Anyone seeking an ultra-distance sportive should be looking to the Emerald Isle. The 2008 Tour of Ireland Cycle Challenge in May will cover over 500 miles in four days. The anti-clockwise route starts in Lisburn in the north and takes in Cavan, Galway and Kilkenny before finishing in Dublin.

Last year?s inaugural event attracted a small field of 100 riders but having won the ?Best International Cyclosportive? award from Cyclosport, and with glowing reports from those who rode it, entries for the 2008 look like getting closer to the 500 limit.

?About 350 riders would be comfortable,? said organiser Joe Barr, ?as some of the towns struggle to accommodate huge numbers, but we can cater for 500 if needed.?

Former US Postal pro Jamie Burrow will be flying in from Italy and lining up in Lisburn. He is looking forward to his first experience of riding in Ireland: ?I?m hoping for good weather ? they are long days in the saddle and it will be a bit grim if it?s raining,? he said.

Burrow is riding for Parkpre this year, competing in sportive rides all over Italy. ?I have set up a cycle holiday company, Tuscansport.com, but while that is building up, I have a good deal with Parkpre to compete in fondos. They?re good fun.? His imminent house move should help with travelling: ?I am moving to Lucca in Tuscany, which is much more central than where I am at present,? said Burrow.

The ride maintains the same high standard structure as last year?s event, with motorcycle marshalls providing a rolling road closure. Paramedics, a doctor, mechanical service and the all-important broom wagon will all be in attendance on the stages as well as stage finishes.

Riders are advised by the organisers to bring sunglasses and sun cream. Here?s hoping?

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