Team 1821 Outmates was first the first squad off the start ramp in front of Trim Castle today as the ninth edition of Race Around Ireland, got under way.
With over 2000km stretched out in front them, the riders and crew from 11 different nations representing the various eight-person, four-person, two-person and solo riders competing in Ireland’s toughest bike race embarked on their daunting non-stop challenge.
For the solo riders, led away by World Cup Champion Nicole Reist of Switzerland, the battle is not just against the terrain and the other riders, but also to stave off the urge to sleep. The solo riders will typically make do with less than two hour rest per night over five days of racing around the coast and most were planning to ride at least 24 hours non-stop before contemplating a short rest.
The race entry features top riders from the world of ultra-cycling along with a number of first time entrants taking on the sporting challenge of their lives.
Reigning champion Valerio Zamboni of Monaco cut a relaxed figure on the start ramp as he outlined his race strategy: “To win, of course!,” he laughed before thanking his long suffering wife Allessandro for her unstinting support.
Another moving pre-race dedication was made by Dan Fallon of the USA who echoed the thoughts of many as he paid tribute to former Race Around Ireland competitor Ciaran Smith who lost his life in the R116 Coast Guard helicopter crash in May.
Fallon is the first ever rider to attempt Race Around Ireland on a recumbent bicycle, a machine that will offer him an advantage on flat roads but will something of a burden on the many hilly sections around the country – including the sector in Kerry named in Ciaran Smith’s memory.
The riders – and their extensive support crews for whom the event is almost as arduous an experience – will begin arriving back at the finish line in Moynalty on Wednesday following their daunting circumnavigation of the island while the leading solo riders will be able to rest from Thursday on.
The leading eight- and four-rider teams are expected to cover more than 700km in the first 24 hours of racing while the slowest solo riders will be some 300km behind, but still with over 400km in their legs.
To follow the progress of the riders, see the live tracker site courtesy of Blackblox: https://gps.blackblox.si/race/