Bealach Spider not for the faint-hearted

May 30th, 2018 4:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Pádraig Courtney (right) congratulating the first finisher, Hugh Power of Bandon Cycling Club, after his amazing performance in the inaugural Bealach Spider event.

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A brutal 180km ‘False Widow' route is a new option as the Bealach Spider Adventure Cycle returns to Castlehaven over the June Bank Holiday event.

A BRUTAL 180km ‘False Widow’ route is a new option as the Bealach Spider Adventure Cycle returns to Castlehaven over the June Bank Holiday event.

There are 4km of climbing in the new route, which joins the 100km ‘Daddy Longlegs’ and 50km ‘Lace Web’ routes. Each track is named after species of Irish spiders and each route fitting has eight legs, culminating at the Bealach on the top of Bluid Hill in Castlehaven. 

The routes follow local L roads or boreens around Castlehaven and Skibbereen and most legs include spectacular coastal vistas. There will short sections of adventure tracks on the longer routes, a nod to the gravel/adventure bicycle trend, but organisers say that anyone with a traditional road bike should be able to complete the course.

Traditionally, cycling events have stuck to national or regional roads but there has been an explosion in events looking to get off the beaten track over the last couple of years. Internationally, gravel events such as Dirty Kanza in the US and Dirty Reiver in England are very popular and this year’s Giro d’Italia even includes 9km of gravel road on the Colle delle Finestre stage.

‘While we don’t have long stretches of gravel roads here in Ireland, we do have rural boreens that have similar characteristics and we are looking to tap into that trend,’ said route designer Conor Buckley. 

The 50km Lace Web still includes 1,000m of climbing, while the 100km Daddy Longlegs route has 2,000m of climbing and is a bigger test of cycling ability. It includes a number of iconic climbs including the drag up from the pier in Castletownshend past the famous two trees and the infamous Coombe Hill in Skibbereen which has a gradient of more than 20 percent in places. 

The False Widow route at 180km long has over 4,000m of climbing and is probably one of the toughest tests in Irish cycling.  This is a route that is designed to push one’s legs, body and mind to the absolute limit. Named after the invasive False Widow spiders that arrived in Ireland about 20 years ago, these spiders have a painful venomous bite that can hurt for more than 24 hours. 

The False Widow route includes all the iconic hills of the Daddy Longlegs route plus many more short but brutal climbs that are typical of West Cork boreens. Cyclists should respect the elevation gain involved and the technical nature of the roads before attempting this route according to Buckley. 

‘These are relatively short but punchy hills with the gradient pitching to more than 20 percent in places,’ he says. 

‘It’s is like climbing Alpe d’Huez almost four times but without the benefit of a peloton and on a much more challenging road surface.’

Cyclists competing on any of the Bealach Spider routes will depart from Castlehaven GAA grounds at Moneyvollahane at 8am on Saturday, June 2nd, with registration open at 6.30an. While officially a self-supported ride like most adventure cycles, organisers say drinks, snacks and basic mechanical support will be provided along the route.  Full details are on the Bealach Spider Facebook page. Finalised GPX files for the various routes will be added there a few days before the event. 

The Bealach Spider Adventure Cycle is not a race but a timed cycling event and all timings will be done via Strava. Strava is a free app to plan and record routes and is available as a free download for most smartphones. Cyclists on the day will also get to create a cool bit of Strava Art in the shape of a spider. 

Donations will support the local GAA Healthy Club project in Castlehaven, which promotes health and wellbeing in the wider community. For further details, contact Conor Buckley on 086-8143772.

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