An Post Rás na mBan 2015: The domestic challenge…

Donal Connell of An Post presents Fiona Meade with Best Irish Rider trophy last year
Donal Connell of An Post presents Fiona Meade with Best Irish Rider trophy last year

This year’s An Post Rás na mBan is set to be the biggest ever with 24 teams signing up for the 10th edition of Ireland’s top international stage race for women.

The largest contingent of riders will arrive in the form of the ten UK-based teams registered to race. In addition, Six teams will travel to County Clare from Continental Europe, and one team will come from the US. The remaining seven squads who will line up under the pink An Post Rás na mBan start flag on Wednesday 9th September, are all Irish-based.

Significantly, there is no Irish National Team entered for An Post Rás na mBan 2015, and only one provincial team. The decision to forego creating National and Provincial teams this year was a conscious one, the aim being to increase the likelihood of having a number of strong domestic club teams enter the race. And thus it came to pass…

As usual, domestic-based Irish riders have a GC of their own to race for, and with prizes in this classification being extended to eight places for An Post Rás na mBan 2015, it is expected that competition to feature at it’s upper end will be intense.

The Clare County Council Green Jersey will be awarded to the leading rider on the Irish GC after each stage, and on Sunday 13th September, when An Post Rás na mBan 2015 comes to a close, one rider will be awarded the title of Best Irish Rider at An Post Rás na mBan 2015, and will take home the trophy and classification winner’s jersey.

In addition to the individual Irish GC, there will also be a prize and trophies awarded to the Best Irish Team at the conclusion of An Post Rás na mBan 2015. Only Irish-based teams on which all riders satisfy the Best Irish Rider category qualify for the Irish Team competition (see An Post Rás na mBan 2015 Rules).

Orwell Wheelers won the title of Best Irish Team at last years race.
Orwell Wheelers won the title of Best Irish Team at last years race.

The seven Irish teams entered in An Post Rás na mBan 2015 are…

Team Steen Wear will be captained by Irish pro rider Michelle Geoghegan. In conjunction with race sponsor, the National Dairy Council, Michelle is keeping a blog about her Rás na mBan 2015 experience. The other team members are Rás na mBan veterans Niamh Stephens (UCD) and Fiona Guihen (DID); Sarah Pratt (Bray Wheelers) who will be riding her first Rás na mBan, and the multi-talented Beth McCluskey (Peak Endurance / Epic mtb).

Garda Richies Ethos CC will be led by Eve McCrystal who, having taken silver in the National TT Championships will surely be in the reckoning for top spot on Stage 4. Eve will be joined by her club-mate, and returnee to Rás na mBan, Karen Robinson, as well as three riders who will tackle the race for the first time… Catherine McAteer (Garda), Clare McIlwaine (Phoenix), and this year’s Orwell Criterium League winner, Orla Montague (Dublin Wheelers).

Lakeside Wheelers  women have featured prominently in the Joe Daly Cycles National League again this season, and they field a strong team for Rás na mBan 2015. The team has three club members on it… Michelle O’Halloran, Sonja O’Mahony and Siobhan Sheehan, and they are joined by Rás na mBan veteran, Ciara Kinch (Towers CC).

Nenagh CC have been planning all season for this, they have been out in force at women’s races across the country, they have done the hard graft, and they are ready for An Post Rás na mBan 2015! The Nenagh CC team will be Sinnead Oakes, Sinead Kennedy, Rachel Clancy, Majella Moyles, and another veteran of Rás na mBan, Monica Marconi (Orwell Wheelers).

Grace Young, de Ronde van Cork, in pursuit of Aideen Keenan and the National League title
Grace Young, de Ronde van Cork, in pursuit of Aideen Keenan and the National League title

De Ronde van Cork are also first timers to Rás na mBan, but don’t be fooled by their novice status, these women mean business, led as they are by Grace Young who in her first season racing was but a single point from winning the Joe Daly Cycles National League this year. The rest of the club team are Jennifer Fortune, and Karen Deenihan, and guest riders Maire Claffey (UCD) and Emma Walsh (Aquablue).

Cycling Ulster‘s team will come to Rás na mBan 2015 fresh off the back of a season of hard racing and hard training for their own Women’s Cycling Ulster League, so it can be expected that they will be in tip top shape. The team are Eileen Burns (Ballymena), Joanne Regan (Termoneeny), Jane Millar (Bann Wheelers), Sandra Devine (Four Masters), and Alwynn Shannon (Newry).

Nicholas Roche Performance / Magnet.ie are the only all-Junior Irish Team taking part in this year’s race. They are, thus far, only three riders strong… Irish riders Emily Birchill and Jennifer Neenan will be joined by British rider Ellie Dickinson.

Ciara Doogan, Junior National RR and TT Champion 2015
Ciara Doogan, Junior National RR and TT Champion 2015

In addition to the seven teams listed above, as mentioned in our previous preview article, both the current Irish National Elite Road Race Champion – Lydia Boylan, and the current Irish National Junior Road Race and TT champion – Ciara Doogan will be riding An Post Rás na mBan 2015. Lydia will ride on her UK-based trade team, WNT, and Ciara will be a guest rider on the high-achieving Danish squad, Team Rytger.

So that’s it, the action starts next Wednesday, 9th September, and you can follow it on the race website http://www.rasnamban.com/ or on the dedicated Facebook page, or follow each stage blow-by-blow on Twitter: @rasnamban

*excited*