Category Archives: Ras 2014

Ras Epilogue

How has the Ras changed on the past twelve years since I was on it last.

Technically the race has really moved with the times.

The communication system is very good with the radio system really efficient with the results on the web within an hour of the finish-this is really impressive considering the complexity of the results.

The racing is faster than I remember with some very high speeds and selections made such as the day out of Cahirciveen where the leaders climbed an 8 kilometre Cat 2 climb at 40 kilometres per hour on the tunnel road.

This was the biggest mistake of the race where the New Zealand team went too fast and were outfoxed by the British and Austrians.

The non appearance of an Irish team is a pity however with the new UCI rules it means that it is virtually impossible to find non contracted Irish riders who would be able to compete against the Professional teams.

A contracted rider on a continental or Pro Continental team cannot represent another team if their own team is entered in the race so this would rule out the likes of Matt Brammieir, Conor McConvey, Sean Downey, Jack WIlson, Ryan Mullen, Conor Dunne, Philip Lavery and Marcus Christie if Baku or An Post were riding the race.

There is limited point in sending a bunch of young 19 year olds to get outgunned by experienced Pros.

Race DIrector Tomy Campbell has achieved a good balance of International teams and the racing is at a high level so where does the County rider fit in to the race.

Well it is totally right that cat 3 riders are not allowed in the race because riders need to be at least cat 2 before they are ready to ride the Ras in a meaningful way.

This was illustrated by the fact that only 3 riders were eliminated for being outside the time limit of 20% this year versus over /0 riders going out last year.

So is the Ras as relevant for Irish domestic cyclists as it was in the past when there were 150 Irish riders making up 75% of the field versus now when there are 85 riders making up less than half the field.

I would say yes because we are very fortunate if not unique in Europe to have domestic rider access to a world level event.

This is a great opportunity for Irish based to race against riders who have ridden the top races like the Tour de France.

If a good first or second cat rider prepares properly and is lucky enough to stay healthy and not crash then they can get through the Ras having being in the racing group for most of the week.

Looking at the week riders like Damien Shaw, Brian McCrystal, Mark Dowling, Ian Richardson, Eoin Morton, Fraser Duncan, Sean Lacey and others rode well at a high level and if they had a constant level of racing at this level they would be very competitive.

The route every year is spectacular and well thought out and the sight of a number of foreign teams clambering around the rocks at the ferry name hotel in Caherdaniel showed that they were in awe at Ireland’s natural beauty.

So what would I change about the Ras in an ideal world?

I would love to see the race take place in July, this would give the domestic riders longer to prepare and help the Irish calendar by having time for longer events and more domestic stage races but this may not be possible because of event clashes and high season hotel availability.

More circuit finishes would be a real crowd puller as in Skerries but might be logistically very problematic and unpopular with some riders.

Overall the Ras is a unique iconic and wonderful event and has a unique and legendary status in Irish sport-well done to all involved

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Final Ras Report – Well done lads!!

Wow 49 kilometres in the first hour and then they wound it up.

It was balls out from the line and after 50 kilometres, Stephen punctured a back wheel and got back on over Dorey’s forge and Dunsany.

He did really well because the field was completely lined out at the time.

Fair dues to Chris Reilly for getting up the road in the break of the day that was only caught near the finish.

The bunch went nuclear on the finishing circuit with the entire field in little bunches over five minutes.

It was brilliant to see so any familiar faces along the road and so many Navan jerseys round the circuit.

Colm Farrell was surgically removed from his sprayer to cheer the lads on and star of the future Brendan McGuinness was there at the finish with his mum and dad to cheer us on.

It was very good to have all five lads finish the race and get their finishers medals.

I made Simon go up on the podium. Not only was he brilliant during the week and had a wicked sense of humour but now I have the before picture to submit his application for extreme makeover.

Also thanks to Neil Pyne our masseur who did a great job and very special thanks to Micky Kennedy of Cyclize who worked until midnight on the side of the street in Waterford to fix john Kenny’s bike.

Hopefully we will be back next year with narrower arses bigger thighs and better medication.

John Murray has refused to pay his fine for telling the commissaire to
&€@? off but.

In true solidarity with our team mate, we have forwarded his address to the UCI and they will be visiting Trim’n’Healthy Natural Health Foods to test for dubious substances sometime in the next 2 weeks.

