After a four-year hiatus, Ireland’s premier cycle race, the Rás Tailteann, is back on the road next month with a new date, a new format and an all-new management team.
After the end of a previous sponsorship deal and the introduction of Covid restrictions that together left a huge void on the domestic racing calendar in 2019, this year’s Rás is going back to basics, cutting the race’s duration from eight days to five and taking it off the road international UCI calendar and renaming the event Rás Tailteann.
“After 2019 some of us met with (the previous race organisers) Eimear and Cumann Rás Tailteann’s Dermot Dignam to see if we could get it working again,” says Drogheda’s new race director Gerard Campbell. “We all wanted to see it back on the road but we didn’t want to offend anyone as they had done such a fantastic job of keeping the race alive over the years and making it a globally recognized and hugely popular event. “
With the blessing of the Dignams, a new promotion group was formed to run the race. Cáirde Rás Tailteann consists of Rás stars Campbell, Colm Rigley, Pat Shaughnessy, former President of Cycling Ireland Ciarán McKenna, former international Eugene Moriarty and well-known businessman and stage organizer Seamus Domegan.
“While the previous organizers would have liked to see it back on the calendar as a UCI 2.2 ranked race, we don’t have the financial means to do so right now, but we may do so in the future,” says Campbell. “Right now though, we just want to get it back on the road and with their blessing we are doing so. They really encouraged us and gave us all the equipment that was part of the race, so we really owe them a debt of gratitude.”
Not being listed on the UCI international calendar reduces the financial cost of the race and also means fewer professional teams will be taking part in the event this year, but the scramble for places at the race has been as frenetic as ever with the fast Registration deadline approaching.
“The closing date is May 16, but we close before that if we’re full,” says Campbell. “The maximum number of riders allowed is 176, so we have a maximum of 35 teams of five, giving us a group of 175 riders.”
“We could fill the race with pros and we wouldn’t care if it was good, bad or indifferent, but we didn’t actively look for pro teams. In fact, the opposite happened and we turned many of them away.
“At the moment we have confirmed nine visiting teams and there will be an Ireland national team. We expect EvoPro (the only Irish continental pro team) to take part, which will also add to the international element of the race, and there will be another continental UCI team coming. That leaves room for 24 district teams. At this point, 18 of them are registered and I hope to have four more confirmed by the weekend, leaving us with 33 teams and room for just two more. Strong teams are coming. Just because they aren’t UCI professional teams doesn’t mean they will be weaker.”
Relaxing a rule that doesn’t allow third-category riders to race on the Rás is also a move that helped Ireland’s county teams this year, Campbell said.
“Riders in the third category were allowed to drive it until 2013, when the organizers at the time decided that they were not allowed to drive. There have been no third category riders in the last five editions of the race but we just felt we had to allow the clubs to fill their spots. There will be a maximum of two A3 drivers in each team and there will be a small total prize for the category. When we opened the entries, we had no idea what kind of response we would get.
“Both the Tour of Ulster and the Tour of the North had to be canceled this year due to low entries so the last thing we wanted was to be working on this race for the last two and a half years and not getting the buy-in from the riders. But luckily it looks like there will be four or five more county teams this year than the last edition of the race.”
Although the race has great support and funding from Cycling Ireland and the organizers have sponsors for each of the classification jerseys, which have yet to be announced, the race is still without a title sponsor, although Campbell hopes this will change soon.
“We don’t have a title sponsor yet, but we’re really hoping for a title sponsor for 2023. Obviously they’ll probably want to wait and see how this edition goes, which perhaps makes it more important to have a successful event. While I already have 2023 in mind, right now my focus is just getting the show on the road in six weeks. The race is already spreading and I think it will be great.”
Stage 1, Wednesday 15 June: Dublin to Horse and Jockey (140.1 km)
Stage 2, Thursday June 16th: Horse and Jockey – Castleisland (154.8 km)
Stage 3, Friday 17 June: Castleisland to Lisdoonvarna (173.8 km)
Stage 4, Saturday 18 June: Lisdoonvarna to Kilbeggan (154.1 km)
Stage 5, Sunday 19 June: Kinnegad to Blackrock (135.3 km)
https://www.independent.ie/sport/other-sports/cycling/icycle/there-is-a-real-buzz-building-up-about-the-race-ras-tailteann-ready-to-get-back-on-the-road-41615473.html “It’s really fun to race” – Rás Tailteann is ready to get back on the road