Increase in category climbs promises some gruelling action in this year’s Rás
Eight-day event is toughest fixture on calendar and will feature the usual host of overseas professional and international squads
At yesterday’s launch of the 2014 An Post Rás are model Aoife Cogan and Irish riders, from left, Ronan McLaughlin, Connor McConvey and Roger Aiken. Photograph: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Totalling over 1,260 kilometres and featuring almost 40 categorised climbs, including the summit finish of Seskin Hill, the route of the An Post Rás was unveiled yesterday and promises a gripping edition of the race.
The eight-day event is the toughest fixture on the calendar and will feature the usual host of overseas professional and international squads. The Irish-registered An Post Chainreaction Seán Kelly team will also attend and will represent home hopes, as will last year’s runner-up Connor McConvey of the Synergy Baku squad.
His team-mate Matt Brammeier is the current national champion and has also been pencilled in by the team.
Looking at the stages, the number of climbs is up on recent years and so, too, the amount appearing on one day; stage four from Charleville to Cahirciveen features no less than 10-ranked ascents, including the gruelling category one Coomanaspic.
The 183.6-kilometre stage is also the longest of the race, and will both upend the general classification and drain the riders at the midpoint of the eight-day event.
Another decisive point will be the finish of stage six, which takes place at the top of Seskin Hill in Carrick-on-Suir. The former training ground of Seán Kelly will fragment the peloton and cause serious time splits.
Despite that, though, race organiser Tony Campbell said yesterday that he doesn’t believe the An Post Rás will only suit the lightweight specialists. “I wouldn’t say it is a pure climber’s race,” he insisted. “There are climbs, but there are also a lot of fast roads where plenty of aggressive racing will be done. I think it’s a race for the strong all-rounder.”
Starting in Dunboyne and tracing an anti-clockwise route around the southern half of the country, the action begins with a mainly flat 149.8-kilometre stage to Roscommon. This features four Post Office Prime/Hot Spot sprints and the time bonuses there will be crucial in determining the first yellow jersey.
Day two covers 159.2 kilometres from Roscommon to Lisdoonvarna and will see the bunch shatter inside the final 10 kilometres on the category one Doonagore climb.
The following day is flatter and faster, and runs 154.2 kilometres from Lisdoonvarna to Charleville.
The aforementioned Charleville to Cahirciveen stage looks to be the toughest due to the distance plus those 10 climbs; day five is the second-longest at 168.9 kilometres, but the race to Clonakilty should result in a bunch finish.
A much bigger ascent concludes the following day’s race to Carrick-on-Suir, with Seskin Hill guaranteed to be decisive. There are also several climbs on stage seven to Baltinglass, including the category one pairing of Corabutt and Mount Leinster, but the latter comes over 60 kilometres from the finish and there will likely be a regrouping.
The race concludes with a 134.3-kilometre dash from Newbridge to Skerries, once again taking in two laps of the finishing circuit there.
The race has been a big success for sponsor An Post, and it confirmed yesterday that it was extending its backing to include the 2015 edition.