It’s less than two weeks away until teams from all over the world, including as far away as Morocco and Taiwan, line up for the start of the 2012 An Post Rás. This is the 60th edition of the famous race, with no less than four stages passing through County Donegal including finishes in Bundoran, Buncrana, Killybegs and Donegal Town.
An aggressive few days of racing are expected during the middle period of the race as the battle to hold onto the yellow jersey takes centre stage. Last year saw huge numbers cheering the riders along the route and at the stage finishes and this year Rás organiser, Dermot Dignam, is hoping to see similar crowds.
“Donegal is set for some thrilling racing over the four days. The riders will cover over 500 kilometres in the county and with the challenging terrain this is potentially where the race will be won or lost.”
Following the fourth stage set off from Westport, Co. Mayo at 11am on Wednesday, May 23rd, the riders will embark on a relatively flat 135 kilometres of road to the stage finish at Bundoran and Dignam is expecting plenty of action towards the end of this stage.
“This is a real sprinters day. It is 135 kilometres of flat roads through Charlestown and Sligo, and promises to be a great finish into Bundoran. The final run-in is straight and fast, with a slight rise to the line coming in the last four to five hundred metres. The stage ends on the bridge in Bundoran, with the beautiful backdrop of the Atlantic ocean behind.”
The following day’s fifth stage on Thursday, 24th, which begins from Bundoran is a complete contrast with no less than seven climbs, one which is widely regarded as being the toughest single ascent in Ireland.
“The stage is only 149 kilometres, but it’s the day the real agony starts,” states Dignam.
Stage six sees another extremely tough day for the riders, starting off from Buncrana on Friday 25th and enduring two particularly gruelling climbs on their way to finishing in Killybegs.
The final stage in Donegal on Saturday, 26th is the penultimate day of the race and also the longest at 161 kilometres. It sets off from Donegal town on a considerably flat route but riders must be technically very aware if they are to maintain concentration and reach the finish at Cootehill, Cavan.
“It’s going to be a difficult stage because of the route. Almost from the time we leave Bundoran, we are on extremely narrow roads. For riders to hold their position, they will have to be up the front for much of the stage, really watching out.”
The 8 day International cycling road race takes place from May 20th to 27th and as well as the global feel to the event the emphasis will again be on national, regional and top level sponsored amateur cycling teams.