The Kerry Group Rás Mumhan, one of the premier events on the Irish cycling calendar, will get underway today with 190 cyclists representing 37 teams taking to the start in Killorglin.
Now in its 34th edition, the prestigious four-day race will include elite teams from England and Holland to challenge the cream of Irish domestic cyclists.
One to watch for this weekend will be former race-winner Sean McKenna who will be riding in the colours of the Irish Development Team. He comes into the race as hot favourite having won the Des Hanlon Memorial in Carlow last weekend.
The Dubliner has made waves in the cycling world since his victory in the 2015 event. He represented Ireland in the 2017 World Championships in Norway where he made a strong mark in a world-class field and was recently snapped-up to ride professionally for Team Holdworth in Britain.
“I think winning Rás Mumhan was a huge step for my career. The race gets great publicity and rightly so — it’s a huge event. There aren’t many weekends in Ireland that you get to race against an international field in such a hard race.
“If you can win a race like this I think it does draw some attention from pro teams.”
Still just 24 years old, McKenna will lead a youthful Irish team which includes Conn McDunphy, Dermot Trulock, Conor McCann and Dillon Corkery.
“I’m actually looking forward to the role as leader. I was the young lad on the team a few years ago and Rás Mumhan was the first time I got to wear the Irish jersey in 2014 where I learned a lot about myself as a rider.”
McKenna has highlighted Sunday’s stage in Waterville as the key day of the race. “The most important day seems to be stage 3. It’s a savage hard day. Especially if the weather is bad, which it has been the last few years.”
Other riders to watch will be the 2014 race-winner Mark Dowling who will ride as part of the Leinster team. Sean Lacey and Matteo Cigala of the newly-formed Viner/Caremark/Pactimo team will also come into the race in-form having both already tasted victory this season.
The most likely competition to the Irish riders will come from Britain-based Rhino Velo team which will be led by 2014 Rás Tailteann stage winner Liam Holohan. The Dutch West Frisia team will also be on many people’s radars for the Easter weekend. The tough terrain posed by the event has historically favoured the Dutch riders, with Dennis Bakker claiming the overall victory in the 2012 event.
Stage 1 will roll-out for a 2.50pm start in Killorglin and finish at 4.45 in Killorglin also. Saturday’s stage 2 starts in Listowel at 11am and finishes in Athea at 1.45pm.
The ‘Queen’ stage of the race will be decided on Sunday in Waterville, leaving at 11.30am and finishing at around 3.45pm. The race will be decided in Killorglin on Monday morning where riders will go to the line at 10am with a finish expected at 12.30pm.
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