The countdown is well and truly under way, and the cycling world are getting ready to descend on Northern Ireland, with the big start of this year’s Giro D’Italia. The arrival of the event to these shores marks a significant step for Northern Ireland as a top travel destination for cycling enthusiasts.
With breathtaking scenery and some of the best trails in Europe, here’s 6 reasons to get on your bike and visit Northern Ireland in 2014.
1. 2014 Giro D’Italia Big Start
The battle for the pink jersey starts in Belfast on Friday 9th May as the world’s best cyclists line up at the impressive Titanic Belfast, to start their 21 stage battle for the Giro D’Italia. The Giro d’Italia is known as the ‘fight for the pink’, as cycling rivals compete to wear the coveted pink jersey with previous winners including Stephen Roche and Alberto Contador.
With the second day involving a 218km journey along the Causeway coast and day three including a 187km trip from Armagh to Dublin, this promises to be a great start to one of the biggest sporting events on the planet.
If you’re a fan of road racing, be sure to get yourself to Northern Ireland and join in with the preparations and celebrations of the Giro d’Italia and join in all the excitement in the battle for the pink jersey. With an array of budget and stylish hotels in Belfast, you’ll be perfectly located to get close to the cyclists competing in the 2014 Giro D’Italia Big Start.
2. 2014 European Single Speed Championships
If road racing isn’t your scene, don’t worry because Northern Ireland looks forward to hosting another major European cycling event in 2014 - The 2014 Single Speed European Championships. This event takes place in Castlewellan Forest Park in County Down and is an event like no other.
Single speed cycling is almost like cycling as a kid all over again, with only one speed to take you around the track. The terrain in Castlewellan is among the most challenging in Northern Ireland but this event is all about the fun, with many competitors donning fancy dress outfits and embracing the party atmosphere to have a great weekend.
The event takes place from 25th – 27th April and is very much a relaxed event that is fun for all the family. Friends, family, laughter, camping, food and drink are all part of the fun of this rather unique European Championships, and with visitors coming from all over Europe, this is one cycling competition that we can all enjoy. For information on staying in Castlewellan Forest Park during the event, please visit NI Direct.
3. Fantastic range of mountain bike trails
Following significant investment in the past few years, Northern Ireland is now home to some of the best mountain bike trails in Europe. These trails are increasing in popularity among both locals and cycling enthusiasts from abroad, and with a range of quality national, regional and local bike trails across the country, it’s easy to see why.
The trails are located in Castlewellan, Rostrevor (Co Down), Davagh Forest and Blessingbourne (Co Tyrone) and have a selection of trails and downhill tracks to suit all abilities. With equipment available to hire throughout these centres and some great local accommodation, this is one trip that all the family will love!
If you haven’t been on a bike in a while, don’t worry, the centres also offer some great mountain bike courses to suit all ages and abilities. Visit www.mountainbikeni.com for more information. One event to keep a look out for is the Red Bull Fox Hunt, which took place in Kilbroney Park, Rostrevor in 2013 and Cave Hill, Belfast in 2012.
4. Curadmir 2014
Curadmir is a 3 day cycling sportive which takes place across Northern Ireland where the aim of the game is completion rather than competition. You can compete as an individual or part of a team as this journey takes in some of the toughest and most breathtaking terrain in Northern Ireland.
Starting in the Mourne Mountains on Saturday 24th May and ending in the Fermanagh Lakelands covering a total of 360 miles, this is Ireland’s ultimate cycling challenge. With rider villages, catering, accommodation, physios and entertainment provided, this promises to be equally as entertaining as it will be gruelling. If this sounds like something you would like to challenge yourself to this year registration is now open for this epic Northern Ireland cycling event at www.curadmir.com.
5. Lap of the Lough
The Lap of the Lough is an 85 mile round trip of Ireland’s largest lake, Lough Neagh. The event takes place on Sunday 24th August and for those of you up for a challenge with some amazing scenery, this is for you.
This is a not-for-profit cycling event with participation from local communities as cyclists take part in raising money for local charities. With 2,000 spaces open for this year’s Lap of the Lough, this will be a fun and challenging way to spend the second last Sunday in August. If you’re planning on travelling from the UK or Republic of Ireland to do your lap, there is a great choice of local accommodation. Visit www.lapofthelough.org for more information and details on how you can get involved.
6. Iron Donkey Bicycle Tours
Iron Donkey Bicycle Touring provides adventure tours across Northern Ireland, from the stunning landscapes of County Down and the Mountains of Mourne to the beautiful Causeway coastline.
New for 2014 they have developed a range of shorter cycling breaks, through their sister company Belfast Bike Tours, so don’t miss out on the chance to explore the beautiful landscape by bike in this very exciting year of cycling in Northern Ireland.
If your bicycle is in need of a little TLC before embarking on a grand cycling adventure this year, then head straight to Fellow! Fellow is a rider owned and independent bicycle workshop in Belfast, whose aim is to take old and tired bicycles and give them a new lease of life, whilst also stocking a range of fixed gear and single speed bicycles built for city riding in the workshop.
Fellow believe the process of building your bicycle is part of a story, one that is shared with them through a good chat with a cup of tea or coffee, as they say every bicycle should tell a story.
With many local and national cycling competitions and courses available throughout Northern Ireland, there’s plenty of reasons to get that bike out of the shed, and hit the road in 2014. Visit www.cycleni.com for a full list of cycling events and courses taking place in Northern Ireland this year.
If you’re planning a trip to Northern Ireland for the Giro d’Italia Big Start or for any cycling adventure this year, be sure to check out the accommodation available by visiting discovernorthernireland.com/accomfinder.