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Mourne routes offer scenic challenges for cyclists as Northern Ireland gears up

By Stuart McKinley

Northern Ireland is looking for its very own King of the Mountains.

Or if you prefer a more gentle incline, there is still an opportunity to hit the roads around the Mourne Mountains.

After the huge success of the Giro d'Italia's Grande Partenza last year, which was followed by the Gran Fondo earlier this summer, the appetite for cycling in Northern Ireland has never been higher.

And the Etape Mourne races on Sunday, August 23 are expected to be popular among cycling enthusiasts too.

With two routes, one of 110km and a shorter 40km ride, there is something to interest all levels of riders.

The start and finish for both routes will be at Hilltown, right in the heart of the Mourne kingdom - which will immediately give an indication of what lies ahead along the way.

The introduction of the 40km route is planned to give those who are new to cycling, or others who either haven't tried the Mournes before or for some time, the opportunity to get back in the saddle and experience the impressive local landscape, with a climb over Spelga Dam being the showpiece.

The longer route will take in a number of stunning climbs and descents in the wider area along its testing course of almost 70 miles, with three climbs around Spelga to challenge the riders.

For those who took part in the Gran Fondo, the Etape Mourne routes will offer an opportunity to explore the variety of peaks and climbs in the fantastic Mourne region.

Grant Norris, Global Head of Events, Chain Reaction Cycles said: "We are delighted to support the Etape Mourne.

"Its a great day out whatever level of cyclist you are and the new 40km is a great route for beginners. 

"Confirmed in a new time slot in the cycling calendar, the Etape acts as the culmination of the season and whether you are a whippet-like club rider straining to achieve the gold standard time or looking for a more leisurely but challenging day out in the saddle, this is the event for you."

The Etape Mournes may not involve the intensity of the Tour de France, but Norris believes it is comparable.

"Just remember to look up and take in the stunning landscapes of the Mourne Mountains and you could believe it is Montée Laurent Jalabert (the nickame for the Côte de la Croix-Neuve) from Stage 14 that you are climbing and not the Kilkeel Road. 

"Past years have seen plenty of happy cyclists take to the route and have a great day in the saddle."

For further information on the event, go to

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