Reigning champion Olivia Dillon is back to defend her title at the head of an Irish team packed full of talent and confident that they can fend off the challenge of one of the most impressive line-ups in the 28-year history of international women’s stage racing in Ireland.
20 teams from across Ireland, Britain, USA, the Netherlands, Denmark, Luxembourg, Germany and France are preparing for Ireland’s top international stage race which is based for the second successive year in the Clare county town of Ennis.
Riders from a total of 14 different countries make up the five-rider squads set to do battle in more than 400km of racing in six separate stages across the five days on some of the most beautiful roads in and around County Clare.
Here’s our guide to the best places to catch the action during the week. See the riders compete in some of the most beautiful and challenging countryside on Ireland’s Atlantic coastline.
It’s going to be an epic week of top class bike racing.
Here’s where to see all the action.
WHERE TO WATCH
Stage One – Wednesday 10th September 61km
Maghera – 29km
Time Expected: 6pm
After rolling out from the stage start at the Inn at
Dromoland it’s likely that a large group will still be
together approaching the second category climb of
Maghera where the opening skirmishes in the battle for
general classification will take place. With fresh legs and
so many in contention the bunch is sure to tear up the
climb at a terrific pace.
Stage Two – Thursday 11th September 112km
Cliffs of Moher – 75km
Time Expected: 2pm
This epic stage traces the route of part of the world
famous Wild Atlantic Way and is sure to be a treat for
riders and spectators alike. The riders will already have
two hours of tough racing in their legs when they climb
to the summit close to O’Brien’s Tower overlooking
the awe inspiring Cliffs of Moher. Not that they’ll have
much time for sightseeing with at least another hour in
the saddle ahead of them at this point…
Stage Three – Friday 12th September 8km
Barefield – Individual Time Trial start and finish
Time Expected: 10am-12pm
Unique among the six stages, the riders race alone
against the clock in the shortest stage of the event
but one that is sure to have a big influence on the
destination of the final pink jersey. Riders start and
finish this short, sharp shock of a stage in the pretty
village of Barefield, six kilometres north of Ennis.
Stage Four – Friday 12th September 40km
Ballyalla – Circuit Race Start and Finish
Time Expected: 6pm-7pm
What is likely to be the fastest stage of the race is very
much one for the speed merchants with a spectacular
big bunch sprint the aim for those with the right
combination of skill, power and daring. There’s plenty
for the spectator to see in Ballyalla as the riders appear
every six minutes or so racing through ten laps of
the four kilometre circuit and sprinting regularly for
intermediate ‘prime’ prizes along the way.
Stage Five – Saturday 13th September 105km
QoM Climb Doonagore Castle – 83km
Time Expected: 12.50pm
They call it ‘The Beast of the Burren,’ a leg breaking
tour through Clare’s northern coast before heading
inland over terrain that is as unrelenting in its physical
demands as it is breathtaking in its beauty. Watch the
riders on the Atlantic coast early in the stage at the
short but steep climb up to historic Doonagore Castle,
an epic viewing spot on the route. The leading group
will be well thinned out by the time the riders winch
themselves up to the top with 74km of racing and one
more climb still remaining before the welcome relief of
the finish line in Ballyvaughan.
Stage Six – Sunday 14th September 85km
Harmony Row, Ennis – Finish Line
Time Expected: 1pm
The riders will coax weary legs into action for the final
push, an 88km circuitous route through southwest
Clare to the Shannon Estuary before working their
way back to Ennis through the heritage areas of
Cragnashingaun and Lough Naminna Bogs. The final
finish line will be reached in the county town of Ennis
after five days and more than 400km of hard racing.
The adventurous spectator will have time to race ahead
to watch the riders on the first climb of the day after
19km before dashing back towards Ennis to soak up
the atmosphere and welcome the riders home where
the overall winner will be crowned and each of the
remaining riders in the event will claim their much
coveted An Post Rás na mBan finisher’s medal.
MAPS AND SCHEDULES
For maps and a full timetable and schedule see the official race website: http://www.rasnamban.com/2014-route.
AN POST RÁS NA MBAN ON TV!
This year’s event is being filmed for a highlights programme to be broadcast on Eurosport in early October. Check schedules for up to date viewing times.
FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE
Check out twitter and facebook for race updates and photos through the week.