Experienced cyclist and winner of various Kerry, Munster and all-Ireland titles, Conor Kissane takes us through the cycle stages for Quest 24 (248km).
S1 – Sneem to Carrauntoohil, 80km
Starting in Sneem, you follow the main Ring of Kerry route to Kenmare. This is a moderately rolling 25km with the climb through Parknasilla (1.5km @ 2.8%) coming after only 3km and the climb out of Blackwater (2.5km @ 2.5%) at 14km the only extended periods of climbing. Things get a little more challenging from Kenmare as you head up the famous Molls Gap. From Kenmare you face 10km of climbing at an average of 3%. The rough surface at the start makes the climb feel a lot tougher but once you reach the smoother surface you will battle the wind which will be your friend one minute and your enemy the next as you twist your way to the top. From here it is a very gradual downhill 10km to the turn off for the next challenge, Ballaghbeama gap.
From the cross it is 7.5km to the top but a gentle introduction can be misleading as the sting in the tail comes at the very end. The first 3km are best described as rolling as the road twists and turns. The rea’ test begins 4.5km out. Averaging 5% makes this a 3rd category climb. The road gradually gets steeper before the final 1000m which kick up to 10% average and max out at 15%, ensuring you work hard before heading down the other side. Take care on the descent down to Glencar, the surface is good but sharp bends can catch you out.
From Glencar we head uphill again, albeit at only 2% for 5.5km. Then down to the final surprise – the climb to Lisliebane. Turning right, the road rolls for a few km until you cross a bridge before taking a left turn where the road kicks up again. From here it is 1.1km to the top and average of 8%. The gradients hit 20% around a sharp left bend with around 300m to go and from here the gradient does not drop below 10% ensuring your legs are well fired-up for the run to the top of Carrauntoohil.
Stage 3 starts from Lisliebane and follows the Stage 1 roads back as far as Glencar in the opposite direction. From Glencar continue heading south east and up Dreenagh, a 3km climb at 3%, the first half of this climb, with gradients hitting 7-8% is much steeper than the second half which drags on at just under 2%, this is however, just a warm up for what is to come, Ballaghisheen pass.
The short 1.6km climb is spectacular, averaging 9% but kicking up to 17% as you round the switchbacks at the top of the climb. From here you have a fast and technical descent before the road levels and you keep right to head for Cahersiveen. 15 km starting with a very gradual climb before the road flattens out and then drops down to Cahersiveen for the final 5km. From Cahersiveen you have a fast rolling 20km towards Portmagee and over the bridge on to Valentia Island. The 17km lap of the island is again rolling with a 3km climb averaging 3.5% tackled halfway around the lap. Returning to Portmagee you then head for the brutal climb of Coomanaspic. The top can be seen before you even start climbing 2km away. The road gradually ramps up before kicking relentlessly for the final km, averaging 12% and maxing out at 20%. Gearing on your bike will be an important consideration here so you can maintain a comfortable cadence. Consider using a larger cassette if possible or a smaller inner ring 34 or 36 teeth would be recommended.
Over the top of the climb you have an equally steep descent featuring 4 tight hairpin corners so caution is advised. Before reaching Ballinskelligs you have one more climb, Glen is 2.5km at just over 4% average, your legs will still be burning as this climb starts just 5km from the top of Coomanaspic. Descend into Ballinskelligs before a final 15km spin into Waterville and the kayak stage.
Quest 12/24 takes place on Saturday, 31st August 2019, limited places remain. You can get more information here.