IF you fancy a challenge then mark March 23 in your diary as this is when Errigal Cycling Club invite you to ride around some of the most beautiful but tough roads in the company of hundreds of other enthusiasts.
The “Hills of Donegal” Sportive 2012 is a challenging 170km non-competitive event, where you can enjoy the best of Donegal hospitality, quiet country roads, plenty of climbs varying in gradients, the steepest at 14 per cent, all of which will make for a great days cycling.
The sportive itself commences with sign on (€15) at the Lagoon bar in Termon on the main N56 between Letterkenny and Dunfanaghy from 8:15am on the Saturday morning.
Participants will roll out at 9am and turn left onto the R255 heading into Glenveagh National Park. After approximately 6km the route veers onto the R251 heading for Gartan Lough. From there one will ride onto the R254 to start our climb over Glendowan past Lough Barra.
Next stop - Doochary where we hit the first climb of the day, known locally as the Cork Screw, the name says it all with a climb that will test even the most agile cyclist we then make our way along R252 road before turning left onto the N56 and turning right again at Cloghbolie to take in the challenging loop around Maghery. This is a tough climb but well worth the effort for the view alone!
On then to Dungloe where participants take the N56 for Gweedore where we will stop at Sharkey’s Pub Anagary for the first official tea stop of the day.
After the break and with 80k under our belts we head back to the N56 and turn left, we continue for 7km before turning right onto the R255 towards the iconic Errigal Mountain where we pass the poison glen with breathtaking views over Dunlewey Lough.
After the long steady climb over Errigal we descend to the bottom on the other side (where there is an option for a shorter route of 80k in total back to the finish) turning left onto the climb over Muckish mountain (666m) and when at the top you will find one of the best unspoilt views in Ireland (Highest point of the Sportive) before making our way onto Falcarragh and turning right at the crossroads in the village.
Cyclists will ride for 4km where we then turn right onto the Derryreel road up the steep lung busting Maam (11-14 per cent in parts) and back out onto the N56 turning right towards Creeslough.
After we make our way through Creeslough we turn left onto the R245 to make the 17km journey to Downings, where we start our loop around the well known Atlantic drive, known for its scenery worldwide and with short sharp climbs this will be one of the highlights of the sportive.
The penultimate stage of the sportive leaves Downings and heads into Glen village, turns left up towards Lough Salt, where the last categorised climb awaits the riders, not for the faint hearted this is a steady rise up to the beautiful Lough Salt where on a clear day you can see up to 160km in all directions.
The last few kilometres bring the riders along the lough and then its on to the welcoming descent into Termon for a hot shower in the Craoibhin Community Enterprise Centre, with food and refreshments in the Lagoon Bar and Restaurant.
For daily updates visit www.errigalcyclingclub.com or follow us on twitter @errigalcc, anyone looking to contact Errigal cycling club can do at firstname.lastname@example.org.