They were under starter’s orders in Cork City this morning as riders of the 21st Tour de Munster got on their bikes
The four-day charity cycle kicked off at The English Market today with around 150 riders set to take in some famed routes and villages throughout the province before finishing in Cork City on Sunday.
While there is no heatwave to contend with, the riders will still face a gruelling 600km treck through the southern province.
Today, riders will race through Midleton and head for Lismore, The Vee, Cahir, Tipperary and Oola before finishing in Limerick.
The tour aims to raise money for the Munster branches of Down Syndrome Ireland. Since the first tour in 2001, €3.4m has been raised for the beneficiaries of the race.
Competitors will be led by cyclist Sean Kelly as they tackle the route, with tour founder Paul Sheridan saying it will be a real “endurance test”.
“A huge amount of hard work and dedication goes into preparing for a tour like this and the commitment from participants has been amazing.
“These cyclists dedicate months to training and fundraising and without their support, none of this would be possible,” Mr Sheridan added.
After arriving in Limerick, the riders will depart the Treaty County tomorrow and make their way through Cratloe, Quin, Ennis, Kildysart, Killimer, Tarbert, Listowel and finally Tralee.
Day three will see cyclists leave Tralee and head for the Conor Pass and then riding through Dingle, Annascaul, Inch, Castlemaine, Milltown, Killarney, Molls Gap before a well deserved rest in Kenmare.
The final day, Sunday, will see the race return to Cork, leaving Kenmare to race through Caha Pass, Glengarriff, Ballylickey, Gouganebarra, Ballingeary, Inchigeela, Macroom and Lissarda.
In Cork City, the riders will face one more challenge, heading for Patrick’s Hill before finishing at the Clayton Silver Springs Hotel.
The weather could be set to play a part in the race with unsettled conditions expected for much of the weekend.
Riders will be faced with a mix of sunshine and showery conditions for much of the race, but temperatures should be around a manageable 19C.
“As we make our way through the six counties of Munster and are encouraged by the wonderful branches of Down Syndrome Ireland, it’s all the motivation we need to keep pedaling,” said Mr Sheridan.
“Every cent raised makes a difference to the amazing children and adults who are members of these branches and we hope the public can show their support and donate whatever they can.”
Speaking at the launch of the race at the Tipperary branch of Down Syndrome Ireland, Sean Kelly said he was honoured to be hitting the road again.
“It’s an event that is very close to my heart and something I look forward to every year,” said the cyclist, riding in his 16th Tour de Munster this year.
“Throughout the years, I have met so many wonderful children, adults and families who rely on and benefit from the services provided by each branch and from beginning to end, they are the drivers pushing us over the finish line on Patrick’s Hill.” Maria Rowan of Down Syndrome Waterford said the money raised by the Tour are important.
“The funds raised by the tour are hugely appreciated by everyone in the Waterford branch and we can’t thank them enough for their continued support and partnership throughout the past 11 years.”
To donate to this year’s Tour de Munster, visit www.idonate.ie.