'Without the Rás we’re now the biggest stage race in the country'

The Kerry Group Rás Mumhan 4-Day cycle race gets underway on the roads of Kerry and Limerick this morning with an increased profile following the cancellation of this year’s Rás Tailteann.

With 155 elite riders, representing 31 teams from around Europe and beyond, there will be a strong international flavour to an event which includes 26 categorised climbs including the notorious Coom an Easpaig outside Portmagee on Sunday.

Race director Tadhg Moriarty says that the absence of the Rás this year means this weekend’s event is “now the biggest stage race in the country”.

The 2019 edition of the Rás was cancelled in March as organisers were unable to raise the €300,000 required to run the eight-day event.

Rás Mumhan is in a healthier state, according to Moriarty and he says that thanks to local support, the race is as strong as ever.

Moriarty said: “It’s a tough time for sponsorship, but thankfully we have the full backing of Kerry Group which has made this event happen every year. The Kerry Group name is synonymous with sport in Kerry and their support is a big statement.

The foreign teams boost the profile of the event and also make the racing that bit harder. It forces the local riders to up their game.

"Conor Hennebry is coming back as the hot favourite this year but other local guys like Richard Maes and Páidí O’ Brien have also gone very well here in the past. Conor Kissane will be a young rider to watch also.”

Waterford man Hennebry enjoyed the perfect preparation for his defence of Rás Mumhan last weekend as he retained his lead in the Cycling Ireland National Road Series at the Donal Crowley Memorial Road Race in Blarney.

The race was won by his Dan Morrissey-MIG.ie-Pactimo teammate Sean Hahessy who was fastest over the 127km course.

Hahessy is expecting another huge battle with Hennerby this weekend: “We’re going well at the moment, Conor and I know each other inside out; we work together and we train together, so that’s a bonus.

“This weekend all eyes will be on Conor as he tries to win Rás Mumhan for the second year.

“That’s kind of easier for me because Conor is so heavily marked I get away with a lot of things but that might change soon though.”

Stage 1 will roll-out from Killorglin this afternoon (2.50pm) heading for Sliabh Luachra and finishing back in Killorglin at around 5pm.

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