Cycling Ireland has announced the country's first-ever Gravel National Championships will be held in 2024.

Galway Bay Cycling Club will host the inaugural championships on the weekend of 21-22 September 2024.

The programme will include a gravel sportive on Saturday 21 September for leisure riders, before the Open and Women's Championship races on the Sunday. The National Championships will be combined age group, including Junior, Senior and Masters.

Galway will host the first Irish Gravel Championships in September.
Galway will host the first Irish Gravel Championships in September.

"As one of the fastest growing disciplines of global cycling, with several gravel events across Ireland in recent years, the popularity of the discipline proves a hit with both road and off-road riders," say Cycling Ireland.

The hosts, Galway Bay Cycling Club, have a strong pedigree in gravel. The club is involved in running competitive events such as the Galway Classic and The Bog Trials gravel racing series, and also runs one of Ireland's most high-profile gravel sportives, the Galway Gravel Grinder.

The latter event has been cancelled for 2024 as Ireland's state-owned forestry company Coillte is refusing to sanction gravel cycling events across the lands it manages - a position that has also seen a proposed new weekend festival of gravel cycling in Cork, Rebellion Gravel, shelved for the time being.

"Galway Bay Cycling Club is delighted to run the Gravel National Championships," commented Mick Ruane, Galway Bay Cycling Club.

"The race will be run from Ryehill Demesne just outside Abbeynockmoy in east Co. Galway and will be run on a circuit consisting of gravel and boreen roads.

"The route will be very tough and the race is likely to break up into small groups due to the amount of gravel and technical corners. It is really a course for strong riders who can handle their bike - tire choice will be crucial in who comes out on top.

"We can't wait to welcome the best riders in Ireland for what should be a great weekend."

The venue for the Championships, Ryehill Demesne, is the same as that used for the club's Ride the Classic Sportif. This year's edition takes place on 3 August 2024 with a choice of two courses, 80km and 110km.

The event is in the style of a European Spring classic, with a predominantly road course that includes sections of gravel and/or off-road sectors.

However, the 100km course on the Classic features 24km of gravel/off-road - some way short of the minimum 60% required by the UCI for its gravel world series. This would suggest that significant new sections of off-road will appear in the Championships course, rather than it simply being a re-run of the Ride the Classic route.

Ireland does not currently have a qualifying event in the series, with the nearest being The Gralloch in Scotland and the new Graean Cymru event in Wales. Run by Glorious Gravel, Graen Cymru is set to take place in Ruthin on 22 September 2024.

Further details on the Irish Gravel Championships course, including the weekend schedule, entry and prizes, will be released by Cycling Ireland over the summer.