On the eve of the tenth edition of Rás na mBan Race Organiser Valerie Considine, reflects on some of the epic days of bike racing that have been presented on the roads of Ireland in the history of the event.
Here is a small selection of great memories reflecting the courage, athleticism, the extraordinary topography and sensational racing that Rás na mBan has witnessed over the years…
2009 Stage 1 Moll’s Gap – Trott at a Canter
At the outset of a distinguished pro career Emma Trott – older sister of Olympic champ Laura – arrived at her first Rás na mBan ‘fresh’ from a tough slog around the Holland Ladies Tour. Undaunted, and apparently still fresh as a daisy, the Moving Ladies team rider raced clear on the road to Kenmare after 15km to spend pretty much the entire first stage dangling off the front of the bunch by less than a minute.
Trott did briefly extend her lead on the ascent to Kerry’s famous landmark at Moll’s Gap before racing down the descent to take the first leader’s jersey of the then three-day event by just 37s. Trott defended her lead through the remaining three stages to become the first, and to date only, British winner of Rás na mBan. Will that change this year?
2011 Stage 3 ‘Healy Pass’ – Dillon on Fire
Olivia Dillon had a point to prove when the riders faced the starter’s flag for the 80km third stage of the 2011 race.
With no Irish team heading to the World Road Race Championships Dillon was out to show what they were missing. Already in the pink leader’s jersey and on her way to her second overall win in the event, Dillon charged up Healy Pass with only the Netherlands’ Linda Ringlever (Moving Ladies) for company by the top.
With just 35km completed Dillon set off on her own for a 45km solo adventure around the roads of Kerry with a little bit of County Cork thrown in. She had almost two minutes in hand by the finish line back in Kenmare with the entire field strewn all over the roads of Munster. Dillon had secured her second overall Rás na mBan win in the most emphatic fashion. Point made.
2012 Stage 5 – ‘The Ballaghs’ – Boddy Double
By the fourth day of five legs were starting to soften in Kerry when the organisers dropped a grenade into the bunch in the form of the 95km An Post ‘Queen’ stage which included the awesome climbs of Ballaghabeama and Ballaghasheen followed by Coomaciste for dessert.
World class Danish junior Amalie Dideriksen danced up the mountains on her way to the IVCA climbers jersey while High Wycombe sprint ace Karla Boddy charged down the final descent to get back in contention to take her second successive stage win.
Boddy made it a hat trick on the final day as Dideriksen’s team mate Kamilla Sofie Vallin took a great win for Team Rytger on their first visit to the race.
2013 Stage 3 Team Time Trial – Team Ireland in Charge – #COYGIG
The move to County Clare in 2013 meant six new stages for the riders and, for the first time, a team time trial to contend with. The ‘out and back’ course at Barefield near Ennis was neither technical nor hilly but it did demand new levels of concentration and cooperation between teams, many of them performing in the discipline as a squad for the first time.
It was the Irish team which got their act together best, posting a time of 18m 00.66s at an average of almost 45kmh to win by over half a minute. The win merely reinforced the deadlock between Ireland team-mates Olivia Dillon and Melanie Späth who along with Lydia Boylan and Caroline Ryan had won the stage for the national squad. Dillon and Späth ended the week level on time with Dillon taking her third Rás win on count back of stage finishes.
2015… what will happen this year?
All the action in An Post Rás na mBan 2015 will start on 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