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For the first time in its 30 year history, St. Tiernans Cycling Club will be entering a team in Ireland’s only Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) categorised race, the 2017 An Post Rás. Renowned as one of Europe’s most unpredictable and unique stages races, ‘The Rás’ will roll out of Dublin Castle on Sunday May 21st and arrive back to Skerries the following Sunday, May 28th. The eight stages, comprising of 1200km in total, will finish in Longford, Newport, Bundoran, Dungloe, Donegal and Ardee respectively before the finale in Skerries. This year’s race, after a few forays south in the past number of editions, has a firmly north-western flavour.
As the race twists and turns towards the North, stage 6 on 26th May will be on the riders’ minds as it is then they will tackle the fearsome Glengesh pass, a climb the St. Tiernan’s riders know well from their participation in Rás Dhun na nGall over its last three editions. Team rider James Quinn spoke of their preparation which began in earnest last November, “We have ridden all of the major stage races this year in preparation and we know what level you need to be at to compete at races like the Rás. Every bike racer in Ireland aspires to become a man of the Rás and we are delighted have Friends First on board with us as we commit to achieving just that, adding another 5 men to that list.”
Brian O’Neill, Strategic Marketing Director with Friends First said “We are delighted to support the Friends First St. Tiernans Rás team and continue our association with the sport and with the club. We are in our fifth year of supporting the club’s open race in Laragh, Co. Wicklow, and it is exciting to see them develop further and compete at this level. This is Ireland’s premier cycling event and has always been held in high regard countrywide. I think its association with the county teams means there is a common thread with amateur sport whilst it is certainly operating at a professional level. We are happy to be associated with an event that really is part of Ireland’s sporting history.”
The Rás has always been in a unique position when it comes to amateurs racing with professionals, the ‘county’ teams bringing an air of unpredictability to the sometimes metronomic world of professional racing. Adam Greally of the Friends First St. Tiernans Team said, “When you are a nine to five worker racing against a nine to five cyclist, you know it is going to be difficult but that is part of the attraction of the Rás, the amateurs and professionals racing together. It is something the bigger teams enjoy and is one of the unique features of the race”.
When asked about the level of training and dedication to getting to this point he said “The commitment has been huge and unwavering from all on the team and without Friends First coming on board it may have all been in vain – we were delighted to get their backing. It will all be new for the majority of the team including myself, John (O’Regan) and James (Quinn) but we have two experienced guys in Niall (O’Dwyer), Ronan (Killeen) and our manager Justin (McGee) , who have been through it all before so we will not be without some race knowledge. When you see some of the names on the start list you begin to wonder but the Rás would not be the race it is if it wasn’t for the county teams and we have to thank our sponsors Friends First, Parcel Zone and Brendan Bonnie for helping us to maintain that tradition.”
Stage one of the 65th An Post Rás begins from Dublin Castle at midday on Sunday 21st May, and hopefully the five Friends First St. Tiernans members will arrive in Skerries sometime after midday on Sunday 28th May as men of the Rás.