The west coast of Ireland is to play host to the Sky Ride Etape Hibernia, the country's first closed-road cycle event.
The 84-mile Etape, which takes in part of the coastline of County Clare, will be held on August 22 and is the sister to the Scotland-based Etape Caledonia, which has sold out this year.
Event organisers IMG told a press conference that 2,000 riders were expected to turn up for the Etape, which will start and finish in the county town of Ennis.
Speaking to the Clare Herald at the launch, Jo Dytch of IMG said: “The popularity and growth in road cycling is very exciting. Along with our partners we are looking to lead the way in providing a prestige event for cycling in Ireland and to establish a major fixture on the Irish sporting calendar delivering a significant boost to the local economy.
"This event will bring a welcome boost to the tourism in Clare annually and will see the most scenic parts of the County and its coastline exposed to the world’s cycling enthusiasts and media.”
Keith McCormack, Fáilte Ireland’s Head of Business and Sports Tourism, said: “As a national tourism authority, we are glad to be ‘in the saddle’ for the Sky Ride Etape Hibernia. This event is a perfect fit for Fáilte Ireland’s sports strategy and our commitment to promoting all of Ireland’s regions as tourism destinations.
"This event allows us to harness the growing popularity of cycling to the natural charms and allure of County Clare and the Mid West. As well as bringing visitors and revenue to the area, the event will provide an excellent opportunity to showcase the Shannon Region as both a cycling destination, in particular, and a tourism ‘must see’ in general.”
Mayor of Clare Councillor Tony Mulcahy said the economic and tourist benefits associated with the event for County Clare and the wider region were significant. He said: “I have no doubt that the people of Clare will support the event by joining Clare County Council in welcoming thousands of cyclists to the County, which will allow us to showcase all we have to offer. I especially welcome IMG’s commitment to working with local people to maximise the economic return of the event for all local people.”
This year's Etape Caledonia has sold out despite an act of attempted sabotage last year, in which carpet tacks were strewn across the course, causing numerous punctures and long delays. The finger was pointed at locals disgruntled by road closures but although one man was arrested, charges against him were dropped.
Details of The Sky Ride Etape Hibernia are available from www.etapehibernia.com.