Riders without either whips or horses will take centre stage when Bettystown hosts a beach cycling race this weekend.

The new events – which are for racers, sportive and leisure riders – are being launched by Starsky Cycling Club and will take place on Bettystown Beach on Sunday, February 6th.

While the new beach races may seem like a novelty event, they promise to be a tough challenge as the main race is 50km in length, all of it on the beach. There is also a second event of 20km.

Beach racing – known as strand

races – has been a feature of the Continental European and British scenes for years and over 1,000 riders take part in some of the winter events; usually on mountain bikes but also using cyclocross bikes and hybrids.

Many pro riders compete in the events, including Tom Dumoulin. Some countries also hold Beach Racing National Championships each year, with the MTB Beach race European Championships held just last month in Dunkirk, France.

The new events planned for Ireland next month are likely to prove very popular. They are believed to be the first races of their kind in Ireland run wholly on a beach course, though some cyclocross events have taken in beaches as part of their courses.

The longer, 50km, race in Bettystown next month will be for any rider with a Cycling Ireland membership and the 20km race is for those riders who want to challenge themselves by taking out a one-day Cycling Ireland licence.

A Cycling Ireland commissaire will be on duty for the main event, meaning it will be a genuine competitive outing. It will be five laps of a 10km circuit up and down the beach. The 20km race is two laps of the same circuit.

While the riders at the front of both races will compete to win, there will be specially-commissioned beach-themed trophies for the winners and those who place, everyone who finishes either race will receive a finisher’s medal.

The medals should help foster a sportive or “challenge” flavour to the events and attract riders of all abilities, not just those intent on racing. Indeed, it is highly likely most of those who take part will approach it as a challenge or sportive.