2016 saw the first ever Iveagh Spring Classic and although this was an invitational only event, we were inundated with questions and clubs looking to take part. Originally we had planned for 50 riders, 10 from each of the local clubs that were invited and most of the clubs were more than willing to attend however, through people dropping out and one club not attending we could offer places to those who contacted us directly, thus we ended up with a total of 55 hardy riders, well we weren’t going to turn anyone away.
This year was very much a ‘pilot sportive’ with all suggestions taken on board before the ‘Iveagh Spring Classic’ will be rolled out to everyone next year. We knew the route was ‘testing’ or as some referred to it ‘torture’ but that is exactly what we were trying to achieve, this was a sportive in the tradition of the Flanders Classics. So the Sunday before the event a couple of us tested the roads, or at least tested some of them and realised we had stumbled onto a great route, tough, demanding, but certainly a rewarding route. The other positive regards an invitational is that you get pretty experienced riders, so we felt we could run the event on this occasion without marshals and concentrate on the developmental aspects.
On the morning of the event we couldn’t have wished for better weather, this time of the year is most definitely hit and miss but with a high cloud covering and the sun seemingly breaking through, everyone appeared in great spirits. Sign-on completed and it was time for the off, a gentle opening 10 mile cycle through the heart of Iveagh up to the first real climb, Rathfriland hill. Rathfriland is synonymous with cyclists, the famous water tower a beacon of the tough climb that lies ahead and a great opening slog for the Classic. With the tough gradient of the Rathfriland climb, the differing groups started to get strung out, those pacing themselves giving way to the racers testing their legs. Once over Rathfriland smaller groups started to form on the rolling route to the next big climb, the ‘Boiling Well’.
You may well ask where the name ‘Boiling Well’ comes from and unfortunately I have no idea, what I do know is that it’s a killer of a second big climb on our ‘Classic’. The Boiling Well is one of those climbs that belie its difficulty; it draws you in, thinking with each rise you’ve conquered it only to be faced with a continually steeper section. Once you hit the top there are a few short rolling descents before swinging right onto the Slievenaboley Road for what will be the steep drag up to the ‘Windy Gap’, an official Cat 1 climb.
This is probably the toughest but most rewarding section of the sportive, hilly sharp climbs intermixed with slow long drags and let’s be honest, it’s not called the ‘Windy Gap’ for nothing. Once you ‘cut the gap’ it’s onwards and upwards to the top of Slieve Croob, known locally as the ‘Twelve Cairns’. Legend has it that 12 ancient kings or Ulster were buried at the summit of the Croob. Today all that is left are the cairn grave stones, scattered randomly at the very top of the mountain, unfortunately not much of the graves are left to see but simply look up and you’ll be treated to some stunning views stretching from Dundrum Bay to the South right up to Belfast Lough in the North.
Once Slieve Croob has been conquered the last of the big climbs are all but over however that’s not to say the rolling route back to Banbridge is easy, what fun would that be? So it’s a drop down from Slieve Croob to Finis and then further climbing back up Finis Hill before swinging onto the roads leading to Katesbridge and finally past the ‘Corbet’ to Banbridge.
Although organised at late notice to pick up from the now disbanded CRC Spring Classic, the Iveagh Spring Classic couldn’t have gone much better. This year VC Iveagh shall be highlighting the great cause that is ‘The Cancer Fund for Children’ and we are proud to make a difference to the lives of these children and their families. With that in mind, VC Iveagh would like to give a massive word of thanks and continued gratitude to the following clubs who made this event possible:
Velo Club Mourne
Team Vision Racing
Spinning Studio Banbridge