PAUL GRIFFIN wants to fulfil one of his lifetime ambitions by winning the Kerry Group Rás Mumhan at the weekend but he is fully aware of the tough task ahead of him.
The tough Tralee man has won the green jersey and the KOM jersey in the Munster showpiece, but the yellow jersey has eluded him.
He led going into the final stage back in 2005 but became embroiled in a ferocious cat-and-mouse game with fellow Kerry man, Eugene Moriarty, and the pair could only watch in despair when John Dempsey (Dan Morrissey Carrick Wheelers) got the jump on them on the final circuit stage and went on to win.
Griffin had to be content with third that day, he was second to Brian Kenneally in 2007 and finished third again last year.
But his early season training has been geared towards this year’s edition of the race. He was second to Brian Kenneally — his room mate when they both rode on the Continent with ACBB — in the Des Hanlon Memorial last Sunday week and he won the Silver Pail Grand Prix in Fermoy last weekend, when young Sam Bennett from Carrick put it up to him. Bennett had been fifth in the Des Hanlon in Carlow the previous week which was a remarkable performance for an 18-year-old.
“I had hoped to become the first rider to win the Des Hanlon three times but Brian Kenneally was the man on the day,” Griffin said. “He will be the favourite for Rás Mumhan as well but I hope to put it up to him.”
Griffin is back home after five years in Asia where he won a lot of stages in the various races as well as a number of KOM titles.
“The mountains over there suited me a lot,” he said. “I am slightly built and the weather was hot so I enjoyed those long climbs.”
That’s why this year’s Rás Mumhan should suit him, with the Conor Pass back on the route and a variety of climbs awaiting the peloton around South Kerry.
“The first stage is always the most stressful,” he admitted. “It is just 45 miles long and relatively flat but everyone is fresh and if eight or 10 get away they can end up getting a two minute-advantage and you can be sure there will be one or two of the favourites in that group. You are left chasing them for the next three days. But you can never know what is going to happen. In 2007 when myself and Brian Kenneally were head and shoulders above everybody else Paddy Moriarty clipped away on the last stage and was the raceleader on the road. We had to pull out all the stops to peg him back. That’s what makes cycling such an exciting sport.”
Like many more riders, he will be using this race as part of his preparation for next month’s FBD Insurance Rás when he will be back in the Kerry jersey for the first time since 2004 when they won the county team prize.
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