No sooner had it arrived, it was gone again. At the end of a mammoth 24 hours, the 2017 An Post Ras took off for the final stage of the eight day event on Sunday afternoon – and the riders were seen off by a big crowd in Ardee.
Unlike Saturday, the locals in Ardee were given the chance to come out and support the Ras while basking in some glorious weather. It was something that made a welcome change from yesterday’s downpour.
Of the 193 that started the race last Saturday, 171 began Stage 8 in Ardee. The crowds who made their way out to Bridge Street and Castle Street were in fine voice as they wished the competitors off – but it was blink and you’l miss it stuff. The riders took off from outside Wheels and Heels on Castle Street at 12.31pm exactly.
They quickly turned off onto the Kells Road where they headed off to Drumconrath, Nobber, Navan and Bellewstown en route to the final finish end in Skerries were the riders are estimated to arrive at 3pm. By the time they completed today’s 129km leg, the riders will have completed 1,200km since starting in Dublin Castle last Saturday.
All of the team’s taking part made their way back to Ardee this morning in much improved weather conditions as the riders signed on at Ardee Parish Centre, where a hive of activity for several hours before the cyclists made their way down to the start line.
Teams including yesterday’s big winners Delta Cycling, Team Wiggins, An Post Chain Reaction and Louth’s own Cuchulainn Cycling Team all spent time getting set up which allowed lost of team for fans, racing enthusiasts and locals to come, walk around and have a look at the very best cycling equipment money can buy.
Led by Fiona Reilly, Ardee Concert Band marched to the Parish Centre and added their unique musical accompaniment before marching to the start line on Castle Street with the riders following behind.
Speaking to ThisIsArdee.ie on Sunday, Stage 7 finish co-ordinator Eamon Martin said he was delighted that Ardee was given the opportunity to host the stage finish. “It’s fantastic that we were able to bring the event to the town. A lot of work went into it from members of the club here in Ardee and Tony Campbell too – and it’s just great that it went off well.”
Although rain hampered the potential crowd numbers on Saturday for the stage finish, Martin said it was heartening to see so many people come out on Sunday to experience the action.” Obviously, the rain didn’t help us much at all yesterday but there’s nothing we could do about that,” he said. “We didn’t let it take away from event itself which is massive and we feel it helped put Ardee on the map. There’s cyclists here from all over the world, all racing to a very high standard. To have that in Ardee is great.”
Ardee Cycling Club chairman Martin paid tribute to members of the club who have put a lot of work into the planning and preparation for the Ras – with club members out in their numbers working as marshals and stewards on both days. He also thanked Inspector Paul Kiernan and the officers of the An Garda Siochana for their assistance throughout and local councillor Dolores Minogue also.
Starting the day, Britain’s James Gullen (JLT Condor) was the man with the yellow jersey, holding a 1min 05sec lead over his nearest challenger Ike Groen.