Following on from the international coverage it received two weeks ago when honeymooners Kim Kardashian and Kanye West paid a visit, the Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trails will host the top 10 mountain bikers in the world this weekend.
Over 200 bikers will compete over Saturday and Sunday for the honor of being crowned European Champion in the European Marathon Mountain Bike Championships.
Sunday is for the professionals in the hunt for the European Marathon Mountain Bike title while Saturday is for the amateurs with a challenging course that will test the riders to the limit.
Regarded as the finest trail network of it kind in Europe, €500,000 was invested in the trails just in time for the championships.
“Racing is over two days with amateur racers able to get a taster on the Saturday before the main event on the Sunday and admission to the venue is free for spectators,” explained Fergal Somers, manager of Ballyhoura Failte.
“The public will be able to see the world’s best mountain bikers in action,” he added.
The event is part of the Limerick City of Culture festivities and is supported by Ballyhoura Failte, Coillte Outdoors and Failte Ireland.
The event is spectator friendly with free admission, a bouncy castle for the kids and fine food for the adults with a farmers’ market and local artisan food producers from A Taste of Ballyhoura. Added to that, the course intersects the start-finish three times during the Pro race giving spectators plenty of opportunity to see the riders duel it out on the spectacular trails of Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Centre outside Ardpatrick.
Lining up on Sunday will be defending European marathon champion and former world marathon champion Alban Lakata of Austria. Beside him will be Jaroslav Kulhavý from the Czech Republic, current Olympic champion at the shorter cross country race format.
Leading the Irish charge will be 20-time Irish National Cross Country champion Robin Seymour. The Wicklow rider and multiple Olympian seems to be getting better and better with age and is highly rated for his technical prowess in particular.
This is the first time Ireland has hosted an official UCI Championship mountain bike event and is the culmination of many months of hard work. The course has been specially curated with spectators in mind and includes four loops from the event village designed to give maximum exposure to the athletes. The event village itself will be a welcome place to hang out with local food producers exhibiting along with a bouncy castle for the future stars of the sport.
Admission to the venue is free for spectators.
Marathon mountain bike racing is an endurance sport, typically taking place over a cross country off-road course of approximately 100 kilometres. The male and female champions get to wear a special European champion jersey for the following year when competing in marathon races as well as taking the honour of being the best on the continent.
Saturday’s support races are open for all and categorised into expert, masters, vet and classic vet and feature a course of 75 kilometres and 1925 metres of climbing. There is also a junior and fun race over 23kms on exciting trails.
The main event on Sunday sees the elite men tackle a course of 93km with 2199 metres of climbing while the elite women’s field take on a course of 75km and 1925 metres of height gain. Riders set off in a mass start with the first to cross the finish line being crowned the European champion.