This year’s routes for the Wicklow 200 and the Wicklow 100 Challenge have been announced with a radical reduction in national roads and a sting in the tail for Ireland’s favourite challenge bike ride.
The 36th edition of Ireland’s toughest and longest running sportive, the Wicklow 200, and its shorter 100km sibling, the Wicklow 100 Challenge, include many of the most famous and challenging roads of Ireland’s Garden County with much of the route familiar from recent editions.
With a new start and finish location at Bray Emmets GAA Club the organisers, the Irish Veteran Cyclists Association, have carefully reworked the 200km and 100km routes to ensure the safest and most enjoyable experience for the 3000 entrants for the June 11th event.
Starting at Bray Emmets, riders will soon be searching for the lower gear ratios on their bikes as they make their way to Enniskerry and from there to the Old Long Hill which will take them towards Roundwood and further challenges to come.
At Laragh after 30km, the two routes diverge with riders making the decision – which for most will already be firm in their minds – to select the challenging 100km option or the more arduous 200km route.
While the Wicklow 100 Challenge riders head through the beautiful Vale of Clara to Rathdrum on their way to Ashford and the Coast Road back towards Bray, the Wicklow 200 riders head west towards the steep and exposed ridge through the Wicklow Gap.
From Hollywood, riders make their way to Baltinglass and then move south for more challenges to come. The short, sharp shock of the climb through Hacketstown comes with 90km in the riders’ legs and precedes two of Wicklow’s legendary climbs.
The twin peaks of Slieve Maan and Drumgoff come in quick succession from 115km onwards and loom large on the route profile. The latter climb at 125km is known to most in the cycling world as the ‘Shay Elliott’ and offers the opportunity for riders to pay tribute at the summit monument to Ireland’s first ever Tour de France yellow jersey holder.
There are still over 75km to go at that point with several more tough climbs to come for increasingly tired legs as the riders descend to the Vale of Clara where they converge with the route of the Wicklow 100 Challenge.
The riders will make their way back to Rathdrum and then to the ‘coast road’ from Ashford to Bray, a rollercoaster of short drags towards home which avoids the N11. This takes the riders through Greystones with 16km remaining and a couple of difficult climbs still to be negotiated.
Up over the tough drag at Windgates at 188km, the route sweeps back towards Enniskerry and the final short climb of the day.
Returning to Bray Emmets, the riders will have earned their finish line food and entertainment and, most importantly, the kudos of having completed one of the toughest sporting challenges in Ireland.
Event organiser Alan Heary is confident that the both routes are amongst the most challenging in bike sport and include many of the most famous cycling roads in Ireland.
“We’ve maintained the essential character of the event while reducing the amount of time that riders are on the N11 to just a couple of hundred metres compared to last year,” said Heary.
“The final 20km are going to be tough for riders with tired legs and a lot of people are going to be reaching for those final gels when they hit Windgates on the way out of Greystones.
“The finish location at Bray Emmets is going to be a welcome sight for all and its self-contained nature will help create a great atmosphere at the start and at the finish.”
Links to the routes:
Wicklow 200: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/20453699
Wicklow Challenge: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/20453781