Now it’s time to admit that the lads were only doing this for training for the Navan club league so it should be fun on Tuesday night.

Ras Report Stage 7

Today was tough 95 miles in the mountains. Just to make things more difficult, it rained really hard for the first hour.

This meant that my advice to wear minimum clothes for the first hour resulted in a frozen team with poor Niall doing the shivers in the cavalcade, while we abused him to get back into the group, which he did, of course.

Later Simon videoed him descending mount Leinster which is worth watching except for the bit where a remedial team car got in the way and we politely asked him to go into the field.

Speaking of abuse, John Murray got fined for politely asking the commissaire to please stop beeping the horn at him while he was on the limit on the climb of mount leinster.

After 70 kilometres the climbing went mental with some vicious ascents of the foothills of mount Leinster, causing chaos.
The two Johns made it into the big group and the rest of the lads came in just behind them after being misinformed that they were outside the time limit which was 44 minutes and they were only 7 minutes behind the main bunch.

Simon, the knob, got the worst sandwiches of the week in Carrick on Suir. Mind you, the apple tart was passable and he said he spotted the best looking schoolteacher of the week,  which was a bit of a stretch considering there were no schools open because it’s Saturday.

There are now only three Irish teams left with full teams in the race so I am really proud of the lads and the way they have ridden.

With a bit of luck we will get to Skerries tomorrow with a full team.

It was great to see all the support today with club chairman Matt on top of Corrabutt gap.

Hopefully we will see a lot of club  members in Skerries tomorrow afternoon.

Ras Report Stage 6

The day started with a drama over john Kenny’s gears and finished with a continuation of the same drama.

Just before the start we noticed they were giving trouble so Micky Kennedy got them sorted and all was well until the vertiginous slopes of Seskin Hill where the gears went into the 11 and stayed there. So he lost some time there but he still put out about 3000 watts coming up the 20% slope.

Now we have to sort it out.

The stage was controlled by the pro teams and all was well until 120 kilometres when the race lined out at 55kph into a cross to headwind and it split into two groups with John Kenny making it into the first split.

Earlier both Stuart and Stephen punctured at the same time but they did well to get back on except that we were progressing at 80 kilometres per hour.

With Stuart writing his initials on the rear bumper when the ambulance behind the race pulled out in front of us and we completely lost our momentum.

We heard Stuart politely asking the ambulance to please vacate the planet.

Coming out of Dungarvan there was a vicious shower of rain and the temperature went from 11 to 6 degrees so they were going from riding in a crosswind to riding into a headwind at 45 kilometres per hour in the freezing rain

It was a bit like racing in a cold shower for an hour with no waterproof or warm gear on.

Loads of guys came out the back in the last 20 kilometres shivering on the bikes in the February-like conditions.

Our lads changed on the side of the road then huddled in Volvo heat inside the car during the one hour traffic impeded transfer to Clonmel.

In fairness to them they never complain but when you hear delirious sandwich fantasies you know they are beginning to go under.

Tomorrow is a real mother of a stage there are only 127 riders left in the race with only 4 Irish teams still with 5 riders left thankfully we are still one of them and hopefully they will all make it home.

John Kenny is now on the first page of the classification sheet and if it was a power output race he would be leading overall.

Ras Report Day 5

Today was our best day yet.

John Kenny finished in the top 30 on the stage and moved up 20 places overall to 63rd.

All the other lads finished in the big main group seventeen minutes later.

This was really impressive because John Murray had two wheel changes in the first ten miles and Niall Doggett was very unlucky to have to stop on the descent of the first climb when a rider and a motorbike marshal crashed in front of him so they did really well to get back on to the group.

Stuart and Stephen were a lot stronger today and this is very encouraging because over 30 riders have abandoned the race due to crashes and an outbreak of vomiting and the trots.

I have never even driven up the tunnel road out of Kenmare as fast as we went up it today.

The yellow jersey made a mistake and tried to get across to a 20 man break with the help of his team mates. He closed the gap from 4 minutes to 40 seconds and then he tried to tow the bunch across on his own. He blew, and the break went back out to 10 minutes-the Ras has no respect for jerseys

Meanwhile Simon found one of Blair’s bars hidden in Stephen’s race food, but I grabbed it off him and I ate it and then he sulked for half the stage.

I hate to say it but he is a really good driver. Today was hairy on the wet descents and he managed to keep the car on the road – thanks again Paul for the Volvo.

