Scanning the final results from the overall general classification at the An Post Rás which climaxed on Sunday you’d be forgiven for thinking the days of county riders competing in Ireland’s most storied race was at an end, but route director Stephen O’Sullivan refutes such a suggestion.
More than 170 riders started the race but just 145 made it to the finish, with the county riders largely propping up the bottom half of the results sheet, losing anything from one to four hours by the end.
Is it time to limit their inclusion, such is the dominance of the professional teams? Not a chance.
“If you train enough and you’re fit, you’ll be able to get around,” believes O’Sullivan, who was competing in the race for the 19th time. “Guys that don’t train and think they’ll get around it [won’t finish], you have to train, I know people are saying the race is too hard but Eugene Moriarty proved [on Sunday] with seventh on the stage, Robin Kelly as well [in the day’s breakaway].
“You don’t want to be riding an easy race, you want to ride a race and be deserving of it at a high level. Some of the guys who’ve ridden it have gone on to be stars of world cycling, never mind the level they’re at now. Some Irish riders don’t prepare properly and think they can get around. You have to commit, but it’s not beyond the abilities of domestic guys.”
O’Sullivan, who rode for the DID Electrical Meath team, cited the Mayo team as a case in point, four of whom are rookies.
“Take them for example, you have to take your hat off to them, they’ve prepared themselves exceptionally well. This the first year four of them have raced the Rás, and all five finished the race. They proved you can go from riding bikes for pleasure to riding the Rás if you train hard enough.”
Though the race was littered with crashes, O’Sullivan, who was forced to abandon following a spill, said the feedback was still positive. Crashes are just part of the game, he insisted.
“Most of the crashes happened at the start of the week. There’s a lot of domestic guys new to the sport and the thing is with those guys, there’s no fear factor, they haven’t fallen before. They’re fit enough and strong enough to get up into positions but diving through gaps that don’t exist [causes crashes].”
Though their riders suffered the worst of the injuries, with Dan Craven and Richard Tanguy forced to abandon, the British teams were still “delighted” with the race.
“I was speaking with John Herety [Rapha Condor team manager] and he was delighted with it. He brought over a young team and with the weather and everything he said it was the best race and the best preparation he could get for his riders.”
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