Burren Cycling Club is set to compete in the Rás Tailteann for the first time in the club’s history.
This will be the first time a team from the county has entered the Rás since 1991. Team Clare entered in 1989, 1990 and 1991 with Burren CC set to compete in this year’s hosting of the prestigious race.
The club have entered a strong team. Mark Shannon, who won this year’s Crotty Cup is selected as the Bellharbour man is currently the highest ranked rider on Cycling Ireland’s ranking tables.
Clooney’s Danny MacDonald is also included as he looks to build on his strong early season form after lifting the Lacey Cup. Richard Meaney brings experience having previously competed in the Rás as the former Connacht champion is a breakaway specialist.
Simon Kelly also possesses useful experience of competing in this gruelling event while Paul Kennedy is a Masters 40 National Time Trial Champion & winner of a Rás Mumhan stage.
Ger Troy is first reserve with the Clarecastle rider securing Top 10 General Classification finishes in both the Charleville and Kanturk stage races this year.
Rás Tailteann is Ireland’s number one elite cycling event for men. In 2019 it did not proceed while the event was postponed for the past two years due to the Covid 19 pandemic.
Burren Cycling Club PRO Brian Nevin states that preparations are going well with the riders’ strong results so far this year giving them confidence of competing against teams from all over the world.
“Preparations are going exceptionally well. The team have probably got their best set of results this year. Danny winning the Lacey Cup has given him confidence while Mark finished second on the final stage and third in the General Classification in Wicklow (in the Orwell Two Day) showing he’s in good form.”
“The guys have been fairly consistent in getting results and we did well in the Rás Mumhan so confidence is high.”
With five stages over as many days, the competition starts next Wednesday, June 15 in Dublin.
The third stage ends in Lisdoonvarna, the spiritual home of the Rás in Clare. On Friday week the competitors will cycle 172.1km as they travel through Limerick before reaching Ennis.
After 140km, the riders will take on the hard wide-open roads of the beautiful karst landscape of the Burren, with the first Cat 3 at 150 km where the event becomes more technical. Similar to the previous day, the riders will tackle the Cat 2 ascent of the Corkscrew KOH, just 10km from the finish.
With over 150km of racing in their legs at that stage this climb will again play a big part in the race for the coveted yellow jersey and this always makes for an exciting finish into Lisdoonvarna.
Nevin knows it would be an enormous achievement for the team to upset the odds and secure a stage win especially while cycling on home soil.
“A stage win is the main objective but a lot can go wrong when you have 180 riders. Our guys are very competitive so we will hopefully be fighting on a couple of fronts. We can compete for the team prize and in the overall General Classification. With the stage in to Lisdoonvarna, the stars would need to align for us.”
“The guys know these roads very well. I wouldn’t like to end up cursing the guys by predicting a result but it would be a dream come through to be in the mix coming to the end of that stage.”
With teams from Spain, England and America competing, Burren CC’s PRO knows that The Rás has a worldwide reputation of being a gruelling challenge. He believes that competing against other top amateurs and semi professionals can only aid the development of the team.
“We had eight riders going for five places so we have a lot of experience in the team. In Ireland this is the top stage race for amateurs and there will be a lot of semi pros in the peloton. The Rás has always commanded a very good field. There aren’t as many international teams it seems but there will still be formidable riders in the peloton.”
In order for a team to compete, a lot of help and guidance is needed behind the scenes. Jamie McGahan is the Team Manager.
He has no shortage of experience having won the Rás in 1981 while the cycling talent is genetic as his niece Imogen Cotter has signed a professional contract with Plantur Pura.
The Product Sales and Distribution Manager with Fáilte Ireland believes McGahan’s experience of racing will prove useful when designing and adjusting tactics.
“He is quite renowned. We were looking for someone with experience. He’ll be helping us with racing and tactical advice. Cycling is a game of chess on wheels. You have to make sure the guys are watching moves and that they get their nutrition on board.”
Gary MacDonald (Team Mechanic/Logistics), Damien Roche (Team Driver), Brian Nevin (Team Comms) will also be helping out along the way while Enda Murray, Lisa Hogan, John Maloney, Alan Brigdale, Kevin Hanrahan, James Benson and Brendan Talty are part of the support crew.
The team have been sponsored by Crimmins Howard Solicitors, Monks Ballyvaughan, Pactimo Clothing, Jafco Construction, Cahill Taxation Services, Damien Gibbons Garage, and Challenge Cycling Club, who have supplied the Race Team Car.
“I have to give a special call out to Gearóid Howard who has invested in the team and has raced with the club. He has been extremely generous to us. The support from the local area has been great for us. James Flanagan from Jafco has been a great support.”
“Challenge CC offered us a team car which is a huge help to us. All our sponsors have helped us out a lot.”
So how important is the five days of racing for Burren CC?
“It’s very important. We have had a lot of good riders coming through. This provides a level of inspiration for those going from leisure to racing. All we want is for kids to enjoy cycling. We hope it continues to inspire the next generation to keep riding their bikes.”