THE North Clare economy will get a “huge boost” later this year after Lisdoonvarna was selected as one of the stage ends in this year’s An Post Rás.
On Wednesday, it was revealed the 2014 of the race will travel anti-clockwise around Ireland, beginning in Dunboyne on Sunday, May 18 and featuring stage end finishes in Roscommon, Lisdoonvarna, Charleville, Cahirciveen, Clonakilty, Carrick-on-Suir, Baltinglass and Skerries.
Billy Archbold was Rás stage-end organiser when it last stopped in the North Clare town back in 2008. He will be involved again this year. “This is a huge boost. It kick starts the the tourist season. So many people know Lisdoonvarna for the matchmaking festival, which is world-renowned but there are 11 other months of the year and there needs to be something else. There is a huge spin off publicity-wise in terms of radio, press and television coverage as a result of the Rás,” he said.
Mr Archbold expects between 400 and 500 people, including riders, backroom teams and supporters, to stay overnight in Lisdoonvarna on the night of May 19.
“Obviously it will be a great boost for local businesses and it brings a lot of people to the town but the stage end comes at a cost and we have to try to recoup that from local accommodation providers and the beneficiaries of the race, as well as doing some fundraising,” he explained.
Eight stages, comprising over 1,260 kilometres and 36 categorised climbs, were launched in the GPO on Wednesday.
Race organiser, Tony Campbell believes a good balance has been struck and that one group of riders will not be favoured over another.
“I wouldn’t say it is a pure climber’s race,” he states. “There are climbs but there are also a lot of fast roads where plenty of aggressive racing will be done. I think it is more or less one for a good, hard strong rider, a guy who can push up over the hills and who is also good when the speed is on. I think it’s an An Post Rás for the strong all-rounder.”
“In some ways, it is similar to last year’s route. The first two stages are mainly flat, although day two has a category one climb near the finish. The speed will really be on during those stages and I think the effects of that will tell on the third and fourth day when riders start to get worn out.”
The race gets underway on May 18 in Dunboyne with the stage ending in Roscommon. On May 19, riders will cycle to Lisdoonvarna before leaving the North Clare town on stage three the following day.
Passing through Newbridge, Moylough, Athenry, Kinvara and Ballyvaughan, stage two is just short of 160km. The ride involves a category three climb at Ballinalacken, with a category one mountain climb at Doonagore.
“Day two is another fast day but there is also a hard climb, the category one Doonagore,” said Mr Campbell. “It is about eight kilometres from the finish and there will be hard chase to the finish line. That climb will do a bit of damage.
“Before that, though, it will be tough going around the Burren. As you go from Ballyvaughan, you are into hard roads. The riders will slog through that and eventually reach Donnagore. It’s the first category one climb in the race, so things could well break up there.
“In the past, riders have come in twos and threes from that section, with a big group of guys finishing further back. So it could be pretty broken up in Lisdoonvarna,” he added.
The next 154.2kms of action will take riders from Lisdoonvarna to Charleville, through Corofin, Ennis, Newmarket-on-Fergus and Sixmilebridge, as well as Newport, Boher, Caherconlish, Hospital, Knocklong, Elton and Kilmallock.
“It will be a fast stage the whole way, including the run in to the finish,” predicted Mr Campbell. “In the middle of the stage, we are taking a detour around Limerick on a twisty, undulating road. Then from Newport to the finish, it is pretty flat. Some will expect a sprint but it’s also possible for a small group to slip away.
Because of the route through Clare this year, Mr Archbold believes the Rás will encourage more people to take up the sport in the county.
“Because cyclists will be coming from New Quay and Ballyvaughan into Lisdoonvarna before going down to Corofin, Ennis, Sixmilebridge and Clonlara, the route is cutting diagonally across the county. This means everyone will get a chance to see it and to see top riders in action. The Rás is on the international cycle calendar, so for some international teams, it is a must to compete in it,” he concluded.
The race finishes on Sunday, May 25 in Skerries.