Wicklow 200, Ireland’s longest running annual challenge cycling event, has created a new initiative aimed at preserving the environment on the roads of Ireland’s Garden County.
The Love It Don’t Leave It campaign centres around the beauty of the surroundings the riders will be travelling through during the Wicklow 200 and its Wicklow 100 sibling on Sunday June 10th.
The anti-littering campaign is asking riders to ‘love Wicklow, don’t leave litter’ and will incentivise entrants to dispense of litter responsibly as well as introducing other initiatives aimed at acknowledging and preserving the natural beauty of Ireland’s most popular cycling destination.
Wicklow’s roads have been the training ground for cycling legends and current pros alike such as Tour de France heroes Stephen Roche and Shay Elliott as well as current pros Nicolas Roche and Chis Juul-Jensen. Wicklow has also formed the backdrop for some of the most beautiful images seen in cinemas and on TV around the world.
Therefore, the organisers of the Wicklow 200 have created the Love It Don’t Leave It campaign aimed at educating and encouraging riders to enjoy their surroundings without environmental impact.
On the day, riders can exchange gel wrappers and energy bar wrappers at the finish line for tickets in a prize draw.
In addition, the organisers have made a commitment to reduce plastic waste by using water tanks to refill the riders’ water bottles at the feed stations in Baltinglass and Rathdrum.
The organisers will also keep plastic food packaging to a minimum by ensuring that cakes and savoury items are not individually wrapped for dispensing at the feed stations and the finish line.
The Wicklow 200 organisers believe that the roads and landscape they travel through give so much to cyclists and it’s our responsibility to give something back to the countryside.
An extensive #LoveItDontLeaveIt media campaign will keep the aims of the initiative at the forefront of minds in the run up to the event.
Event organiser Alan Heary believes that the Love It Don’t Leave It initiative is a key component in getting the most out of the Wicklow 200 experience for riders and organisers alike.
“For everyone involved in Wicklow 200, the event is a privilege and it’s up to us to recognise our good fortune by returning the compliment.
“The Love It Don’t Leave It initiative is our way of showing the world that cycling in Ireland’s most beautiful county is an honour and we’re asking our riders to acknowledge that by retaining their litter to be disposed of in the proper way.
“The water tanks will dramatically reduce the amount of plastic waste the event generates and the packaging needs have also been cut by not individually wrapping each food item in plastic as was the custom in past years.
“We’re constantly reviewing our activities around the event and looking for ways to reduce our environmental footprint in Wicklow.”
What inspired you to produce this guide to bike riding in Wicklow?
For as long as I can remember I’ve been somehow drawn into Dublin and Wicklow mountains. Perhaps the thing about
being born at the foothills of the Dublin Mountains is that they enter your subconscious at an early age and never let go. From an early age they also became my playground of sorts, thanks chiefly and fortunately to devoted grandparents who took us mostly willingly on Sunday walks up and around places like the Sugar Loaf, Djouce Mountain, and the Hell Fire Club.
At school in De La Salle Churchtown I sat in many a classroom that looked directly out at the Dublin Mountains, and can remember becoming increasingly lured by a longing to escape into them, either by foot or any other means.When I started running as a teenager this opened up another avenue, as most Sunday mornings we would set off from Marlay Park and run up through Cruagh Wood and back, or sometimes all the way through Glencullen, where after many years abroad and in the city I returned to live.
It was by bicycle, however, that the Dublin Mountains truly revealed themselves in all their openness and glory, and by natural extension, the Wicklow Mountains, the largest continuous upland region in Ireland.
When long distance runs in the mountains became a little more of a chore than a pleasure the bicycle at first proved a worthy substitute and now, I think, a superior one. The distances are far more manageable and far less limited, and there is something uniquely intimate about cycling on mountainous or hilly roads, certainly a step closer to Mother Nature and all her seasonal personalities. After 12 years of cycling and discovering new routes, and encouraged by the good people at The Collins Press, this cycling guide emerged from the notes and maps and memories.
Can you remember your first bike ride in Wicklow?
Indeed, it was with my older brother Donal, sometime in the summer of 1986. He was 17, I was 15, and we drew a rough map of how to get to Glendalough, then rode over the Wicklow Gap to Laragh, and after a brief stop off in Glendalough, rode back through Roundwood and Enniskerry to the family home in Churchtown. It took us an entire day and the memory will last a lifetime.
What was your most memorable day riding your bike in Wicklow?
Hard to single one out, although as recalled in Route 5, the Glencullen-Laragh Circuit, one day in early June, a few years ago, having turned left at the Sally Gap and riding up towards Luggala, another cyclist suddenly appeared on the road ahead of me, tearing up the steep incline with a hardy look of determination – a sort of cross between Bill The Butcher from Gangs of New York and Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood.
He passed me in a speedy blur but a couple of minutes later I was thinking the resemblance had been a little too uncanny; later, when riding back up from Laragh, I passed him again, this time realising it was indeed Daniel Day-Lewis.
It was about a year since he’d won his second Oscar for his role as Daniel Plainview, and riding in the Wicklow Mountains like this was his way of retreating from all the trappings which usually come with a success like that.
