The 2012 An Post Rás is an annual eight day, stage race around Ireland. This year the race will take place from the 20 - 27 May, delivering the number one cycling event in Ireland. The open racing style of The Rás pits amateur riders from county teams against international teams, allowing the best Irish amateur riders to take up the challenge and race against the professionals.
The Rás has a worldwide reputation of being one of the more challenging tours in the elite international calendar. This is the second year An Post is sponsor of the celebrated Rás Tailteann. The 2012 An Post Rás marks the 60th edition of the race.
The Emphasis applied to a statement is everything; it is a direct view to the inner most feelings of the owner.
“You’re riding the Ras?” Simple question
“YOU’RE riding the Ras!” – Un nerving clarification
“You! riding THE RAS”- Sheer Disbelief
I have received all of these over the past few months since I decided to return to our national stage race. Its not like I don’t ask myself the same question every time I struggle the 3-mile climb home. The house was bought in a younger, lighter, fitter time; when the climb was a selling point to the house, like underfloor heating- an en suite level 3 session. But Yes, I am riding it.
The ‘Why’ I'm riding the An Post Ras is a more difficult question, again asked with leading levels of scepticism.
Level 1 “Are you riding the RAS?”
Level 2 “Are you still thinking of riding the RAS?”
Level 3 “You’re not still thinking of riding the RAS …are you!?”
Level 4 “The Ras, REALLY? YOU?!”
The WHY is a personal thing for every single soul riding it, mine is a collection of various reasons, excuses and dreams that add up to a rubbish 2nd Cat having only two beers instead of five at Christmas and forgetting my younger son's name.
In my youth, Ras participation was natural progression. Junior Tour, turn senior, few Easter stage races then you go to watch the start and see one rider you race against standing nervously on the line, “Well if he can do it…” 12 months later you’re in an unending line out, driven by the T-mobile squad and not some mutton first cat. He just happens to be three bikes in front of you swinging his elbows like a sparrow with Parkinsons.
And therein is the joy of it and congratulations to Mr Diegnam for keeping it so. Letting the county riders mix it with the pros. The Ras Tailteann still lets a weekend warrior raise his game to ride with young rising stars and a few old bitter ones. It lets Irish cyclists play at being a professional for a week, all of them. The best can mix it with the national and continental level teams, the worst (inc. me) have the distance to the first cat 1 climb each day, engraved on their left thigh and no amount of carbon rim bling can disguise the fact that they have jobs and a power ratio below 5.5 Watts/kilo.
I have ridden the “Old Ras”, a more relaxed affair with lots of beer for officials and some riders. Teams had one car and shorts were washed in the sink in the B+B. I have ridden the new Ras; the now, the current and more professional Ras. This began around 2001 when the first working wheels, with absolutely nothing wrong with them were put in neutral service. Regardless, of the year, the essence, the ‘why’ is the same; letting a rider, or variable abilities push himself to the max.
We county riders ride with out a fleeting thought to success, we ride for personal goals and war stories. In My second Ras, 12 years ago I knew I could finish well in the bunch and developed this fantasy of winning a stage. But the ability level between me and stage winners was so massive that my fantasy had to have a touch of reality, So in my stage victory dream, I had been just dropped in the last Km (Very plausible) and then, either the bunch was sent the wrong way or had the mother of all pile ups which I missed and crossed the line arm punching the air. Now my fantasy has evolved with age and still linked to reality involves me just finishing. Just hanging with the thinner lads with a tan for most of the day, wearing out my 12 and my 25 sprocket and throwing my front wheel at the finish line in Skerries next Sunday with a big smile.
We county riders ride because we want to. I'm riding in the knowledge that being 40 isn’t just all in the head. I'm riding because I packed in 2007 and can’t leave defeated. And I'm riding because I love riding my bike and if you are offered a chance to do it for 4 hours a day and get someone else to wash your bike, you take it. We ride because we just can. I hit the targets I presented myself so as it wouldn’t be an embarrassment. On Sunday I ride. I wouldn’t call it racing but you get to watch the racing close up.
Racing permitting Myles will be filling us in on his progress through the week.