“>No easy feat, participants are motivated in their quest to raise vital funds and awareness for Down Syndrome Ireland Munster branches and individual beneficiaries. The annual Tour de Munster charity cycle has raised a phenomenal €2.78 million for its beneficiaries since 2001. With bicycles readied, there was a ceremonial roll to Cork City Hall for the official start. The peloton was led out of the city by cycling legend, Sean Kelly.
First stop was Midleton where there were big crowds out to welcome the cyclists. There was a brief stop at Mace in the town. Mace were sponsors of this years tour and provided refreshments for the cyclists along the route. Leaving Midleton, the peloton headed for Dungourney and Tallow, before a brief stop in Lismore. The cob webs were blown away with the ascent of The Vee. The cyclists were welcomed in to Clogheen by the Tipperary Branch of Down Syndrome Ireland who provided a fabulous lunch. The peloton pedaled on to Ballylooby, birth place of another cycling legend, Bernard Burke. With a nice tail wind, good progress was made on through Cahir, Bansha, and Tipperary Town. The cyclists stopped at the Limerick branch of Down Syndrome Ireland where they were greeted by some of the inspiring service users. After leaving Limerick City, it was full gas through Birdhill and on to Killaloe, the final stop of the day, with 190km on the clock. After a sumptuous meal at the Lakeside Hotel, the cyclists were treated to a hip hop performance from local branch members, and got to hear how they benefit from the services provided.
After heavy overnight rain, Friday morning started dry as the peloton left Killaloe and pushed on for Ennis. There was a stop for coffee and to meet local members in Ennis. With the clock ticking, the kilometers were covered quickly to reach Killimer in time for the ferry. Having loaded 120 bicycles, 4 vans, and, 3 motorcycles, the ferry crossed to Tarbert on the southern side of the river Shannon. from there it was on to Listowel where the cyclists were refueled by the Kerry branch of DSI. The final leg of day two was to Tralee, where there was a reception at Manor Park. This was a welcome wind down from a hard day in the saddle, and gave the cyclists an opportunity to meet some of the local branch members. The Rose Hotel was the resting place for the night.
Saturday morning dawned to the sound or rain pelting off the windows and the wind howling in off Tralee bay. Never ones to shierk a challenge, the cyclists donned their jackets, and headed west along the bay to Camp and Stradbally, before turning inland to climb the Conor Pass. A notoriously tough climb in fine weather, the driven rain and headwind was energy sapping as the cyclists would their way up the mountainside. The descent to Dingle was just as difficult as the cyclists had to contend with standing water on the road and swirling winds. The comfort of the Skellig Bay Hotel gave the cyclists a chance to change in to dry gear, and grab a bowl of hot soup. Having warmed up, and with the worst of the weather having passed, the cyclists pointed their bikes in the direction of Killarney and hit the road.
The wind had eased off and was now at the cyclists back as they pedaled on through Castlemaine. Pat & Joanne McHugh were in Milltown to cheer on the cyclists ans support their clubmates. The peloton stopped at Deenagh Lodge in Killarney where they received a very warm Kerry welcome. The lovely Deenagh Lodge is situated right at the entrance to Killarney National Park through the footbridge and opposite St. Mary's Cathedral. It is the regular workplace of young adults with Down Syndrome, all arriving each day with great pride, wearing their uniforms and a smile on their face! At the end of the week they can talk about their job, what they did, who they met and with their pay-packet, have their own money in their pocket. Along with their own personal bank accounts, this has helped instill a valuable sense of independence. Deenagh Lodge and its management staff provide a safe, skillgiving environment for the young adults where they can achieve that experience at their own pace while being challenged.
The cyclists headed out of Killarney for the last part of the stage to Kenmare. Passing Torc Waterfall, the storm clouds rolled in and the climb to Moll's Gap was endured in a torrential downpour. There was no time to stop at the top and take in the views. The cyclists overnighted in the fabulous Landsdowne Arms Hotel in Kenmare.
Sunday morning dawned, and the final stage to Cork commenced. The conditions to the top of the Caha Pass were damp, and continued on to Glengarriff. After a quick coffee stop, it was on through Kealkill, over the pass of Keimaneigh and on to Cronins in Gougane Barra for the final refuel of the tour. The weather gods began to smile as the sun broke out as the cyclists chatted and looked forward to the last leg to Cork City. The anticipation was building as the peloton neared the city centre.
Once the peloton turned on to Bridge Street, the packed slopes of St. Patrick's Hill came in to view. The steep ascent is brutal on any day, but with 640km in the legs, it is a real test of willpower. Cheered on by the huge crows, the cyclists led by King Kelly battled their way up the iconic hill. The mix of adrenaline and emotion powered the cyclists up the 25% slope and in to the arms of their loved ones. It must be the best finale to any cycling event anywhere in the world. The electric atmosphere, and the knowledge that the cycle is helping Down Syndrome children and adults achieve their full potential is truly rewarding.
Club cycles continue each Saturday and Sunday. Wednesday evening cycles are also continuing. The club is always delighted to welcome new members. On Sunday mornings at 9am, all levels of cyclists are catered for, with the group split into 3 levels. New members are very welcome to turn up and cycle provided they have a racing bike, a helmet, and are over 18. For further information, check out our club Facebook page or contact us by email firstname.lastname@example.org. Details of cycles will be posted on club Facebook page.