Sticky Bottle – Irish ultra cycling race set to go ahead in Phase 5 of lock-down easing

Article by Sticky Bottle


The Donegal Ultra 555 is set to go ahead on August 28th, when Ireland will have progressed into Phase 5 of the easing of lockdown restrictions.

At present the Republic is in Phase 1, with four more Covid19 lockdown easing phases set to start into August.

Phase 5, the final period, will begin on August 10th and Cycling Ireland expects a return to full training and racing activity during that phase.

Because the Donegal Ultra 555km begins almost three weeks after Phase 5 starts, the organisers are pressing ahead with their plans for the event.

They have issued a statement confirming the race will proceed, but with some changes to ensure conditions are as safe as possible.

They say they have reviewed the Government’s five-phase plan for easing restrictions as well as closely studying Cycling Ireland’s road map for the return of cycling over the five-phase Covid19 plan.

The route around Donegal; a brutal challenge not for the feint hearted

“Unfortunately it became clear that the 555 couldn’t go ahead in its traditional June date,” said one of the organisers, Sean McFadden.

“With this in mind we have worked with Cycling Ireland to find a new date for the event,” he added, explain the date and race was subject to change if a second wave of infection should occur.

“However, we are confident the government is taking decisive and correct action and that the countries actions in lockdown have seen us pass the peak,” McFadden said.

“If we can reach stage five as per the timetable set out, that will give us a every chance of being able to stage the 555.

“Given the nature of the event, we think we have a good chance of getting the go-ahead. As an ultra race, with competitors riding solo, it is in its very nature an act of social distancing.

“As organisers we are looking at ensuring the same social distancing pre and post race. It must be stressed, however, that everything is subject to the health guidelines that will be in place in the weeks leading up to August 28th.”

Some of the scenes from last year’s race

Normally the event is open to individual riders as well as teams of two, four and eight riders competing in relay format, though there are some changes this year to team size, as explained below.

The race follows 555km of the Wild Atlantic Way around Donegal, with the ascents of both Mamore Gap and Glengesh Pass included. Competitors start at 1 minute intervals and follow a set route.

With race headquarters in Letterkenny, the riders race for the Inishowen and anti-clockwise towards Malin Head before riding over Mamore Gap.

The route then takes the riders back to Letterkenny via Buncrana, followed the Donegal Wild Atlantic Way south.

That section takes the riders through Knockalla, Fanad Head, Atlantic Drive, Hornhead, Carrickfin, Glengesh Pass, Sliabh League, Barnesmore Gap and into the finish in Letterkenny.

You can register for the event by following this link and you can view the route map – with elevation and all the other details you need – by following this link.

Some of the measures put in place this year to make conditions safer for all due to Covid19 include:

  • Four-person teams will be required to have two support cars. Team participants and crew must have a designated car and interaction between, and mixing, of persons in each car is not permitted.
  • Vans with single line of seats will not be permitted as support vehicles this year.
  • All race briefings to be held virtually online
  • All prize giving ceremonies are cancelled
  • There will be no eight person team category this year.

Those who have already pre-registered for the eight-person category can become two four-person or two-person teams, defer their entry for a year or receive a full refund.

The Donegal Atlantic Way Ultra 555km will be staged under the auspices of Cycling Ireland, with whom the organisers have been in regular contact.

All the event’s entrants will be contacted in the coming days via event email