Saturday will see the start of three days of top class bike racing when the Errigal International Youth Tour returns to the roads of Churchill and streets of Letterkenny.
The event has, for the third year running, attracted a top field of over 250 of the best youth riders from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Isle of Man and even as far afield as Malta and South Africa!
The countdown to this weekends’ races began over six months ago and the success of the events in 2012 and 2013 was due in no small part to the great welcome received from the local community in and around both Churchill and Letterkenny, without their understanding and support it would be impossible to host an event of such magnitude and logistical headaches.
The promotion and hosting of the event by Errigal Cycling Club not only showcases the beauty of Donegal but brings a much needed boost to the local economy.
The statistics associated with the previous two tours in 2012 & 2013 are quite impressive; it is estimated that each of them held over the August bank Holiday generated income into the area in excess of €250,000.
With fields of over 200 riders, accompanying parents, family and coaches etc. there where hundreds of additional bed nights generated for local accommodation providers.
As for the racing… well it offers a fantastic, colourful spectacle, think of the Tour de France in miniature!
Large crowds are expected to once again line the hills in and around Churchill on Saturday and Sunday where the very nature of the courses in and around the village afford spectators a number of ideal locations to view the event. The Queens stage (most difficult) of the Youth Tour is without a doubt Stage 3 on Sunday afternoon when the riders tackle the climb up Keelogues into Churchill. On the day the slope will be lined with hundreds of spectators to watch the leaders battle it out and then to help push the stragglers up the hill.
On the Monday the tour departs Churchill for the streets of Letterkenny and the final days Criteriums; these races are fast and furious and held on a circuit that will allow you to get up close and personal with the riders as they race around the one way system.
The Youth Tour is the top youth cycling event held in Ireland and is endorsed by both Cycling Ireland and Cycling Ulster, with each body represented by their own hand-picked teams. Make no mistake this is the one that they all want to win and despite the quality of the field Errigal is confident of success for our own youth riders who have shown themselves in the past to be up for the challenge when the best come calling!
The following young Donegal based riders will be hoping to make an impact and a name for themselves this weekend by representing Errigal…
Errigal’s U12 Riders:
Ulster Road Race Champion and recent winner of the Errigal Youth League Odhran is the youngest member of the Doogan family from Gortahork, Odhran has won a number of other races in his debut season and has well and truly stepped out of the shadow of older siblings Ciara and PJ and already begun making a name for himself in Irish Youth cycling.
Fantastic season for this young Letterkenny man having won a number of races already this year he will be hoping to make a big impact in this year’s tour.
Recently crowned Ulster Time Trial Champion in his debut season, this lad from Dungloe has hit the youth scene in a big way with his powerful riding from the front and never say die attitude, this is a young rider who is expected to go from strength to strength.
Ulster Champion who recently won gold and silver at the National Youth Track Championships, Amanda from Dunlewy will hope to carry that form into the tour.
Strong climber who will gain great experience from this years’ event and is a vitally important member of Errigal’s U12 team.
A 10 year old in his debut season, Adam recently won the U11 Ulster Championship Road Race and will gain great experience from this year’s tour,
There are a number of U12 debutants riding for Errigal this year who will be hoping to make a name for themselves by putting in good performances over the three days of racing. These include Cora Harkin, Joe Harkin, Catherine Kelly and Ciaran McGettigan.
Errigal’s U14 Riders:
Errigal’s Olympian, a member of the Irish National Team, current Irish and Ulster Champion, and having just returned from the National Youth Track Championships with three gold medals Ciara is without doubt the best in Ireland at her age. She has gone from strength to strength this year and there is no reason to doubt that the girl from Gortahork has the talent to top the GC.
What can be said about the lad from Gortahork who has consistently won everything there is to win in cycling for his age group in Ireland over the last four years, he was deservedly chosen this year to be part of the 2020 Irish Talent Team. PJ is one of this year’s home-grown favourites and is currently on top form and has the heart and determination that is needed in abundance to succeed in this year’s tour.
Ulster Road and Time Trial Champion, Conor has had a great season dominating the sprints and winning in most races he has taken part in. He recently won the Errigal Youth League together with gold and silver medals at the National Youth Track Championships in Dublin; the boy from Letterkenny is on great form for the event.
As a former winner of the event overall at U11 level in 2012 and winner of the renowned Keelogues Stage in last year’s Youth Tour, Dylan will be hoping to do well in what is his debut season at U14, the young lad from Crolly is a natural climber and should be able to hold his own against the older lads in the steep hills around Churchill.
Hailing from Letterkenny, Shauna is a fantastic sprinter and good climber, she is full of confidence going into the event and is expected to ride well and compete with the best.
Another member of Errigal’s formidable U14 team, Michael has shown fantastic form this year winning recently in Omagh, the young lad from Brockagh will be hoping to mark his senior year at this level with a great performance in the coming tour.
This is a young rider who has improved beyond recognition this year, Ronan from Letterkenny worked very hard over the winter and has gone from strength to strength this season and has placed well in a number of events recently.
Other Errigal Riders looking to catch the eye at U14 level this year include Ben Carr, Zach Gibson, John Conor Gallagher, Adam Harkin, Sean Og Harrigan and David Rankin.
Errigal’s Under 16 Riders:
A real talent, Ciaran from Falcarragh will be hoping to perform to his maximum, as on his day he is a fantastic bike rider who is a proven winner at every youth level, has the potential to go a long way in the sport.
A veteran of the last two tours, and current Donegal Ladies Champion, Amy from Ray near Falcarragh will be hoping that her climbing ability comes to the fore in the hills around Churchill.
This has been a good year for Ciaran who has only got stronger as the year has gone on, the lad from Ray will be hoping to show real form over the coming three days of racing, he has a real talent for climbing.
Other Errigal U16 riders racing for Errigal in the tour this year and hoping to perform well include Adam Rankin and Conor Dabell from Letterkenny who have improved so much this year and shown real determination and commitment. First time debutant Michael O’Donnell from Crolly has only recently taken up the sport and has showed real character, he will hope to gain valuable experience from the event with a view to entering the Junior ranks in 2015.
Saturday Day 1
Stage 1: Racing Starts 13.00
This will be an exciting fast Road Race that starts and finishes on the Main Street in Churchill, the route heads out from village down the hill and then along the shores of Lough Gartan before looping back to Churchill. U12 (1 lap), U14 (3 laps), U16 (5 laps)
Sunday Day 2
Stage 2: Racing Starts 10.15
A challenging 1.6km hilly time trial starting from race headquarters at Gartan Outdoor Centre and finishing in the host village Churchill. All competitors start separately at one minute intervals, this is a race against the clock that will have a major influence on the overall results.
Stage 3: Racing Starts 15.00
This is the Queen’s Stage of the Youth Tour that the spectators love! With the very steep Keelogues climb back up into Churchill, the hill is always lined with hundreds of people and the fantastic effort put in by the youths on this stage has to be seen to be believed. U12 (1 lap), U14 (3 laps), U16 (5 laps).
Monday Day 3
Stage 4: Racing Starts 09.30
On Monday morning the competitors will roll out on to a Criterium circuit in the town of Letterkenny. The route starts and finishes on Paddy Harte Road on the one-way system down by Century Cinemas and offers spectators a fantastic view of Criterium racing at its best.