Northern Ireland's iconic Mourne Mountains will provide the dramatic backdrop for hundreds of cyclists as they prepare to take on the Etape Mourne sportive this Sunday. Places are still available for the popular sportive, which offers riders a choice of two testing mountain routes.
This year's edition will take place on Sunday 11 August at Annalong Community Centre. The Etape will once again be sponsored by the world's largest online bike store, Chain Reaction Cycles, and supported by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
The Etape Mourne was last held in 2015, when atrocious weather conditions made for a memorable challenge. Last year saw the event rebranded as the Giant Fondo, but this year by popular demand, it's back as the Etape Mourne.
"Over the last few years we have regularly been asked by cyclists who took part in the event in previous years, and who loved, it to host it again," say the organisers, "so here we are."
With two routes to choose from on the day, both offering stunning views of the mountains, the sportive will provide a great challenge for riders of all abilities. Route one will see cyclists cover 65.5km and climb 1190 metres, whilst route two offers cyclists a 79.5-kilometre route and an impressive climb of 1364 metres.
Both routes start and finish in the beautiful coastal village of Annalong and wind their way through the stunning Mourne Mountains, providing riders with amazing views and backdrops in this specially created event which returns to the Newry, Mourne and Down area by popular demand.
Riders can also avail of a professionally mapped event, well stocked feed stations courtesy of Lidl Northern Ireland and mechanical support on the day, ensuring each and every rider is supported and catered for. All riders will receive a bespoke finishers medal upon completion of their route. The Etape Mourne Cycling Sportif will also donate a percentage of each entry to the Chairperson's chosen charities.
Officially launching the Etape Mourne event for 2019, Councillor Charlie Casey, Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, said:
"Known for its amazing views and awe-inspiring landscapes, the iconic Mourne Mountains are the perfect location for a number of outdoor activities, especially cycling."
"Cyclists and visitors alike can enjoy world-class views alongside a mix of terrain, trails and plains on their routes on our flagship cycling event - and given the praise and attention that the area continues to receive from both local and further afield visitors, it is safe to say that this event will be in demand this summer."
"The Etape Mourne event will bring two challenging routes to riders of all fitness levels and participants can expect to enjoy a great event with plenty of delicious snacks from Lidl NI and comprehensive support from start to finish on the day."
Stephen Laird, Store Manager at Chain Reaction Cycles Belfast retail store, said: "We are delighted to be a part of the Etape Mourne Cycling Sportif this August - it's safe to say this event has the potential to be a real stand out fixture for not only the Mourne region but in cycling calendars across the country."
"We will have mechanics on the road during the event and at key points to provide support for any issues which riders may have."
"I encourage everyone to mark the day in their calendar, register their interest and look forward to an event experience which can be enjoyed by groups and teams of any size and anyone who is up for a solo challenge."