Teams gear up for Rás title tilt

Newly-named An Post Rás looks set to be another tough test for riders.

Image: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

THE ROUTE FOR the 2011 Rás Tailteann was announced at a race launch in the GPO in Dublin earlier today.

The 59th edition of the race will see it newly named as the An Post Rás.

The eight-day race begins in Dunboyne on May 22 and is due to visit 12 counties, mostly in Munster and Leinster, before returning to north Dublin for the now traditional finish in Skerries on May 29.

Despite announcing last year that 2010 would be his last Rás as race organiser, Dermot Dignam has once again assumed the voluntary position which he first embraced in 1978. This year’s route was designed by Stephen O’ Sullivan, a Rás stage winner into Tullow back in 2000.

The Rás, with only five riders to a team, is a notoriously difficult race to control. This leads to exciting racing on each and every stage and Dignam feels he has a route which will facilitate the exciting unpredictable racing which characterises the Rás.

“I believe Stephen has devised a route that will test to the extreme each and every one of the riders from the ten countries expected to participate,” he said.

It is going to be a very challenging route with long, hard, gruelling stages, fast open stages and mountain climbs spread over seven of the eight stages of the race.

With the cancellation of the Tour of Ireland last year due to economic difficulties, the An Post Rás has once again become Ireland’s premier cycling stage race.

An Irish rider has won the overall prize on 42 of the 58 occasions the race has been run since its inception in 1953. But in the past six editions there has only been one Irish winner, Stephen Gallagher in 2008. Last year’s race was won by the young Swede Alex Wetterhall.

Of course, Ireland’s premier team, An Post-Sean Kelly will want to find success in the race which now shares its title sponsor. The An Post chief executive Donal Connell spoke at today’s race launch: ”We are delighted to support this world renowned race which, like An Post, is deeply ingrained in local communities throughout Ireland.

Over the past four years An Post has been the biggest supporter of Irish cycling at both elite and grass roots level through our association with the An Post Sean Kelly team, the Tour of Ireland and the An Post Cycle Series.

“The Rás is a great addition to our support for Irish cycling,” he added.

At 1,247km in length, this year’s Rás will be the longest in recent years, but there will be plenty of domestic riders hoping to reclaim the race for Ireland.

The best-placed Irish rider in last year’s Rás was Connor McConvey, but he has decided to take an indefinite break from the sport at the age of 22. Sam Bennett, Mark Cassidy, Philip Lavery and Ronan McLaughlin will all likely take part for the An Post-Sean Kelly team. While another Irish rider to watch is 23-year-old Adam Armstrong, winner of last year’s Tour of Ulster.

The full list of participating teams and riders will be announced at a later date.

2011 An Post Route

Stage 1, Sunday May 22: Dunboyne – Portumna, 148 kms

Stage 2, Monday May 23: Portumna – Kilrush, 164kms

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Stage 3, Tuesday May 24: Kilrush – Castleisland, 175kms

Stage 4, Wednesday May 25: Castleisland – Castletownbere, 142kms

Stage 5, Thursday May 26: Castletownbere – Blarney, 156kms

Stage 6, Friday May 27: Blarney – Tramore, 172kms

Stage 7, Saturday May 28: Tramore – Kildare, 157kms

Stage 8, Sunday May 29: Kildare – Skerries, 133kms

About the author:

Cillian Kelly  / Twitter: @irishpeloton

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