Next stop Seskin hill in Carrick, but now that the race is so tight, tomorrow will be very tough – a real Philip Cassidy day.

Oh thanks to Micky Kennedy of Cyclize for doing some bike magic for us last night and to Noel, Andy, Ken, Padraig and Liam for all their support at the stage starts and finishes.

Ras Report Stage 4 – Kenny strong, but team manager bonks on early climb

Anyone who has never ridden over Cuam an Aispig, it’s a 39-25 climb when it’s dry and sunny and in the wet there’s a 70% chance you’ll fall off.

Luckily today was dry but it is as bad as the Gap of Mamore and the lads really struggled up it today.

The race started really fast and after 40 kilometres and 3 classified climbs there were 40 riders in a big group out the back due to speed crashes and punctures.

Unfortunately four of them were ours and only John Kenny stayed in the much depleted bunch and he did well to finish within 5 minutes of the winner and yellow jersey, who is monstrously impressive.

The stage took almost five hours and thank God there was good weather because the descents were – hmmm, interesting is a good word.

We had a plan that Neil, our dry efficient masseur would go ahead with bottles for the lads and this worked out well.

I ate all my food for the day within 10 miles of the start and Simon, the miserable bastard, teased me with his food for the rest of the stage.

The scenery was spectacular and the descent off the hill was like a bungee-jump but all the lads got down safely.

The group they were in finished 30 minutes down on the winner and six guys abandoned due to sickness and injuries.

The level of racing is very high and for guys with full time jobs and families, it is very difficult to compete over 8 days with elite professionals.

A lot of the problems riders like our team encounter, is the lack of long races every weekend and the old adage of doing 20 hours every week on your bike seems to be cast away in the same box as as other myths.

It is possible to do well in the Ras as a county rider but positioning and experience are essential – it is a two year project. The first year you train and race as much as you can. Then you ride the Ras and bring a can opener because you are going to get your hole opened.

The second year you come back having realised that you need to get your finger out of your now repaired arse and you train and listen to people who have done it and then you are privileged to get your hole opened again but this time you finish on the first or second page, and not at the bottom of the third one.

Rant over I am glad to see all our lads are still in the race and that they are trying hard and improving. They are getting more and more experience every day and I am confident they all have the ability and desire to finish.

Tomorrow is severe with the 8k climb of Coomakista coming just after the start. So the solids will be in the air conditioning from the start.

The sad news is that all Blair’s Super Chekhov Bars are gone – even the ones Simon hid. It’s back to proxy energy bars again.

By PJ Nolan

Ras Report Day 3

Today was great it didn’t rain during the stage and the team did well, all finishing within a minute of the stage winner.

John Kenny went for the sprint out of the bunch but as of now we do not have the stage placings and the overall remains almost the same.

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We moved up to number 24 car thanks to john Kenny’s ride yesterday.

The lads all brought extra bottles today and it seemed to work as none of them had to come back for extra food during the stage. This can be very tricky as the speed can go from 50 to 70 kilometres per hour in an instant, and you could be left in no mans land very easily.

During the stage Stephen decided to try and break Nialls one day old record for speed achieved while getting back on after a puncture.

He achieved 82 kph, but it was on a mountain road with twists and turns so it was a good effort, but yesterday’s record of 95 kph still stands.

There were reports today of a low flying military helicopter doing high speed manoeuvres near Killaloe but that was only Stephen getting back to the bunch.

The race was controlled all day by the New Zealand team pursuit squad who rode along between 45-55kph at the front protecting the jersey.

They let 9 guys up the road early on and the sprinters teams didn’t react quick enough so the break just managed to stay away.

We were all hoping Roger Aiken would win the stage but he was caught with just 500 metres to go.

Niall was delayed by a horrendous crash with 9 k to go where Brian McCrystal got face planted into a narrow bridge but Brian eventually finished and Niall did a mad ride to get back into the cavalcade before the end of the stage.

The level of bike handling in this race is very high with our guys doing really well.

It only rained once today during the stage but that was when Simon decided to stop and get us both wet.

4 of the pro teams have asked to ride the league next week but we told they would have to do marshaling for 2 weeks before they could ride. I think that has sorted them out

Tomorrow is big test over 183 kilometres and 7 categorised climbs in Kerry so the chances of a bunch finish are about as likely as Leitrim winning the all Ireland hurling championships.