The route for the 2014 An Post Rás was announced today at Dublin’s GPO, revealing an aggressive course, comprising over 1260 kilometres and 36 categorised climbs in eight stages.
The race will travel anticlockwise around Ireland, beginning in Dunboyne on Sunday 18 May and featuring stage end finishes in Roscommon, Lisdoonvarna, Charleville, Cahirciveen, Clonakilty, Carrick on Suir, Baltinglass and Skerries.
The race profile strikes a balance between flat fast roads, undulating sections and tough climbs, with a total of five category one mountains and five category two ascents set to shake up the peloton.
Climbers will seek to make the most of stages such as Charleville to Cahirciveen on day four, which features no less than ten categorised ascent and the stage six summit finish on Seskin Hill in Carrick on Suir.
However, race organiser Tony Campbell believes a good balance has been struck and that one group of riders will not be favoured over another.
"The day around Cahirciveen is going to be a hard stage. It is over 180 kilometres that day and will be difficult" - Tony Campbell
“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.”
Campbell added that the fourth stage from Charleville in Cork into Cahirciveen, Co Kerry has the potential to really shake up the peloton.
“The day around Cahirciveen is going to be a hard stage. It is over 180 kilometres that day and will be difficult.
“The climb up Seskin Hill will also be important, but there will be plenty of opportunity throughout the eight days for attacks. The speed and the distance will tell - they will make things hard.”
Former An Post rider Ronan McLaughlin was on hand to launch this year’s route alongside fellow Irish riders Roger Aiken and Connor McConvey. McLaughlin, who came agonisingly close to winning a stage following a heroic solo ride into his hometown in Bundoran in 2012, is busy putting together a Donegal based outfit for this year’s race.
“I’m working on getting a Donegal team together for the An Post Rás, which has been a very exciting new challenge for me.
“The course looks to be set up to give every rider a chance, although I think it will be won or lost in the tough middle stages where the mountains will have a big say in the outcome.”
The race gets underway on Sunday 18 May with a stage guaranteed to result in very aggressive racing. Starting in Dunboyne, riders will battle it out for bonus seconds at the Post Office Primes and Hot Spot Sprints in Athboy, Coole, Edgeworthstown and Ballymahon, with things being further enlivened by the category three climb at Richmount.
The pace will ramp up further before the finish in Roscommon, where the riders will fight for the stage win and, once the time gaps and bonuses are calculated, the first yellow jersey will be awarded.
An Post Rás route 2014 - 18-25 May
Stage 1, Sunday 18: Dunboyne to Roscommon, 149.8 km
Stage 2, Monday 19: Roscommon to Lisdoonvarna, 159.2 km
Stage 3, Tuesday 20: Lisdoonvarna to Charleville, 154.2 km
Stage 4, Wednesday 21: Charleville to Cahirciveen, 183.6 km
Stage 5, Thursday 22: Cahirciveen to Clonakilty, 168.9 km
Stage 6, Friday 23: Clonakilty to Carrick on Suir, 167.9km
Stage 7, Saturday 24: Carrick on Suir to Baltinglass, 147.7km
Stage 8, Sunday 25: Newbridge to Skerries, 134.3 km