IT continues to break records annually but total funds raised from this year's Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle surprised even die-hard fans when the final figure was announced on Friday night.
That's because the amount came in at a staggering €842,100, a figure that drew gasps of disbelief followed by huge applause as Ring of Kerry Cycle PRO Cathal Walshe made the announcement at The Gleneagle Hotel on Friday evening.
Easily one of the top charity fundraisers in the country, this year marked the 29th hosting of the cycle and over 8,300 cyclists took to the roads on July 7. Indeed, numbers next year are expected to exceed the 10,000 mark as many cyclists return to celebrate three decades of the initiative - and by simple calculations that means a figure in excess of €1m is on the cards.
Seven 'nominated charities' will benefit from the funds raised this year and the cheques were handed over during Friday evening's Ring of Kerry Dinner Dance.
Accepting the cheque for 'Build4LifeCystic Fibrosis', an emotional Joe Browne spoke of how the charity's nomination would boost awareness of the charity at national level.
Collecting the cheque for 'Enable Ireland', Seán Scally acknowledged that the service receives certain funding from the State but remarked that the figure was not enough to maintain current services.
"This year we will be ok because of the Ring of Kerry Cycle but who knows what's going to happen in 10 or 12 year's time," he added.
Home from Home / St Francis Special School were also jointly nominated this year and Helena Cox from Home from Home thanked all involved on behalf of children who could not speak for themselves, whilst Liam Twomey of St Francis' Special School thanked committee members - Cathal Walsh, Daniel McCarthy, Tim O'Brien, Brendan Coffey, Karina McCarthy and Pádraig Treacy - individually.
Other nominated charities receiving cheques on the night included Kerry Cork Health Link- Cancer Support Group, Rathmore Social Action Group, Friends of St Joseph's Home and SouthWest Counselling Centre with Centre Director Geraldine Sheedy stating that the money raised will "literally save lives".
Sixteen ' subsidiary charities' were also presented with funds raised.
Chairman Tim O'Brien thanked all involved in the event and acknowledged the huge voluntary effort that ensured that all the money raised goes directly to the nominated charities.
On a more serious note, the chairman also raised concerns over approximately 1,600 cyclists who had yet to donate money, adding that there would be a new system next year. It is understood that a registration fee is actively being considered.
Also speaking on the night was fourtime Ring of Kerry cyclist and guest of honour, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, who labelled the cycle "one of the biggest sporting events after the Dublin City Marathon and one of two other marathons".
Killarney Mayor, Seán O'Grady, meanwhile, thanked organisers for the boost the event gives to the local economy.
Plans for next year's 30th anniversary event are already underway and charities who wish to apply to benefit from funding should download application forms from www.ringofkerrycycle.ie. Closing date for receipt of applications is 5pm on Friday, November 30.