With the An Post Ras getting underway on Sunday, time is edging ever closer to the day that Ardee will host it’s historic Stage 7 finish of the famed international cycling competition. Now just eight days away, the cyclists will finish the penultimate day of racing on Ardee’s Market Street.
Then, the next day, they will take off from Castle Street on the final leg of the journey to Skerries as the leaders of the pack battle it out to be crowned An Post Ras champion 2017.
Riders will make the 167km journey from Donegal to Ardee next Saturday (May 27th) before leaving the town on the Sunday on the final leg of the trip, the 120kms from Ardee to Skerries. Dublin, Longford, Newport, Bundoran, Buncrana and Dungloe will also act as destinations for the 2017 edition.
Formerly known as Ras Tailteann, the race is entering it’s 65th year and will include Ardee on it’s route for the very first time. The annual eight day stage race is one of Ireland’s top sporting events, bringing world class sporting action with it across the country.
It is also known for bringing a significant economic boost to towns and villages nationwide and upon it’s arrival in Ardee next week, it is surely set to do the same here. Organisers are expecting up to 10,000 people in Ardee to watch the race finish.
An agreement was put in place back in August 2016 that Ardee would be included on the course route for 2017 but an announcement was held back until February as the race committee finalised the route and officially launched the event.
Speaking to ThisIsArdee.ie this week, stage finish co-ordinator Eamon Martin of Ardee Cycling Club said, “The Ras themselves are estimating that there’ll be 10,000 people in Ardee. Traffic restrictions will be in place between 2pm and 4pm but the roads won’t be closed until the race comes in at around 3pm.”
The cyclists will come from Carrickmacross, through the town roundabouts north of the town, down the link road, onto Castleguard and Hale Street before turning onto the Main Street for the final stretch.
“Traffic corps will be closing the roads in phases – bit by bit – as they come into the town. We’ll have marshals helping out the local Garda too. Inspector Paul Kiernan has been very good to us. The finish line is at the Ardee School of Music. Councillor Dolores Minogue will be there to say a few words and give out prizes to the local schools for an art competition we had,” Martin said.
“We’ll also be presenting crystal to the McGuill family from Dunleer. Noel McGuill was tragically killed in the Ras in Donegal in 1972. We’re inviting the family down to do a little presentation.”
Sadly, Ardee Cycling Club won’t be represented in the Ras this year as had been expected. Despite being named in the Cuchulainn Cycling Louth team for the event, Tomas McCabe has had to withdraw his entry in the Ras after picking up an injury last month.
“It’s a shame, with all the training he did,” Martin said of his Ardee Cycling Club team mates’ withdrawal. “There should be a great buzz around the town.”
On the Sunday, the Ardee Concert Band will accompany the riders from sign-on at Ardee Parish Centre to outside Wheels and Heels on Castle Street where the Ras will begin it’s final stage for 2017 at 12pm.
This year’s Rás covers 1,200 kilometres in total over eight stages in eight days with 21 categorised climbs, including two category one climbs – Mamore Gap and Glengesh Pass (both in Donegal). In 2015, the An Post Ras came to Drogheda when the penultimate stage ended in West Street before competitors set off for the final leg. That attracted crowds of around 20,000.
It was announced this week that An Post were ending their affiliation with Cycling Ireland and it’s major events – including the Ras. An Post cited significant financial challenges as they reason they were concluding their sponsorship link with the An Post Rás, the An Post Chain Reaction Cycling Team and An Post Rás na mBan.
“We built a great partnership with An Post since they came on board in 2011 with the event growing year on year,” Ras organiser Tony Campbell said. “They have worked tirelessly with us to develop the An Post Rás. This week we are welcoming 39 top teams from around the world to compete in the eight-day stage race bringing huge excitement and a significant economic boost to towns and villages along the route.”