If you have raced with us in the last few years you’ll have a good idea of the kind of trails we enjoy in Bunclody. The good news is there’s more, much more. The following is a description of what you can expect at the Racing795 MTB Challenge on 7th July.
Part 1 – All riders
The day starts nice and easy with a neutralised group rollout from the Millrace Hotel along the N80. Time for a bit of trash talk with your buddies, and a few swigs of energy drink. After about 3kms we’ll turn on to a small country lane, and then it’s another 2kms to the first dirty kicker of the day. Expect carnage and cursing here as everyone spins out on the loose gravel and starts walking. Mercifully it’s only around 100metres before you’ll be back on a sensible fire road and climbing steadily along the South Leinster Way. Find your climbing rhythm and enjoy the views for the next 20 mins as you go higher and the world spreads out below you. As you crest the first big climb watch out for the signs, the long route stays right, short route turns left.
IMPORTANT: The trails in the Mount Leinster area are natural and rugged, demanding care and concentration at all times. As any experienced rider knows, concentration suffers when fatigue sets in, so please bear this in mind when choosing between long and short routes. No point arriving at the best singletrack too tired to enjoy it!
We’ll follow the long route first, both routes converge again later.
Part 2 – Long route only, skip to Part 3 if doing short route
Continue steadily climbing for another 10 mins or so and then bear left down a rough track. Keep your head high to see a stunning view of the Blackstairs straight in front as you launch into the first singletrack of the day, we call it MiniDH. It’s fast and fun with plenty of lines and it’ll get the blood racing! Have a look…
Another short singletrack loop follows and soon you’re climbing again, up the Heartbreaker, a steep airstrip of firebreak that gets you eventually to the summit of Croghaun. Then it’s over the top and down Mecca, a fast rolling firebreak looking north over the whole of Co Carlow and beyond. We call it Mecca ever since our domesticated Yorkshireman proclaimed “Ay up lads, it’s a mountain bikin’ Mecca”. The “poster” footage in our promo video was shot on Mecca.
Stop here if you like, have a drink and enjoy being alive for a minute or two. Then duck back into the trees for a long fast loose descent ideal for the enduro bikes. Another short climb, and then you’re dropping right through some grassy, rooty, twisty singletrack to emerge at the famous Corrabut Gap, scene of many a great battle in Ras Tailteann. Head south then and join the public road towards The Nine Stones for a few hundred metres. Enjoy the view as Mt Leinster rises before you and all of Ireland is laid out below. Enter the forest again before too long and enjoy a sequence of singletrack descents and even more more spectacular views, this time looking east and south. Watch out for the Irish Sea shimmering in the distance!
After about 20 mins you’re heading back towards North Kilbrannish and over to the junction where the long and short routes parted.
Part 3 – All riders
Climb up towards the wind turbines and down the other side a little. Now the real fun starts. Up a mean little kicker before emerging onto open hillside, then down a fast firebreak descent called Hennessy’s Gap ever since the unfortunate Hennessy performed his acrobatic dismount. And let that be a warning, caution advised here!
Double back onto a long stretch of open, undulating heathland singletrack with superb panoramic views. Even the racer-heads will want to pause for a look around. Cross Jim’s Bog (not boggy at all) and then follow the rocky firebreak/singletrack trail all the way around John’s Hill. Test your skills in amongst the granite boulders. Be careful on the loose rutted descents here.
Next it’s back onto fireroad for the steep climb up towards the wind turbines. Before too long you’re back on singletrack, first the dark and twisty Black Dog, a real test of xc skill, mostly downhill but with some sharp kickers. Anyone who can ride Black Dog first time without dabbing can be pretty pleased about it! Emerge from there on to a short sketchy old track and then a tricky, rocky, grassy descent. You might be feeling a bit knackered by now, so freewheel down the short fireroad stretch to recuperate a little before you hit Paradise, a lovely rugged, twisty track well known to anyone who has raced with us before. It’s great fun but you need your wits about you. This promo video from our 2010 Leinster League race will give you a flavour of this part of the route. Niall Davis leads, with Rudolf filming.
Exit Paradise then it’s more rocky trail and singletrack all the way down to the road, including the infamous Dabbage Patch, a testing little rock garden and finally the short glide down through the sweeping turns of the Lower Wood.
You’ve made it to the finish line now, knackered but hopefully in one piece. Once you’ve gathered yourself and maybe hung around for your mates, you’ll rejoin the public road, and roll the 5km down into Bunclody at your leisure. It’s mostly downhill so it only takes 10 minutes. Back at the Millrace Hotel you can share tales of heroism and conquest over a nice bowl of soup, and a pint or three.
So there, we’ve done our best to describe the route, but words are a poor substitute for the real thing. Come and experience it for yourself on 7th July.