At 42, Eugene Moriarty could surely think of more enjoyable ways to spend a week’s holidays than haring around the country’s highways and byways in the An Post Rás.
The Listowel man will pin on race numbers for the 19th time this weekend when the race rolls out of Dublin Castle and concludes eight days later in Skerries.
Working in the Netherlands, the former Irish international only gets home a couple of times a year. Christmas and weddings can be hit or miss but the last week in May is booked off six months in advance.
“It still excites me after all these years, on a number of levels,” he says. “It’s something I grew up around and it’s very much a family thing. I started off being a helper in the Kerry team when I was 10 when my father managed teams back in the 70s. It’s always been a huge thing in our house and when it came to riding it I couldn’t do it quickly enough. I was often faced with difficult decisions not to ride it because I was doing exams or if I was injured but I’m lucky to have ridden it so many times.”
Archive photos show Moriarty contesting some epic bunch sprints against riders who later went on to forge great careers and win the world’s biggest races.
“In my better years I was always on the Irish teams and it was great to win the international team and individual prize a couple of times at the Rás. But racing with my own domestic teams has been just as fulfilling. Being able to stand on the podium with teammates, friends and colleagues I grew up with, that’s what the Rás is for me — that personal connection. Living abroad makes it even more valuable as I only get home a couple of times a year and seeing the familiar faces is fantastic.”
He’s never won a stage and at 42, it’s extremely unlikely that’ll change. But he’ll never give up hope. “It does grate with me. There were numerous occasions when I was so close and it didn’t happen for one reason or another. I was second in a sprint outside the GPO in 2000 when I was boxed in coming to the line and though my teammate won, it was a great chance for me. I often think ‘wouldn’t that have been great’ but it kills me thinking of it! But I’ve been on Rás-winning international and county teams and I wore the mountains jersey as well.”
The race has changed in recent years with more of an international spread and arguably, a higher level of talent. Some argue it’s left the full-time working man with little to fight for. Moriarty has a readymade answer for that.
“Over time, the greater foreign influence has eroded a certain aspect of the Rás. Before, the level of attacking that went on was bonkers because guys hadn’t as much of a fear of using up too much energy. Now, people like myself anyway are a bit more cautious with how they use their energy in the Rás.
“Having said that, I’ve no fear of it. The day we start worrying is the day we are finished.
“You’ll always want to be in better shape or stronger and at 42 years of age it’s just a fact of life for me that I cannot race like I used to. You hit a certain point where that’s beyond you but I think it’s still possible to race the Rás, as opposed to just hanging on. Okay, you won’t be able to race it every day like guys 15 years younger than you, you’ve got to be a bit more clever but we can still make a difference.
“The racing has changed; it’s considerably faster, it’s a bit more technical, teams have gotten smaller. But if we prepare properly, experience has taught me how we can still get opportunities.”
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