An individual time trial, a circuit race and a hilly final stage are among the challenges for the competitors in An Post Rás na mBan 2014 following the announcement of the route details today.
Ireland’s top international stage race for women will again be based in Ennis County Clare and will take in the sights of Munster’s Atlantic coastline over a total of 427km of racing.
Following on from the successful first venture to County Clare in 2013, the event will once again be based in the county town of Ennis with race HQ the Inn at Dromoland.
The race is once again comprised of six stages in five days running from Wednesday 10th to Sunday 14th September with a variety of stages set to suit the individual characteristics of all road racers.
Teams from USA, UK, France, the Netherlands and Ireland have already confirmed their participation in the ninth running of the event in its current guise and the 28th annual international women’s stage race in Ireland. Detailed team announcements will be made in due course.
Race director Valerie Considine describes this year’s race route as a “logical evolution” of 2013.
“I see this as the perfect use of the fabulous roads available to us in County Clare,” says Considine, who takes the reins of Ireland’s top women’s stage race for a ninth consecutive year.
“During the winter months the organising committee undertook a forensic analysis of last year’s event and An Post Rás na mBan 2014 is the result.
“We surveyed riders, team staff, race organisers, financial partners and local county officials after last year’s event and there was overwhelming support for the direction we took the race in 2013.”
“Therefore this year’s race has many new challenges for the riders without being a radical change to what was clearly a popular recipe.
“If I had to pick out a highlight, I think the stage two Wild Atlantic Way stage has all the hallmarks of an epic. It’s not a pure mountain stage and it’s not totally flat either so it’ll draw the maximum number of riders into the fight.
“Added to that, it takes place in truly beautiful surroundings, with the Atlantic ocean and the rugged Clare coast providing the perfect backdrop.
“We have fantastic support from a number of businesses and agencies and I’m delighted to announce that An Post will once again be supporting us for the third year in succession as title sponsor of Ireland’s premier women’s stage race.
“The support of the national postal carrier has made a huge difference to the development of the race in recent years and we’re very grateful to all in the GPO for their contribution to the event.
“Many of our other sponsors have renewed and/or increased their involvement while new supporters have come in to help maintain this event at the level that it is and we’ll be making a number of announcements in the coming months regarding this.
“I believe that Rás na mBan is an integral component in the Irish sport calendar, not just Irish cycling and not just women’s cycling. It’s an event that has carved a niche in Irish and world sport and our committee is working very hard to maintain this level so that it continues to perform an important role in the community.”
The route announced today once again includes six stages in five days with Clare County Council once again providing vital support for the event for the second successive year.
The race opens on Wednesday 10th September with a relatively flat 66km opening stage starting at race headquarters, the Inn at Dromoland and finishing in Ennis.
The Wild Atlantic Way second stage is an all new road race of 120kms tracing the Atlantic Coast from Loop Head Lighthouse to Ballyvaughan, a stage that is likely to feature splits in the peloton as the rugged and very beautiful topography asks big questions of the riders.
A short individual time trial returns this year on stage three which is likely to further shake up the classification while stage four on Thursday afternoon is a ten-lap, 40km circuit race to suit the sprint specialists.
The penultimate stage is the Beast of the Burren stage, a reworked version of the epic and hugely popular stage which played a big part in the destination of last year’s individual title.
The race concludes with an 88km stage starting at the Inn at Dromoland which will finish again in the centre of Ennis, bringing another week of top international racing in County Clare to a close.
Considine is sure that the route strikes the right balance and offers something for every type of stage race rider.
“It’s a varied route that packs every different type of challenge into five days of hard racing,” she says. “I’m satisfied that the winner of An Post Ras na mBan 2014 will be a true stage race all rounder.
An Post Rás na mBan 2014 – Route
Stage 1 – 66km Joe Wogan Memorial – 1 x Cat 2 QOM
The stage starts at race HQ, The Inn at Dromoland and is neutralized to the village of Quinn where the racing starts outside the An Post office. From Quinn the riders make their way towards Sixmilebridge but take a left turn onto the R462 just before the town and head toward Tulla, taking the ring road around Tulla village joining the same route as last year’s first stage and taking in the climb of The Maghera. The finish is outside the Community College on Cusack road in Ennis town centre.
Stage 2 – 120km Wild Atlantic Way – 1 x Cat 2, 2 x Cat 3 QOM
Stage start is at Loop Head Lighthouse and is neutralised for 5km to Kilbaha where the racing begins. The riders then race to Kilkee along the coast road which is quite possibly one of the most scenic roads in the country. The race then makes its way to Spanish Point on to Lahinch and then up the world famous Cliffs of Moher. From the cliffs the stage drops down into Doolin and then heads around Blackhead to finish in Ballyvaughan.
Stage 3 – 8km Individual Time Trial
The ‘out and back’ individual time trial stage starts and finishes in the village of Barefield. Competitors race solo out the Gort Road to the turn at 4km.
Stage 4 – 40km Toyota-Cummins Car Centre Circuit Race – 10x4km Laps
Utilising the familiar flat non technical 4km circuit based in Ballyalla as used last year, the riders will race for ten laps in what is anticipated to be an opportunity for the sprint specialists to shine.
Stage 5 – 105 km Beast Of The Burren – 2xCat 1, 1xCat3 QOM
The penultimate stage will start in Ballyvaughan and head around Blackhead to Doolin. From Doolin the riders climb up to Doonagore Castle and then head over towards the outskirts of Lisdoonvarna heading for Kilfenora. From Kilfenora it’s on to Corofin and then head out to Boston and then towards Carran taking in the climb of Glen, before dropping down to Bellharbour and back to finish in Ballyvaughan.
Stage 6 – 88km An Post 88km – 1xCat 1, 1xCat 3 QOM
Stage will start at The Inn at Dromoland and will be neutralised to Clarecastle to start racing. From here the stage goes down the Shannon Estuary road as far as Kilmurry- McMahon. Then it’s mostly uphill passing through Kilmihil and the Lough Naminna Bog, a Natural Heritage Area to the top of the climb near the wind farm. From here it’s mostly downhill to the finish line of the final stage outside the Ennis Court House.
Total Stage Distance – 427km
Queen of the Mountains – 3 x Category 1, 2 x Category 2, 4 x Category 3.