The 2011 An Post Rás route, which was announced earlier today at the GPO looks certain to provide a challenging test to its riders. The route covers 1247 kilometres over eight days with 28 categorised climbs, three of which are first category ascents.
This year’s Rás is the 59th in its history, and the first edition under the banner of new sponsor An Post. At today’s launch, Rás organiser Dermot Dignam revealed that this year’s route was planned by cyclist Stephen O’Sullivan, a seventeen year veteran of the race.
“I believe Stephen has devised a route that will test to the extreme each and every one of the riders from the ten countries expected to participate.” said Dignam “It is going to be a very challenging route with long, hard, gruelling stages, fast open stages and mountain climbs spread over seven of the eight stages of the race”.
The An Post Rás gets underway on Sunday May 22nd in Dunboyne, Co. Meath. It will then move counter-clockwise around the country, and includes stage finishes in Portumna, Kilrush, Castleisland, Castletownbere, Blarney, Tramore and Kildare, before concluding on Sunday May 29th with the now-customary crowd-thronged finale in Skerries, North County Dublin.
The five jerseys for the 2011 race were also unveiled for the first time today: The An Post Rás Yellow Jersey Classification – awarded to the rider with the least overall accumulated time at the end of each stage, the Post Office Sprint Jersey Classification – awarded to the rider with the most points at the finish of each stage, the One4All Bikes4Work King of the Mountains Jersey Classification – awarded to the best mountain climber in the race, the Irish Sports Council U23 White Jersey Classification – awarded to the best placed rider under 23 years of age and the One Direct Stage Jersey – awarded to the best placed rider on each stage who is not the recipient of a classification jersey.
Speaking at today’s launch, An Post Chief Executive Donal Connell said An Post is proud to sponsor the Rás. “We are delighted to support this world renowned race which, like An Post, is deeply ingrained in local communities throughout Ireland.”
“Over the past four years An Post has been the biggest supporter of Irish cycling at both elite and grass roots level through our association with the An Post Sean Kelly team, the Tour of Ireland and the An Post Cycle Series. The Rás is a great addition to our support for Irish cycling”.
“I commend all those local suppliers and local businesses for their ongoing and all-important support for the event, and I encourage others to become involved. Whether it’s at starts, along the route or at finishes, we all have role to play in ensuring the success of the Rás; in building an event celebrating the very best of Ireland and what’s Irish; in focusing our efforts on recovery and on a determined route back to prosperity and positivity,” he added.
2011 An Post Route
Stage 1, Sunday May 22: Dunboyne – Portumna, 148 kms
Stage 2, Monday May 23: Portumna – Kilrush, 164kms
Stage 3, Tuesday May 24: Kilrush – Castleisland, 175kms
Stage 4, Wednesday May 25: Castleisland – Castletownbere, 142kms
Stage 5, Thursday May 26: Castletownbere – Blarney, 156kms
Stage 6, Friday May 27: Blarney – Tramore, 172kms
Stage 7, Saturday May 28: Tramore – Kildare, 157kms
Stage 8, Sunday May 29: Kildare – Skerries, 133kms
The 2.2-ranked event begins with a mainly flat, fast 148 kilometres from Dunboyne to Portumna. Three An Post Hot Spot Sprints, at Allenwood, Mountmellick and Clonaslee, will shake up the racing and present valuable time bonuses that could prove crucial in the fight for the first yellow jersey of the first An Post Rás in Portumna.
Stage 2 heads 164 kilometres to Kilrush, passing through locations such as Gort and Lisdoonvarna and featuring the second category Corkscrew Hill just over 60 kilometres from the finish line.
Day 3 covers 175.3 difficult kilometres from Kilrush to Castleisland, and includes third category ramps at Barnagh Gap, Ahaneboy and Glanshearoon, plus a finishing circuit which takes in the fearsome category one climb of Crag Cave.
Stage 4 is equally gruelling, with the 142 kilometre race from Castleisland to Castletownbere covering some of the toughest roads in Cork and Kerry. The route includes the stunning second category climb of Ladies View, the similarly-ranked Molls Gap, the Tousist (category 3),Knockanoughanish (category 2) and the first category showdown on the Healy Pass, just half an hour from the finish line.
Stage 5 heads from Castletownbere to Blarney, with the 156 kilometre route beginning with a quartet of third category mountain primes, then ramping up over the second category climbs of Moskeagh and Windy Gap. The latter comes 25.3 kilometres from the end of the stage and will certainly set up a tremendously exciting finish in Blarney.
Stage 6 will be a very nervous one, covering six category three ascents on the 172 kilometres between Blarney and Tramore, and concluding with an uphill finish on Main Street.
More edgy racing is guaranteed on the penultimate stage between Tramore and Kildare, with the 157 kilometres taking in the category two slopes of Brown Mountain plus the category one climb of Clogrennane. It is continuously up and down, and could provoke a change in the race leadership heading into the final day.
At 133 kilometres, the race between Kildare and Skerries is the shortest of the eight stages, but the five category three climbs it features will keep things up in the air. The Hill of Allen comes very early on and could provoke a long break, then later the riders will tackle the ascents of Pluckhimin, Cross of the Cage, plus the Black Hills climb on each of the two 13.8 kilometre finishing circuits in Skerries. As ever a huge crowd is anticipated at the seaside town, providing a fitting finale after eight days of battle.