear. Take a deep breath, rejoice in your achievement and enjoy the Wild Atlantic Way!
Participants in the Sportif will have the option of covering the full distance (over 2,000 km) over a set number of days, completing a stage of the Sportif over a multi-day section of the route or joining the event for a single day.
Organisers Ride Wild will provide all logistics for participating cyclists and entry to the multi-day events will include accommodation, meals, official cycling kit including cycling jersey and shower jacket, kit laundry service, and bag transfers as well as paramedic and mechanical support during the cycle. The costs for these services will be included in cyclists’ registration fee.
Welcoming the new initiative, Minister of State for Tourism and Sports Brendan Griffin TD said:
“The Wild Atlantic Way is ideal for initiatives like this and the additional tourism activity generated will benefit many small rural communities all along the west coast. I am particularly pleased to welcome an event which will attract visitors and increase bed-nights across the full length of the Wild Atlantic Way during off-peak times of the year. This emphasis on greater seasonality and regionality should permeate all that we do in tourism as it helps us to support growth throughout the year and throughout the country.”
Fáilte Ireland are planning to invest €650,000 in the initiative between now and 2020, with the ambition to grow the average number of cyclists per day from 400 in 2018 to 1,000 per day in 2020. It is hoped that, if the initiative becomes popular, it will become self-financing.
Fáilte Ireland CEO Paul Kelly emphasised that cycling has great potential for tourism. Research indicates that the average cycling tourist spends an average of five nights attending a sportif event. Nearly 400 official cycling sportifs take place in Ireland each year – along with many more local events – and the number of events is growing each year. In the UK alone, over two million adults cycle at least once a week and sales of high-quality road bikes have grown 24% on last year. The location of a sportif is a key driver for this type of visitor and research has revealed that 81% of potential sports tourists would identify the Wild Atlantic Way as having a strong (45%) or very strong (36%) appeal for them.
Explaining the benefit for tourism of the Cycling Sportif, Fáilte Ireland CEO Paul Kelly said:
“We have our own natural cycling route along the Wild Atlantic Way and I would imagine every cycling enthusiast would love to hop on a bike and enjoy its unique landscapes. Through the Wild Atlantic Way Cycle Sportif we are creating an added incentive for them. We are developing the logistics and events along the route that, I believe, will build a strong reputation for the Wild Atlantic Way as an attractive cycling destination. Indeed, if we get this right, the Wild Atlantic Way Cycle Sportif will become a ‘must-do’ item for international and domestic cyclists.”
Ride Wild is a cycling tour company, specialising in leisure cycling tours. The company is Ireland’s only Ride with GPS Route Ambassador, a prestigious title awarded to tour companies who demonstrate exceptional knowledge of cycling routes in their area. Ride Wild’s Cycling Director Michael O’Boyle said that the event will be fully supported and that Ride Wild’s priority is to provide a first-class experience to the cyclists. He added:
“As a cyclist myself, I see the Sportif as a fantastic opportunity to experience the Wild Atlantic Way on a fully-supported, multi-day cycling tour. Our focus will always be on the cyclists and making sure that they have a wonderful experience as they cycle with us along the Wild Atlantic Way. Our route stages were designed by cyclists for cyclists to create that wonderful experience which comes from the stunning scenery along the route, the remote wildness of the west coast, and the characters you meet along the way – there’s something about that combination that makes this event very special.
For more details see www.wildatlanticwaycyclesportif.ie The route of the Sportif will also be available online on popular cycling platforms Ride with GPS, Map My Ride, and Strava.