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The Rás is Coming

posted 22 Feb 2016, 09:03 by Kevin Monaghan   [ updated 22 Feb 2016, 11:08 ]
(By Shay O'Toole - Sun 21st February 2016)   
There was great news for all Wheelers and midlands cycling fans in general this week with the news that the 2016 An Post Rás will include a stage finish and start in the Mullingar area.

The 64th edition of this historic eight-day stage race was launched in Dublin’s GPO last Wednesday with the official route announced by race director, Tommy Campbell. In conjunction with the 1916 celebrations, this year’s race will depart from Dublin Castle on Sunday, May 22nd with the first stage expected to be a very fast 145km dash to finish in Multyfarnham. This is set to be a fantastic day of cycling as the route will see the riders approach Multy via Oldcastle and Castlepollard before turning right at Crookedwood for the former national Tidy Towns award winning village. 

On entry to Multy the peloton will contest the final An Post Hot Spot Sprint of the day before heading out on a lap of the same circuit used for the Lakeside Wheelers promoted 2014 National Cycling Championships. Without doubt this final 19km will break up what is left of the bunch as it brings the race over the infamous “Piggery” hill and a short but nasty incline before the left turn at Mary Donnelly’s cross. From this point it will most likely be a fast and furious dogfight to the finish line outside Conor Murtagh’s pub at the second passage through Multyfarnham.

The following day, Monday, May 23rd all attention will be focused on Mullingar town centre as the Rás will depart from the Post Office in Dominick St and make its way through the town in a neutralised fashion via Oliver Plunket St and Mount St before the flag is dropped at O’Brien’s Renault garage on the Lynn Road. This second stage is the longest day of the week and will see the riders tackle a whopping 185km en route to Charleville, Co. Cork.

What makes this news more interesting is the fact that there will be lots of local interest in the race as rumour has it, there is a new midlands based team about to be launched with the Rás as one of its main objectives for 2016. There will be more news about this new development in the coming weeks. 

Another familiar face to watch out for will be Mullingar’s first professional cyclist Damien Shaw, in the colours of the An Post Chainreaction Sean Kelly team. With his race programme over the next few weeks directly geared towards preparation for the Rás there is a good chance that Shaw will be the An Post Chainreaction team leader for his first professional event on home soil. The fact that the former Lakeside Wheelers man is currently carrying the National Champions jersey will no doubt add a bit of emotion to his week but it will also lead to him being a “marked” man by the other pro teams. 

Alongside the obvious sporting attraction of this race there will also be a very significant financial spin-off for both Multyfarnham and Mullingar. Already the local hotels are fully booked to accommodate the considerable entourage which accompanies the “Ras”. In recent years this great race has been experiencing somewhat of a revival with several professional teams competing so there is sure to be a very large crowd of spectators following it. The inclusion of Multyfarnham and Mullingar on this year’s route is a very positive endorsement of our club’s hosting of the National Cycling Championships in 2014 which are widely recognised as one of the best Championships to date. 

In the weeks leading up to May 22nd these notes will include more details about this great event which sits firmly at the centre of Irish sport and culture and there will also be interviews with the local personalities who will be involved in it.

A Typically intense Rás bunch sprint finish
A Typically intense Rás bunch sprint finish (photo RTE Sport)