2017 An Post Rás gets underway this weekend
The 2017 An Post Rás gets underway this weekend and includes two of the most difficult ascents in the country in the Mamore Gap and Glengesh Pass when it returns to Donegal for the first time in five years.
This year sees return of a Donegal team - Voodoo Performance - made up of five riders and five support crew from the four corners of the country.
Local Letterkenny CC rider Sean McFadden will partner up with Dermott Turlock, Colm Sheahan, Eamon Hartnett and Conn Dunphy.
Four Masters CC member Jason McHugh will lead the crusade as Team Manager over the grueling seven days. Supporting the team will be Donegal natives, Alan Mailey and Ciaran O'Donnell (support crew), Jordan McGinley (mechanic), Shaun McBride (physio) and Voodoo Performance owner Jason Black.
The very first Donegal Ras team to undertake the 9-day stage race 27 years ago was made up of Francie Duffy (Loughnanure), John Curran (Ardara). Michael Kelly (Portnoo), Michael Russell (Letterkenny) and Jason Black (Letterkenny). Team manager - Cathal O Raghallaigh (Donegal Town).
Jason Black, a three-time Rás rider said it was exciting to have a Donegal team back in the An Post Rás.
"This year's test is going to be incredible and special as it takes on the toughest roads entering the four days in Donegal," he said.
"As a young cyclist it's the "dream of dreams" to ride shoulder to shoulder as a man of the Rás. It's steeped in so much cycling history and helped produce some of the world's leading professional athletes to the world stage.
"It's not possible without huge support and sponsors. Having Renault Ireland and local dealership Highland Motors continuing to support the Voodoo Performance brand, it certainly helped make this year's entry a reality."
(Above) The first Donegal team to compete in the Rás.
The 65th edition of the race will travel clockwise around Ireland, with stage finishes in Longford, Newport, Bundoran, Buncrana, Dungloe, Donegal Town and Ardee before the customary finale in Skerries.
Starting at Dublin Castle for the second consecutive year, the race will total just under 1,200 kilometres and will act as a platform for climbers, sprinters and attacking riders to battle it out for the coveted Rás yellow jersey.
As ever, the race will see Ireland’s finest amateur riders compete against top professional teams and seasoned internationals from around the world in an eight-day spectacle from May 21-28.
An Post Rás 2017 race director Tony Campbell believes that the race will be a test to every style of rider.
He said, “Overall, the race is hillier than it has been in these past couple of years but you can expect that when it is in Donegal. I think that it will be very fast in the first three days and I think the Irish boys will be well prepared for the speed. After that, it is in the lap of the gods for the climbing.”
The An Post Rás takes place from May 21st - May 28th.
An Post Rás 2017 (Total: 1199.8 kilometres):
Stage 1, Sunday May 21: Dublin to Longford (146.1 kilometres)
Stage 2, Monday May 22: Longford to Newport (142.9 kilometres)
Stage 3, Tuesday May 23: Newport to Bundoran (149 kilometres)
Stage 4, Wednesday May 24: Bundoran to Buncrana (151.8 kilometres)
Stage 5, Thursday May 25: Buncrana to Dungloe (181.2 kilometres)
Stage 6, Friday May 26: Dungloe to Donegal (132.1 kilometres)
Stage 7, Saturday May 27: Donegal to Ardee (167.3 kilometres)
Stage 8, Sunday May 28: Ardee to Skerries (129.4 kilometres)