Most people think that the FBD Insurance Ras is only an 8 day stage race . They are mistaken . The ‘on the bike ‘ section of The Ras takes 8 days , but the analysis afterwards takes at least another 7 to 14 days . This years edition was no exception .
The Ras finished in Skerries on Sunday . By 10 am on Monday morning the analysis had begun . Every rider and every spectator had a most times slightly and occasionally very different opinion . It was the toughest Ras in years , it was very controlled , it was blown apart , it all stayed together , The best rider won , them Rapha b******s messed up the race . Everyone has their very own slant on the race . It is a huge part of Irish cycling folklore and every racing cyclist wants to be a ‘Man of the Ras ‘
In the shop we are a local epicentre for Ras tales . Ray took a recovery day on the Monday after the race and didn’t venture near the shop but by 3 pm I was informed by someone who had seen him that ‘ I seen Ray earlier on , an’ he lookin’ like a lad back from Mogadishu ‘ . Now , what exactly a lad back from Mogadishu looks like I was not sure , and am still not sure exactly how my informant knows , but when Ray walked in on tuesday morning I got the idea . He picked up a stomach bug on the Saturday and had the sunken cheeked weather beaten look of a member of the French foreign legion .
Jan Kirsipuu made a big impression on the race . Not only did he win two stages and get placed on a few more but he also managed to come to prominence during the ‘night stages ‘ . The 4 time Tour de France stage winner and wearer of the Tdf Yellow jersey was spotted on the dance-floors of a few Irish nightclubs as he displayed how it’s done in Estonia . Whilst others were consuming copius amounts of 80/20 Protein /Carbo recovery drinks and going to bed by ten pm , he was demonstrating the benefits of Red Bull and Vodka at 3 am . Different strokes for different folks I guess . He also demonstrated an inhuman amount of bike control one day in the bunch when he was seen to lean back and adjust the barrel on the rear derailleur whilst riding along .
A very important part of long distance bike racing is the consumption of liquid to keep the riders hydrated . This , however means that very often a certain amount of excess liquid will have to be expelled during the stage . One option is to stop at some gate into a deserted field and relieve yourself in relative privacy .This will be followed , however , by a frantic chase back to the bunch . Another option is to go on the move which many Pro riders and a few County riders are able to do . This contortionist move does come with its perils . A certain Kerry rider began his procedure on a quiet stretch of road . It took a little longer than usual to relax himself into beginning to let it all flow and when he did get things moving he had to keep them moving , even when passing right by a family standing out at their front gate to watch an international cycle race go by . The family got to see more than they bargained for and the rider got a fine from the commissaries .
One Ras will give you the entitlement to be called a ‘Man of the Ras ‘ , but there are those who have ridden many more then one Ras . Ray has now done 13 but this is a good bit behind David Peelo (23) and Colm Bracken (22) . Ray was speaking to David during the race and asked if this was the last one . The reply came that it depended on his brother in law Colm . If he keeps going so will David . The record holder wants to keep his top spot .
Another real man of the ras is Colin Robinson . The Meath man set down the gauntlet for all county riders on the first day by winning the first and only Koh of the day . This ensured a visit to the podium at the stage end and the entitlement to wear the pink KOH leaders jersey for stage 2 . The manner in which he achieved this also earned him a few fans . He attacked with local rider John Dempsey approaching the KOH prime . The bunch behind were watching proceedings and could see Robinson leading out the sprint for the prime . As the actual line was around a corner many assumed that the former professional Dempsey had taken the points . However as the two were recaptured the delighted Robinson was seen to punch the air in delight and wear his satisfaction on his sleeve . Two days later he was behind Mick Lawless’s broom wagon and whilst being congratulated on his day 1 performance , he mentioned that it was a mixed blessing . He had not actually informed his employer that he was taking time off to ride The Ras and being highlighted on the six and nine pm evening news bulletins was not the ideal way to remain incognito .
Whilst there are many stories surrounding this years edition of The Ras one rider put every other including the overall winner into the background . When 18 year old Sam Bennett took the penultimate stage victory , in the process beating former world champions , former Tour de France stage winners and former Olympic medalists the huge talent that has been evident for a number of years now , was confirmed . He was consistent all week and finished just seconds behind overall county winner Brian Kenneally to place second in that competition . He was top ten on 4 other stages and showed maturity on the bike well beyond his years . The stage that Sam won saw the final 5 km covered at speeds averaging almost 60 kph . To hold position and not allow himself to be pushed around as happens in all bunch sprints was just as impressive as the huge surge of power that he displayed in the sprint itself .
But , the story does not end there . Late last year Sam’s mother Helen was diagnosed with cancer . Whilst she bravely endured very strong bouts of Chemo , Sam , his dad Michael and brother Scott were always there supporting her in her battle . Thankfully , Helen is now on the mend and what better way could Sam have helped boost her spirits than by pulling off such a huge win . The pictures of Sam and Helen and Michael embracing after the finish were truly moving . Sam dedicated the win to his mother and the unassuming Carrick teenager was universally acknowledged as a hugely popular winner .
This years race was very well covered online . Shane Stokes did a fantastic job as usual with the Live updates on www.irishcycling.com , and also on twitter , www.twitter.com/fbdras for the first time . Another first timer who really surpassed all expectations was David Quigley of comeragh cc . His live updates were hugely entertaining and gave a great feeling of life in the Ras cavalcade . He also posted daily video journals which really added to the sense of being there on the race itself . These can all be found on www.comeraghcc.com. RTE also made a 25 min programme about the race which will be available until june 15th here : http://www.rte.ie/player/#v=1048680
Dermot Dignam has been the race organiser for many years now and this is supposed to have been his last . He has been a huge contributor to cycling in Ireland and if it really is his last Ras all we can do is wish him well and to thank him and his family for all that they have done to enable so many of us mere mortals to become ‘ MEN OF THE RAS ‘ .