My own personal feeling – and this has been the same for the last number of years, is that the Rás has changed and continues to change, so much.
It’s changed to the extent where an Irish-based rider would really want to break down why he wants to enter a race where the typical cost to enter a team is between €7,000 to €10,000, if you are to do it right.
That aside, ask anyone in the race and they’ll tell you what the Rás is. They will tell you it is pure savagery.
For example, leaving Sneem last week, within two kilometres of the start we were doing 58kph on the right-hand side of the road, lined out.
We were running out of sprockets with pros attacking the life out of it!
This year, there were a lot of Irish riders racing in their first Rás and from what I hear, it was a bucket-list exercise; they wanted one Rás medal and now they have it but they are not coming back.
This should be looked at from an organizational point of view, if Irish riders are important to the organisers?
This race is full of different levels, like any race, but the top part of the bunch has gotten larger and there is more depth to it.
It’s faster and it contains better trained full-time athletes, full of names I can’t pronounce or ever heard of.
Generally, they come from countries with many different colours on their national flag.
Most (Irish) guys are riding it for their first or second times and are never to be seen again . Why is this?
It’s fairly obvious to me and eventually these numbers will fall off as they get ridden out of the race.
There are very few Irish names and riders in that top section I mentioned.
But if you really look at it and break it down, there are 70-80 foreigners and at most, 10 Irish, with the other 70 Irish some way back, split over 20 kilometres, eating their handlebars and sitting on the tips of their saddles going as hard as they can and trying to make the time cut.
The majority of these Irish lads are very good, by the way, but I don’t think they are thinking of being ‘a man of the Rás’ that moment where they are on the brink of exploding.
The route was hard this year and it was very difficult for the working man with climbs and steep elevations to zap the legs early on.
Even the guys with the foreign names are suffering but us Irish will get it worse as we have just parked our lives to the side for a week to be part of this race.
The pros, meanwhile, go to a different country next week and do it again.
The Rás was the Irish working man’s race, or at least that’s what I saw from the age of 10 and made me aspire to enter it 19 times.
It’s a race where a number of foreigners came over and we competed against them.
It was a race full of national history and if you could win a stage you were a God.
Now it’s a race where if you don’t train 15-20 hours a week as an amateur, you should not consider it as all the odds are against you.
The route is probably not favourable, the foreign commissaires are watching for any sign of assistance on the road, turning their attention to the Irish more than those with foreign names (most of time).
They are stopping and waiting behind the ditch on their motorbikes or driving beside you and time eliminations are fairly easy because the broom wagon doesn’t even have a banana or a wheel that works.
So, while you may be breaking your ass riding at 38-40kph which would win most races in the country, the leading bunch is going 45, 50 or 55kph in front of you.
Saying all of this, I love the race, but in my opinion and it’s only my opinion, the race needs to evaluate, take stock and see its pros and cons.
It needs to work out if they want Irish riders or not, or else those fellows with foreign names and different coloured flags will just be the bunch from now on and the Irish cyclists will take the week off and go to the Canaries.
Other top domestic riders did not enter for a reason. It’s not run for profit and its doesn’t have 30 minute TV slots every night. It gets 60 seconds on the news, on a good day.
The race should at least favour its own.