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2013 An Post Rás cycle to start in Dunboyne

Monday, 4th February, 2013 4:00pm

Story by Tom Kelly
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2013 An Post Rás cycle to start in Dunboyne

Model Holly Carpenter with two time Rás winner and former Olympian Ciaran Power, left, and Postman Paul O'Meara, from Fairview, who works the O'Connell Street route, at the launch of the 2013 An Post Rás. Photo: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

2013 An Post Rás cycle to start in Dunboyne

Model Holly Carpenter with two time Rás winner and former Olympian Ciaran Power, left, and Postman Paul O'Meara, from Fairview, who works the O'Connell Street route, at the launch of the 2013 An Post Rás. Photo: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

Dunboyne will once again host the opening stage of the An Post Rás which will see the riders set off 135 kilometres en route to the first stage finish in Longford.

The 2013 An Post Rás route was announced this morning at the GPO. A demanding eight days of competition faces the riders with the 61st edition of the race featuring over 1180 kilometres of cycling and no less than 33 categorised climbs, four of which are category one mountains.

Two time Rás winner and former Olympian Ciaran Power was on hand to launch the annual international cycle race at the GPO along with amateur county riders Brian Ahern and Robin Kelly and newly appointed Rás organiser, Tony Campbell.

Campbell, who recently took over the reins from Dermot Dignam, insists the mixture of flat and mountainous stages was designed to strike the right balance while also providing the amateur riders with a better chance of competing against the top teams.

"It is a different type of course this year. The route designer, Stephen O'Sullivan wanted to make some changes. The first three stages are pretty flat, which will keep the time gaps close and the suspense high. You don't need the hills to have good racing. It's up to the riders to be aggressive and to break things up.

Part of the thinking was to provide encouragement to the Irish riders to race, as they should be able to compete against the professional teams. The stages are of a length to encourage them to race hard over that distance. But there are also a couple of stages with plenty of hills, and that will give the climbers the chance to make a difference", Campbell said.

A new and exciting aspect of the race for Irish riders will be the addition of a 'County Rider' jersey. This will spice up the action between the county teams as they compete to claim the jersey and local glory that goes with it on each day of the race.

The world-ranked race begins in Dunboyne on Sunday 19th May, the fourth consecutive year it has started there. It will then move counter-clockwise around the country, and includes stage finishes in Longford, Nenagh, Listowel, Killarney, Glengarriff, Mitchelstown, Carlow and Naas, before concluding on Sunday 26th May with the customary finale in Skerries, North County Dublin.

Campbell expects that as usual, the race will be a much sought after event in the cycling calendar by strong international professional and national teams from Europe and further afield.

An Post continues to sponsor the race, which will be a key event in the company's Gathering 2013 schedule of activity.

An Post CEO, Donal Connell said "This is the third year of partnership between two well-known Irish institutions. We look forward to another year of great racing and fabulous support from communities all along the route. We are expecting over 14 international teams to compete so this is a great chance to showcase our racing talent, our countryside and our culture to a world audience. The An Post Rás will be a great asset to the Gathering's 2013 calendar."

Details of the international teams set to join this year's An Post Rás will be released over the coming months. The An Post Sean Kelly team has already committed to participating.

An Post Rás route 2013 (UCI 2.2):

Stage 1, Sunday May 19: Dunboyne to Longford, 135.4 kms:

Stage 2, Monday May 20: Longford to Nenagh, 160.4 kms:

Stage 3, Tuesday May 21: Nenagh to Listowel, 141.1 kms:

Stage 4, Wednesday May 22: Listowel to Glengarriff, 153 kms:

Stage 5, Thursday May 23: Glengarriff to Mitchelstown, 150.2 kms:

Stage 6, Friday May 24: Mitchelstown to Carlow, 154.6 kms:

Stage 7, Saturday May 25: Carlow to Naas, 141.2 kms:

Stage 8, Sunday May 26: Naas to Skerries, 144.6 kms:

Total: 1180.5 kms

Stage 1, Sunday May 19: Dunboyne to Longford, 135.4 kms:

The An Post Rás will begin in Dunboyne for the fourth year in succession, and presents the riders with 135.4 kilometres to scrap it out for the first yellow jersey of the race. The stage passes through Summerhill and Trim prior to reaching the first An Post, post office sprint in Athboy, 41.3 kilometres after the drop of the flag. After racing on through Crossakeel, the riders reach the second sprint of the day at Slieve an Callaigh (km 61.5), which also doubles up as a category three climb.

From there they will speed through Oldcastle, Virginia, Ballyjamesduff, Granard and Ballinalee before a likely bunch sprint into Longford.

Stage 2, Monday May 20: Longford to Nenagh, 160.4 kms:

At 160.4 kilometres in distance, stage two to Nenagh is 25 kilometres longer than day one. It begins in Longford and moves through Roscommon and Ballygar before an An Post, post office sprint in Mount Bellew, 61.5 kilometres after the start.

