Conor McConvey, An Post Sean Kelly team, right, and Nicolas Baldo, Switzerland, Atlas Jakroo, at Mamore Gap during the 5th stage of the 2012 An Post Rás. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy/SportsFile
Donegal is preparing for five action-packed stages over five days when An Post Rás gets under way in less than two weeks, drawing top cyclists from around the world.
International talent will meet in Ireland for eight days of racing, pitting themselves against the top domestic cyclists.
The An Post Rás, Ireland’s only Union Cycliste Internationale-ranked cycling race, runs from May 21st to 28th.
This year’s race will see the peloton travel west from Dublin and then north through Donegal’s Wild Atlantic Way before returning east for the customary finale in Skerries.
Donegal will make up nearly 500 kilometres of the eight-day, nearly 1,200km challenge, with four stage finishes in Bundoran, Buncrana, Dungloe and Donegal town. Donegal also provides two of the most difficult ascents in the country, Mamore Gap and Glengesh Pass. An Post Primes, or intermediate sprints, will be found in Dunfanaghy, Falcarragh and Dunkineely.
Stage 3, on Tuesday, May 23rd, runs 149km from Newport to Bundoran; Stage 4, on Wednesday, May 24th, travels 151.8km from Bundoran to Buncrana; Stage 5, on Thursday, May 25th, runs 181.2km from Buncrana to Dungloe; Stage 6, on Friday, May 26th, runs 132.1km from Dungloe to Donegal town; and Stage 7, on Saturday, May 27th, runs 167.3km from Donegal to Ardee.
An Post Rás Race Director, Tony Campbell, believes that stage four to stage seven will be ones to savour.
“Donegal is playing an enormous part in this year’s edition of the An Post Rás,” he said. “To have the stunning Donegal mountains as our backdrop will make the event one to remember.
“The locals also have one of their own, Ronan McLaughlin, to cheer on,” Mr Campbell said. “He was devastatingly close to a famous stage win in Bundoran in 2012 and he is gunning to put that right this year.”
He said participants include cyclists from Australia, America, Belgium, France, Netherlands, Denmark and Britain, as well as the An Post Sean Kelly national team and other domestic teams from Ireland.
“The opening stage winner of this year’s Giro, Lukas Postlberger, won the Rás two years ago so it’s a testament to how strong the field is,” Mr. Campbell said.
He encouraged as many as possible to come out and support the riders, “as the atmosphere is sure to be electric”.