Free-wheelin' fun Burning it up in the Burren
THEY turned out in the sunshine and in huge numbers to rub shoulders with cycling legend Sean Kelly.
More than 1,700 cyclists got into gear for An Post Tour de Burren over the weekend -- where the cycling superstar happily posed for photographs with participants.
Soon after, broadcaster Ian Dempsey called the cyclists to order and announced the start of the 160km 'Burin Burren' challenge, beginning at Ballyvaughan pier in north Clare.
With three routes to chose from, the cyclists passed some of Ireland's best-known tourist sites. They swept by the 5,000-year-old Poulnabrone, the 650ft-high Cliffs of Moher, the surf at Lahinch, Doolin cave, and the coastal drive from Fanore to Ballyvaughan.
The Burren Cycling Club deployed roving units of repair men armed with 100 spare bicycle tubes to come to the aid of stranded cyclists.
For the majority of the participants, the event was a relaxed one with cyclists taking time out to sit down at two food stations and have one of the 3,000 cups of tea with muffins, cheesecake or sandwiches.
Patrick O'Donoghue of the Burren Cycling Club yesterday expressed his delight at the numbers who participated.
"We more than doubled our numbers. We are all volunteers working on this event and we're thrilled that the numbers are growing, year on year.
"It's very rewarding to be able to share this beautiful place with so many fellow cyclists. Cycling in the Burren is absolutely fantastic and visitors are made feel really welcome."
Speaking after the challenge, Sean Kelly said: "The fact that the An Post Tour de Burren has grown so dramatically speaks for itself. It is so well organised and the scenery is superb.
"The whole point is to get people on their bikes. Today we saw young and old, people with disabilities, experienced cyclists and newcomers all having a great day. I really enjoyed taking part."