Any breakaway groups and the peloton will then move through Ballinasloe, Laurencetown and Portumna and on to Carrigahorig, Terryglass, Puckane and Nenagh, where they will duke it out for the stage win and the race leadership.

"Both of these stages could well finish in a bunch sprint," said Campbell, "although if riders are aggressive a group could stay clear."

Stage 3, Tuesday May 21: Nenagh to Listowel, 141.1 kms:

Stage three is slightly hillier, but the two category three climbs to be encountered there won't pose major difficulties to the sprinters. It is 141.1 kilometres in length and after an An Post, post office sprint in Patrickswell little over halfway through, 79 kilometres in, the route heads through Adare and on to the day's second of three such sprints in Ardagh (km 107.9).

The riders will reach the summit of the category three Glenastar Ardagh climb approximately five kilometres later, then race on to an An Post, post office sprint in Athea (km 125) before the day's second climb, a category three slope also in Athea (km 126.9).

Just fourteen kilometres remain between there and the finish line in Listowel, giving the peloton enough time to bring things back together prior to the sprint to the line.

Stage 4, Wednesday May 22: Listowel to Glengarriff, 153 kms:

Day four is substantially more difficult, with O'Sullivan cramming in no less than eight climbs on the 153 kilometres between Listowel and Glengarriff. The first of those, Lacka West, comes just 7.9 kilometres after the start and the category two climb will shake up the bunch and could provoke early splits.

After that, the riders head on to the Crinny climb (category three, km 28.3), Castleisland, the category three ascent of Farranfore (km 47.3) and then pass through Killarney. From there the peloton will be shaken up by a succession of mountains, starting with the category two trio of Ladies View (km 82.4), Molls Gap (km 87.3) and Garranes (km 117.1), then the gruelling Healy Pass, which comes 127 kilometres after the start and marks the first category one climb of this year's race.

That is certain to rupture the main bunch and scatter riders going over the summit, but with 25 kilometres remaining from there until the line and only the category three Cooleriagh (km 145.3) interrupting a fast run-in to the finish, some of those gaps could tighten up.

"There is a long chase in from the Healy Pass so there could be a regrouping of sorts," confirms Campbell, who for many years worked as right hand man to the previous race director Dermot Dignam.

Stage 5, Thursday May 23: Glengarriff to Mitchelstown, 150.2 kms:

The sprinters will feel better about their chances on stage five, a 150.2 kilometre race from Glengarriff to Mitchelstown. Early on the peloton will face the category two ascents of the Pass of Keimaneigh (km 25) and Gortnabinna (km 37.7), but after the latter there follows 100 kilometres of mainly flat roads, passing through Macroom, Millstreet, Banteer and Mallow.

The sole obstacle to a bunch gallop comes at the category three climb of Kildorrery (km 137.9), but it remains to be seen if that ramp is sufficient to enable a rider or small group to get clear.

Stage 6, Friday May 24: Mitchelstown to Carlow, 154.6 kms:

Campbell believes the following day's race between Mitchelstown and Carlow could be much more decisive. "I think this is the day when the race will really start to take shape," he said. "The last climbs come quite close to the finish and will likely play a big part."

The 154.6 kilometre stage doesn't present any major difficulties early on, with only the An Post, post office sprint at Urlingford (km 77.4) featuring in the first two hours of racing. However things get considerably tougher after the 100 kilometre point, with five climbs rearing up between there and the finish; these are Byrnesgrove (category 2, km. 108.8), Castelcomer (category 3, km 116.3), the first category wall of Gorteen (km 120.9), plus the second category pair of Coan West (km 124.6) and Clogrenan (km 133.5).

Stage 7, Saturday May 25: Carlow to Naas, 141.2 kms:

The penultimate stage of the 2013 An Post Rás is arguably the toughest with eight climbs lurking on the menu in 141 kilometres. Four of these are either first or second category, making for a very difficult day in the saddle. "It is a great stage, and should be a very interesting one," said Campbell.

Beginning in Carlow, the riders will dispute an An Post, post office sprint in Shillelagh (km 27.3) before moving on to the early climbs of Ballythomas Hill (category two, km 41.8), Monalee (category three, km 44.9) and Annagh Gap (also category three, km 47.4).

After passing through Arklow and Woodenbridge, the peloton takes in the category three Cronebeg (km 73.3) and second category Garrymore (km 81.4), then heads up the Glenmalure valley prior to the feared first category ascent of Drumgoff (km 92.5).

Once past the summit and the memorial to Ireland's first Maillot Jaune Shay Elliott, the fragmented bunch will plummet down the tricky descent into Laragh, then turn left towards Glendalough and the first category Wicklow Gap climb (km 107.4).

A long, sweeping descent takes the riders to the third category Slieve Corragh (km 122.3), the final climb of the day, then on through Hollywood and Ballymore Eustace to the finish in Naas.

