Rás na mBan 2009, it wasn’t all about the racing, although try saying that to the competitors who travelled to Sneem Hotel from all around Europe and Ireland to tackle the roads of Kerry for the 23rd annual women’s only international stage race.
Once again Louis Moriarty, hotel proprietor for Sneem Hotel, sponsored the event, extending a huge welcome to everyone who travelled to Kerry for the event. Rás na mBan is a 3 day, 4 stage race. The roads are suitable tough, and stages suitable short to ensure that riders of all standards get a good race. And this year we were blessed with beautiful weather – which helped erase all the memories of the rain that dominated the 2008 event!
Emma Trott of Moving Ladies won the 2009 event, her victory was secured with a win in stage one – where she came home 28sec ahead of the field. Trott’s teammate Linda Ringlever was Queen of the Mountains, for the second year running! While the strong Moving Ladies team dominated the weekend – strong performances from Batavus, Bike Aid and all the GB teams ensured good racing all around. Herman Schenk brought over two teams from North Holland, the newly formed Batavus team fielded a strong team, including Anne de Wildt, who performed strongly in all the stages.
The Irish teams also performed well – with Melanie Spath highest Irish rider home. Mel is a strong mountain biker, who has been racing in the MTB Marathon World Cups this season – she put in a good bid for the Queen of the Mountains title.
On stage 4 the Irish Dev Team secured a stage win, with Heather Boyle coming home 6 min ahead of the field, and 2008 winner Louise Moriarty winning the bunch sprint and Ladkeside Wheeler’s Wendy Bates coming 5th. Louise had taken the year off training to focus on her final year exams in college, but made a strong comeback in the second half of the season.
Unfortunately there wasn’t a huge turn out from the domestic riders, but special mention has to be given to first year juniors from Navan, Fiona Guihan and Heather Beirne, and UCD rider Niamh Stephens. This was the first senior stage race for the girls, and they performed well throughout the weekend in tough circuits. Each of them will no doubt improve immensely next year!
The weekend was treated as a festival of women’s cycling, and the buzz around the town was something else. Louis works with a bunch of youngsters on the bikes in Sneem – and the youth events saw a big turnout of girls and boys who raced throughout the weekend. While the Senior women were racing around the ring of Kerry, the next generation of racers were taking part in races like crits, pursuits and time trials in the village. (report and photos to follow). All this racing was judged and organised by Jennifer O’Reilly and Nicola, the multi-tasking hotel manager of Sneem Hotel!
One of the highlights of the weekend was the presence of Pete Matthews and collection of bicycles. Pete at one point cycled across America on a penny farthing, and he brought this (along with many more bikes) to Sneem, and lead the race throughout the village of Sneem. This was some sight – a dude on a penny farthing, followed by all the local superstar youth cyclists, and followed then by the bunch of Senior racers, who were obviously enjoying the unconventional neutralised section!
Rás na mBan 2010 will be held in Sneem again – so everyone put that in your diary (of course, once we announce the date!!!) Last year Rás na mBan won event of the year in the Membership Awards. The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming – the racing is competitive and tough, the craic in the “night stage” is mighty!
None of the racing would be possible without the trojan work of Valerie Considine and Louis Moriarty. Valerie manages to organise a top event, and race in it – I’m not sure how often you see that… (not to mention being a mother of two, holding down a job etc etc etc… legend!!!). Thanks to Alice Sheratt and her team ensure all the logistics are smooth, Jennifer O’Reilly for giving on site help in the organising, Grace McNally for capturing all the magic moments – more photos to follow.. Thanks to David McLaughlin for being on hand for help, thanks to all the marshals, to all the staff of Sneem Hotel for being so welcoming, thanks to all the locals for cheering, thanks to the sun for shining, and finally thanks to all the competitors and team managers, mechanics and so on for making Rás na mBan 2009 a memorable event.
See you all next year!!