I flagged him down to say hello and we ended up sharing the few miles back through Laragh, and he was thoroughly enjoyable company, recalling how cycling had always been his thing, especially in the early days in London, where he would ride around to various auditions, often showing up with splashes of bicycle oil on his hands and face.
Although by then into his 50s he also looked superbly fit, which of course anyone would if they cycled regularly through the heart of the Wicklow Mountains.
You’ve seen the route of the Wicklow 200. What advice would you have for first time entrants or people thinking of taking the plunge?
The best way to take on any long cycle such as the Wicklow 200 is to embrace it, pain and beauty and all. I often think about and quite one of the original and still best cycling books, The Rider, by Tim Krabbé, which like On the Road and The Great Gatsby, is best read in a slow and continuous loop. To the last word it’s the perfect paean to all the pain and pleasure and the fellowship of the road bike.
From the opening paragraph, where Krabbé looks at the non-riders around him – “the emptiness of those lives shocks me” – it is by turns of the page subjectively arrogant and despairingly real. It was written in 1978 and reads even louder today.
“The greater the suffering, the greater the pleasure. That is nature’s payback to riders for the homage they pay her by suffering. Velvet pillows, safari parks, sunglasses; people have become woolly mice. Instead of expressing their gratitude for the rain by getting wet, people walk around with umbrellas. Nature is an old lady with few friends these days, and those who wish to make use of her charms, she rewards passionately.”
Just some things to consider, whether in the rain or shine, while ascending the Wicklow Gap, and racing down into Glenmalure.
Do you have a favourite of any of the rides you’ve detailed in your guide?
Probably Route 4, Sally Gap-Luggala Loop, as it passes right over the Luggala Estate; On the last day of January 2012, I packed several boxes into the back of my Jeep Wrangler, drove the 25-odd miles into the Wicklow Mountains and across the Sally Gap, then checked into a small cut stone cottage in the heart of the 5,000 acres of outer remoteness that is the Luggala estate.
It was a nuclear cold winter’s morning. My family reckoned I’d survive no more than a month, my friends said no more than a week. Instead I survived more than a year, each day dreaming I had woken up in another world or another lifetime or somewhere in between.
Obviously your first love is athletics so what is it about cycling that really appeals to you?
Again, it’s the extra distance that the bicycle allows you to travel, while also taking in more of the surroundings. And dare I say the older and the wiser I become, getting out on the bike is a lot easier than getting out for a run, and you don’t have to lie down for the rest of the day.
Entrants to the Wicklow 200 will also be in with a chance to win a signed copy.
A: With around 4 weeks to go before the Wicklow 200 you should be:
If you feel you are not at the required level to complete the Wicklow 200 it is possible to make some increases to your training over the next few weeks. A simple guideline is to increase your amount of training (kms or time) by 10% each week for the next few weeks.
(ED: REMEMBER, YOU CAN DECIDE ON THE DAY WHETHER YOU’RE IN FORM FOR THE 200 OR 100)
A: Incorporating hills into your weekly training schedule is vital. The Wicklow 200 takes in some serious climbs, therefore, the challenge will require both strength endurance as well as good aerobic condition. Due to the length of the course your ability to pace yourself is vital.
If you go too hard on hills you run the risk of expending too much energy and going very slow. This is what racing cyclists call blowing up on a hill!
At this stage two hilly sessions per week will see improvements in your climbing ability.
This will be a long spin incorporating long hills, probably best done at the weekend, as its duration should be between 3-5 hours if you are going to ride the Wicklow 200.
This should mainly be ridden at talking pace or 65% to 75% of your maximum heart rate if you are using a heart monitor. On hills the heart rate could rise into the 80% range so use your gears well to control the effort – a cadence of 70 to 85 pedal revs per minute on the long hills is a good guide.
Naturally you wouldn’t go straight into a 3-5-hour very hilly session if you haven’t been using climbs already. Progression is required from training on the flat to gradually introducing more challenging climbs
This will be a shorter spin, duration 1.5 to 2 hours, which should include hills ridden at a slightly faster pace than Session 1 for a few minutes at a time.
This session should also include 2-4 x 10-minute efforts on flat or undulating roads. All of these efforts should be mainly ridden at an effort where your breathing would be deep but not gasping for breath or at 80 to 85% heart rate if you are using a heart monitor.
This session will improve your maximum cruising speed and help you to be more comfortable at reasonable speeds.
Aim to eat / drink about 60gms of carbohydrate per hour to maintain energy levels on training sessions in excess of two hours.
IMPORTANT: An increase in training also requires good nutrition, rest and sleep to assist in recovery.
We’ll be running the ‘Ask the Experts’ series in the final weeks leading up to the event. Our panel of experts includes Cycling Coach, Paddy Doran from Peak Endurance Coaching, Mental Toughness and Performance Coach, Alan Heary, and expert bike mechanics from Cycle SuperStore .
Just submit your question on our Facebook Page, Instagram, or Twitter, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll select a number of them each week which the panel will address in their regular post.