"There is a long enough run in from the last climb plus a good road, so there could be some sort of small regrouping," said Campbell. "But it's clear that the stage should really shake things up."

Stage 8, Sunday May 26: Naas to Skerries, 144.6 kms:

There remains just one more day beyond that point, a 144.6 kilometre race from Naas to Skerries. As has been the case in recent years, the latter part of this stage will follow familiar roads, including laps of the circuit in Skerries, and should once again attract huge crowds.

After racing through Newbridge, the first climb the riders will encounter is the category three Hill of Allen (km. 15.6). Next up is the similarly ranked Pluckhimin (km 88.1) and Cross of the Cage (km 108), then the peloton will reach the finishing circuit and two ascents of the category three Black Hills climb (km 121.4 and 135.4). In recent years riders have managed to win in solo breaks but a bunch gallop is also very possible, with the race leader and his team looking to keep things together until the line.

An Post Rás route 2013 (UCI 2.2):

Stage 1, Sunday May 19: Dunboyne to Longford, 135.4 kms:

Dunboyne, Summerhill, Trim, Athboy Post Office Sprint Hot Spot (km 41.3), Crossakeel, KOH Category 3/Hot spot at Slieve an Callaigh (61.5 kms), Oldcastle, Virginia, Ballyjamesduff, Granard, Ballinalee, Longford

Stage 2, Monday May 20: Longford to Nenagh, 160.4 kms:

Longford, Lanesborough, Roscommon, Ballygar, Mount Bellew Post Office Sprint (km 61.5), Ballinasloe, Laurencetown, Portumna, Carrigahorig, Terryglass, Puckane, Nenagh

Stage 3, Tuesday May 21: Nenagh to Listowel, 141.1 kms:

Nenagh, KOH Category 2 at Bolingbrook (km 13), Doon, Cappamore, Caherconlish, Crecora, Patrickswell Post Office Sprint (km 79), Adare, Rathkeale, Ardagh Post Office Sprint (km 107.9), KOH Category 3 at Glenastar Ardagh (km 113.2), Athea Post Office Sprint (km 125); KOH Category 3 at Athea (km 126.9), Listowel

Stage 4, Wednesday May 22: Listowel to Glengarriff, 153 kms:

Listowel, KOH Category 2 at Lacka West (km 7.9), KOH Category 3 at Crinny (km 28.3), Castleisland,

KOH Category 3 at Farranfore (km 47.3), Killarney, KOH Category 2 at Ladies View (km 82.4), KOH Category 2 at Molls Gap (km 87.3); Kenmare, KOH Category 2 at Garranes (km 117.1), Lauragh, KOH Category 1 at Healy Pass (km 127.7), Adrigole, KOH Category 3 at Cooleriagh (km 145.3), Glengarriff

Stage 5, Thursday May 23: Glengarriff to Mitchelstown, 150.2 kms:

Glengarriff, Kealkill, KOH category 2 at Pass of Keimaneigh (km 25), Ballingeary, KOH category 2 at Gortnabinna (km 37.7), Renanirree, Macroom, Millstreet, Rathcool, Banteer, Mallow, New Twopothouse, Doneraile, KOH category 3 at Kildorrery (km 137.9), Mitchelstown

Stage 6, Friday May 24: Mitchelstown to Carlow, 154.6 kms:

Mitchelstown, Cahir, Cashel, Urlingford Post Office Sprint (km 77.4), Freshford, Ballyragget, KOH category 2 at Byrnesgrove (km 108.8), Castlecomer, KOH category 3 at Castlecomer (km 116.3), KOH category 1 at Gorteen (km 120.9), KOH category 2 at Coan West (km 124.6), Bilboa, KOH category 2 at Clogrenan (km 133.5), Killeshin, Carlow

Stage 7, Saturday May 25: Carlow to Naas, 141.2 kms:

Carlow, Tullow, Shillelagh Post Office Sprint (km 27.3), Coolboy, KOH category 2 at Ballythomas Hill (41.8 kms), KOH category 3 at Monalee (km 44.9), KOH category 3 at Annagh Gap (km 47.4), Arklow, Woodenbridge, KOH category 3 at Cronebeg (km 73.3), Ballinaclash, KOH category 2 at Garrymore (km 81.4)

Greenan, KOH category 1 at Drumgoff (km 92.5), Laragh, KOH category 1 at Wicklow Gap (km 107.4), KOH category 3 at Slieve Corragh (km 122.3), Hollywood, Ballymore Eustace, Naas

Stage 8, Sunday May 26: Naas to Skerries, 144.6 kms:

Naas, Newbridge, Milltown, KOH category 3 at Hill of Allen (km 15.6), Prosperous, Kilcock, Dunsany, Dunshaughlin, Ratoath, Curragha, KOH category 3 at Pluckhimin (km 88.1), Garristown, Naul, Balrothery, KOH category 3 at Cross of the Cage (km108), KOH category 3 at Black Hills (km 121.4), KOH category 3 at Black Hills (km 135.4), Skerries

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