VCI @ Fermanagh 200 (2021)

On Saturday past (11th September) a band of merry men set off for the lakelands of Fermanagh, for the Audax Ireland Fermanagh 200. With 2021 being the centenary year for the Audax Club Parisien, this was also the Ulster Centenary event. Arriving at Ferney Park (home of Ballinamallard United FC) for a start time of 8am meant an early start for most, but thankfully coffee was on hand to revive the weary travellers.

Five of us set off on the route, that would take us around the edges of the Fermanagh county border, with a few brief excursions into Tyrone and Donegal. Departing towards Kilskeery, we took a cross-country route towards Irvinestown and Lisnarick, before a bit of a detour over the Crevenish Road, where we encountered the first climbs of the day. We were suitably rewarded with fantastic views over Lower Lough Erne though. Rejoining the main road at Kesh, we then continued to the Boa Island Road (almost like a long bridge, with water either side) and followed it to Belleek for the first control of the day.

After a quick coffee stop in Belleek, we set off for Garrison, but unfortunately a puncture delayed progress at this point. After numerous attempts at replacing the tube and re-seating the tyre only to nip the tube, we eventually made it to Garrison and set off along the drags on the main road towards Belcoo. Turning left at Cashel, we climbed the Knockmore Road (approx 850ft) before descending via ‘The Devil’s S’ and climbing back up to Belcoo via Boho. This diversion from the main road gave us a glimpse of some of the forests used for the Lakelander Gravel Grinder in a few weeks.

The Customs House in Belcoo (roughly halfway around the route) provided a very welcome reprieve, with a fantastic hot lunch. Then it was back onto the bikes, to cross the bridge over to Blacklion. The flatter roads from Blacklion across to Derrylin and back up to Lisnaskea allowed some steady progress, but we had all been well warned to stock up in Linsakea as the last 50km would be the hardest.

We hadn’t even left Lisnaskea (with our pockets bulging with sweets) before we encountered the first climbs on the Knocks Road! Continuing on to Carnmore viewpoint, the views were fantastic – proper mountain roads, with very little traffic, but a great surface. After all the hard work, we were rewarded with some flowing descents down into Brookeborough, before driving the pace on again into Lisbellaw.

Lisbellaw again had a surprise in store for us, with a 10% climb out of the town, that seemed to appear from nowhere! Continuing through the countryside, constantly either climbing or descending, we made it to the Fingerpost Road (between Tempo and Kilskeery) which we knew would be the last upward stretch of the day, before dropping back into Ballinamallard over the last five or six miles.

Arriving back at the football club, close to 7pm, we were welcomed with pizza from Mozzarella Fellas in Irvinestown, which went down a treat! A quick change and we were back in the cars heading for home, reminiscing about some of the roads we had cycled. Overall a great day out and I think most would be keen to do it again. Thanks to Tim (who has completed this route a few times now) for putting the idea forward and getting a few rounded up to take on the challenge. Thanks also to Paul Burchmore and the Mallard Flyers Cycling Club for their organisation on the day. While an audax event is very much a ‘self-supported’ event, Paul and his wife were never too far away, shouting words of encouragement to us as we passed by.

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