When the An Post Rás pulls out of Dunboyne tomorrow for the first stage to Kilkenny, there will be an air of sadness about the race cavalcade.
The loss of Rás legend Seamus Kennedy to illness a couple of weeks ago will leave a void in this year’s 60th edition of the race and Irish cycling without one of it’s greatest characters.
Kennedy won the Rás in 1978, a Meath man riding for the Kerry team. He also took nine individual stages in a glittering career, including a hat-trick in 1972.
Tough as nails on the road, off the bike Kennedy was a gentleman always willing to offer advice to young riders or help in any way he could. One such rider is young Dubliner Philip Lavery, riding this year’s Rás for the British-based Node4 Giordana professional team. For Lavery, Kennedy started out as a hero and ended up as a friend. Last weekend, just three days after an emotional funeral service, Lavery took arguably the biggest win of his career at the Shay Elliott Memorial in Bray. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he crossed the line and dedicated his victory to his mentor.
Although he is no longer with the Rás, Seamus Kennedy’s spirit will live on in Lavery and other Irish youngsters as they take on riders from Germany, France, Denmark, Holland, Norway, New Zealand, the Czech Republic and even Taiwan
Stage one of the An Post Rás gets underway at 12.30pm in Dunboyne tomorrow and heads to Kilkenny where it’s expected to finish around 3.30pm on Patrick Street.
Meanwhile, Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) took his third stage win of this year’s Giro d’Italia in Cervere yesterday. Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) retains the leader’s pink jersey.
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