The Newport Rocky Mountain High gravel/off-road event on Sunday 26th February had something for every participant. Some came to just ramble around the gravel tracks others were a tad more competitive and raced the route. One thing for sure though is by the end of the day everyone was in awe of the majestic scenery.
The 40k event had a mix of all terrains but was predominantly gravel, there was quite a bit of climbing too with over 400m of elevation. The aim of the event was to highlight an old path from Newport to Mulranny, used in the olden days by locals, travellers, farmers, and herders.
There are even rumours that the great “Fionn mac Cumhaill ” travelled this track en-route to Newport. The rumour goes that on the journey his dogs took chase after a wild boar but little did they know there were actually two boars and after a tussle one of the dogs was injured by the horns of the second boar and took-off whaling into one of the nearby glens for shelter.
The event itself started outside Hotel Newport & Kelly’s Butchers and after a tranquil opening where the route took in the a lap of the Quay, some of the Great Western Greenway and Burrishoole, the action started once the cyclists hit the Wiry hills around the Furnace lakes. The sharp little hills broke the peloton into pieces.
All the talk beforehand was about bike choice, any off road bike would get them around the route but some participants went to great lengths to make their machine race ready by selecting their preferred wheel and tyre choice, others stripped their mountain bikes down and shed as much weight from their machines to suit the route. One participant even used a racer with wider tyres, he still got around albeit with one or two punctures!
Fermoy supremo and Ras rider Michael Hennessy wasted no time opening up a gap on the tough terrain and was first to cross the start of the timing section that also signalled the start of 24kms of real gravel.
His efforts might have been a bit premature as he was chased down by James Downes Newcastle West and Barry Kelly DB Cavan with Greg Baxter Westport Covey Wheelers not far behind.
Behind these, others riders took a more tactical approach and rested while shedding kit before they started the timed section, some even let big groups go off ahead with the ambition of catching them later.
Up Front Hennessy, Downes, Kelly and Baxter ploughed on frantically, opening up a huge gap on the rest of the field.
Back the field Darragh Delaney Western Lakes CC liked the idea of being the hound and chased like mad, passing rider after rider knowing that each one caught would automatically move him up the leader board, but Darragh was to be outsmarted by local man Trevor Costello who said afterwards that he has cycled the route approximately 200 times over the years. This knowledge paid off and his ability to navigate the course at speed and his light body weight also helped his cause to secure the top spot on the podium.
Spaniard David Belmonte from De Ronde Cork got caught up in the battle when he clung onto Darragh and Trevor’s wheel for the remainder of the timed section to come home in 3rd overall.
In the women’s event Sara Canny Western Lakes CC didn’t let her inexperience get the better of her when she romped away from the field for a commanding win. This was Sara’s first ever gravel event having borrowed a bike to take part in the Cycling Connacht Women’s gravel series only a few weeks prior, she got the bug and decided to try a gravel event. Downhill mountain biker Soraya Mc Mahon Dublin, also new to gravel, was the second fastest with Corrib MTB’s Sinead Waters in 3rd.
The battle of the bikes went in favour of the gravel bike which is probably the most versatile for this type of route. The route is open to everyone, there are many more landmarks up there to be explored, just make sure to close the gates after you and leave no trace.
Organisers would like to thank main sponsors Hotel Newport, Nausan Body care products and Kelly’s butchers. All finishers went home with a Black & White pudding from the renowned butchers, a Nausan body wipe and some great memories of a super day on two wheels
Full results can be found on the link HERE
Check out the highlights video HERE
*On a personal note, this was my first gravel bike enduro style event and I loved it! I underestimated how much the terrain would take out of me and definitely needed more food on the spin. Unfortunately a puncture for Eve ten minutes into the timed section, put a halt to our gallop and my plans to race the timed section, but it didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the spin, the scenery and the craic that was had as we enjoyed a new fun route and embraced the adventure. I would definitely recommend getting this event into your calendar for 2023