In mid March word was filtering through from the West of Ireland that the successful Mayo Youth Tour under the guidance of Connacht Cycling was not going ahead due to unforeseen circumstances.
The event which attracted an entry of 186 riders from a variety of nations in 2011 was about to be scored off the Irish cycling calendar for 2012.
For many young homegrown riders in this country this was devastating news as the ‘Youth Tour’ weekend was the highlight of their summer and their ‘Grand Tour’ if you like.
Not only is the ‘Youth Tour’ weekend a form of competition but also a time for many parents to have their annual get together not only from Ireland but also from the British Isles, South Africa et al.
The Youth Tour is a prestige cycling event for our children in this country as it gives them not only a competition but it also introduces children from other countries to their communities and their circle of friends. Of course, from a competition point of view it is a great marker for where they are at in comparison to their foreign compatriots. It also integrates many different nationalities and cultures so overall it is a great learning experience for the children.
A relatively young club, Errigal Cycling Club in County Donegal heard of the news. Errigal Cycling Club was formed in the later stages of 2008 by a group of leisure cyclists. The club has grown extensively over the last four years with particular attention in nurturing youth development.
Earlier this year the club held their annual Cycling Ireland Sprocket Rocket program with over 100 children signing on for the six week program. The club is largely rural based with members from Annagry to Dunfanaghy and Carrigart to Letterkenny.
At their monthly club meeting on the 20th March 2012 one of the items on the agenda was the cancellation of the Mayo Youth Tour 2012… and from that night on the word cancellation wasn’t even heard of! There was a massive response from the club members at the meeting and the club decided that they would take on the event. In many respects it was a brave decision and it meant the club immersing themselves in unknown waters but a demanding performance challenge tends to create a team. It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.
Next step was to decide on a venue for the North Western Donegal Club – with so many members from different small communities there was much anticipation and voices from many members and let’s be honest this was not an easy task! Our first meeting was a bit like the Good Friday agreement! – There were many words and it showed the passion and enthusiasm within the club! Trying to select a venue that each club member was happy with but more to the point the location that would suit the competitors and teams adequately. As the club is rural based there was one common goal and that was to base the event in a small community rather than going into an urban town where the atmosphere of the event would be most certainly diluted.
Finally, after much deliberation the club decided on Churchill as the host village for 2012 Errigal International Youth Tour. Churchill is a small village located 8 miles from Donegal’s largest town Letterkenny. The village’s name is derived from its location on a small hilltop. The village boasts a post office, one grocery shop, a take away and three pubs. The local Catholic Church is located a mile away while there is a Church of Ireland located in the village itself.
In early April, Cycling Ireland gave the club their seal of approval to proceed with the event and offered much valued funding plus assistance.
Cycling Ulster were right on board from the off and the enthusiasm shown by Marian and Tommy Lamb was met by all.
On the 14th of May in the conference Centre at Glenveagh National Park in County Donegal, the “1er Errigal International Youth Tour 2012” was launched by the Mayor of Donegal, Fine Gael Cllr – Noel McBride in front of a massive audience of approximately 200 people. There were people from all corners of Ireland at the launch including a large turnout of officials from both Cycling Ireland and Cycling Ulster. Honorary Secretary of Cycling Ireland Jack Watson attended the event that night and he also lent his expertise as he carried out a reconnaissance on the stages earlier that day. Jack said his first response was on hearing Errigal Cycling Club were taking on the event was-
“They’ll never manage it. It’s a 12-month project.” But after visiting the tour routes and facilities and meeting with club members today, he said, “I have no doubt you will make it”.
It was great from a club’s point of view to hear these words of encouragement as this was our first experience of running a national event.
The event itself will have an impact on the county not only from a cycling perspective but also from a tourism point of view as young riders from as far away as South Africa, Le Pays Basque, Isle of Man, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland are all attending the 2012 event.
Churchill has never before witnessed what it will encounter this weekend nor has the County of Donegal as it’s bringing together a multitude of different nationalities and cultures to rural areas and also a much needed injection to the local rural economy. On this note the club would like to thank the local and national media in striving to promote the event.
This Thursday will see the arrival of our first competitors to the area as the Mr.Price team fly in from Durban, South Africa with most others arriving Friday evening.
The headquarters for the event is in Gartan Outdoor Education Centre in Gartan 1km from Churchill village. The event is superbly located in safe environs for children.
Gartan Outdoor Education Centre is set on 87 acres on the shores of Gartan Lough and really is a very special place.
The last few three months have being nothing short of crazy with so many jobs and chores to be carried out. A lot of hard work has gone into the event – from meetings with the local community in Churchill to ordering safety pins for riders’ official competition numbers! The job list is endless.
The club are deeply grateful to so many people who have come to County Donegal over the last few weeks to meet with them to help in the successful running of the event, – Michéal and Mary Concannon for their endless advice and also to Martin McNally of Covey wheelers for his visit to the club, Bord Fáilte and Donegal Sports Partnership for their expertise and An Garda Síochana. The event would not have been possible if we hadn’t the support of local businesses in Donegal and they have really got behind the event. It would be impossible to thank everyone but you know who you are.
Finally to the people of Churchill and Gartan – the support of the local people in these areas over the last few weeks has been superb both in the village and a long the stage routes.
We, at Errigal Cycling Club wish everyone a safe weekend’s cycling and we thank the competitors, parents and teams for entering the event and we would encourage everyone to come out and watch the spectacle unfold!