Two full-time working men finished in the top 30 at the An Post Rás last Sunday and not a single full-time cyclist finished in the bottom 30.
Almost 50 men were two hours (or more) down on overall winner Clemens Fankheuser and of the eight stage winners, just one was an amateur.
A whopping 11 riders were booted out because they were outside the time limit which is 20% of the stage winner’s time. This year, riders were eliminated on four of the eight stages; the highest ever. Some argue this is part and parcel of the Rás, while more believe it’s a step too far for an event traditionally known as the working man’s race.
One of those who missed the time cut was Aidan Crowley, the nationals masters M40 champion who was aiming to complete his 19th Rás this year.
The Corkman reckons the race needs to change — and quickly.
“I love the race but it needs to evaluate what it is and take stock. It needs to work out if it wants Irish riders or not, or else the foreign riders will just be the bunch from now and the Irish will take the week off and go to the Canaries on holidays instead. The Rás was the Irish working man’s race, or at least that’s what I saw from the age of 10 and made me aspire to enter it 19 times.
“It was a race where a number of foreigners came over and we competed against them in a race full of history. If you won a stage you were a God but now it’s a race where if you don’t train 15-20 hours per week as an amateur, you shouldn’t consider it as all the odds are against you. The route is probably not favourable, the foreign commaissaires (cycling referees) are watching for any sign of assistance on the road, turning their attention to the Irish more than those with foreign names.”
One rider who disagrees with that assessment is Ian Richardson who was the best-placed Irish rider in the last two runnings of the event.
“It boils down to how much time and the quality of the training you’re getting,” he said. “The best guys aren’t that much better than the best Irish guys. Okay, they were a couple of minutes ahead but the majority of the pros in the Rás are probably on par with the best domestic guys. Some are even a little worse. It really comes down to the individual. Commitment and time are key but it’s definitely possible and we proved that. The county riders are definitely capable of riding the Rás well and competing for stages. It’s not impossible. It’s not easy and between November and December I was doing 90-100 hours a month.
“I started work full-time in January and I was doing 90 hours then as well. Even with a job I was doing as much training as someone with a full-time schedule.”
Fellow Dubliner Eoin Morton is inclined to agree. He became the first full-time working man to win a stage since Paul Healion in 2009 last Monday week.
“I’m perfectly capable of challenging guys who are riding their bikes full time — and there’s a good few of us (in Ireland) who showed that during the week.
“Cycling at this level isn’t a sport, it’s a lifestyle. I don’t drink, I watch everything I eat; my diet is as strict as it possibly gets. Because we have jobs we have to look after ourselves a little bit more, making sure our vitamins and minerals all there every day, making sure not to get sick and then you’re trying to balance training.
“I start training for the Rás in November every year and the hours in the winter are huge. You’re out in hail, rain or snow with the lights on in the Wicklow mountains, getting home at 8 in the evening. You have to do that if you want to compete, there’s no magic formula.”
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