Tough An Post Rás route to highlight next generation of cycling’s talented riders
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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tough An Post Rás route to highlight next generation of cycling’s talented riders

by Shane Stokes at 12:11 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Former winners include Stephen Roche and Tony Martin

An Post RasWhat is being described as one of the toughest recent editions of the An Post Rás was unveiled in recent days by the race director Dermot Dignam in the historic GPO building in Dublin.

The ancient building was one of the main battlefields in the 1916 Rising, a near-century old revolution against the then-British rulers in Ireland. Restored after that uprising, the building is still pockmarked by bullet holes, small marks in the stone walls which hint at its turbulent past. It is also home to the race’s title sponsor, which in turn is also the main backer behind the An Post Grant Thornton Sean Kelly team.

The 2.2 event has long given an insight into up and coming talent, with Stephen Roche becoming one of the youngest winners ever in 1979, current world time trial champion Tony Martin taking the victory in 2007 and his former team-mate John Degenkolb (now 1T4i) winning two stages plus the points classification in 2010.

There’s many other strong pros who have also taken part as amateurs, including world road race champion Mark Cavendish. It’s likely that this year’s race will once again give a hint as to some of the big guns of the future, and particularly so as the route is a tough one.

The 2.2 ranked event begins in Dunboyne on Sunday May 20th and concludes one week later in Skerries. The riders will clash over 1168 kilometres, with three first category ascents lurking amongst the 28 categorised climbs.

The county of Donegal, home to 2009 Vuelta a España stage winner Philip Deignan, will be a major battleground with three stage finishes, plus two of the heaviest days of climbing.

“It is a route that is probably leaning more towards the climber than the all rounder,” said Dignam, speaking at the launch to a crowd that included former winners Mick Murphy, Sé O’Hanlon, Colm Christle, Gene Mangan and Philip Cassidy.

“[Route designer] Stephen O’ Sullivan has come up with a very challenging course this year, right from stage one until the end. There is something tough in store every single day”

An Post RasStage one will cover 147 kilometres from Dunboyne to Kilkenny and includes the category two ascent of Glenmagoo. Dignam expects a big bunch sprint, but warns the final kilometres are technically demanding.

Day two to Gort includes five categorised climbs over 158 kilometres plus other undulating roads. He expects the bunch to break up there, and again on the following day’s 145 kilometres to Wesport. This includes the second category Gowlaun and the long, steep category one ascent of Maumtransa.

In contrast, stage four’s flat, fast 135 kilometres to Bundoran seem destined for a bunch sprint.

The next two days are the hardest of the race; the 149 kilometre stage to Buncrana includes five category three climbs, the category two Pinch Mountain and, significantly, the gruelling Mamore Gap. It is regarded by many as the country’s hardest ascent.

Also extremely tough is the following day’s Glengesh Pass, which combines with three category two climbs en route to Killybegs to further reduce the list of contenders.

Stage seven from Donegal to Cootehill has just two climbs, but is the longest of the race at 161 kilometres and includes many narrow roads which will demand concentration and punish any inattention. The final stage follows a similar pattern to recent years, with five category three climbs lying in wait on the way to Skerries, including two ascents of the Black Hills.

A sizeable crowd is once again expected to attend the end of the world-ranked race, where the 2012 winner will be confirmed and a likely glimpse will be given of some of the next generation of cycling’s young, gifted riders.

2012 An Post Rás route:

Stage 1, Sunday May 20th: Dunboyne – Kilkenny, 147kms
Stage 2, Monday May 21st: Kilkenny – Gort, 158kms
Stage 3, Tuesday May 22nd: Gort – Westport, 145kms
Stage 4, Wednesday May 23rd: Westport – Bundoran, 135kms
Stage 5, Thursday May 24th: Bundoran – Buncrana, 149kms
Stage 6, Friday May 25th: Buncrana – Killybegs, 134kms
Stage 7, Saturday May 26th: Donegal - Cootehill, 161kms
Stage 8, Sunday May 27th: Cootehill – Skerries, 139kms


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