With just over a week left to the start of the Rás Tailteann, the Irish national team for the race has been unveiled.
Robert Jon McCarthy, Darnell Moore, Marc Potts, Jake Gray and James Curry will don green in the UCI-ranked international event, working together to try to secure the best possible result for Ireland.
McCarthy is a strong sprinter who won the Australian junior national championship ahead of Caleb Ewan in 2012. Two years later, he won the opening stage of the Rás, but the following year he lost motivation and took a long break from cycling in 2015.
He returned to the sport in 2017 and also reverted to Irish nationality, having raced for Australia for several years. McCarthy has shown good form since his return, although it too him time to get back up to full speed. He finished sixth, seventh and eighth on stages in last year’s Rás. This year he was second in the prologue of the Istarsko Proljece - Istrian Spring Trophy in March and was fifth earlier this month on a stage of the prestigious Tour de Yorkshire.
Moore won the Shay Elliott Memorial last year and became national hill climb champion, then this January won the Irish cyclocross championships.
Potts finished seventh in last year’s national road race championships. He was also fourth in the scratch race at the European track championships, and fifth in the same event in the track World Cup in Poland. Last month he helped Mark Downey to fourth in the Commonwealth Games road race, and placed a solid 28th.
Former Irish junior road race champion Gray was sixth overall in this year’s Victus Tour of Ulster, while Curry
dominated last month’s Mid-Ulster GP.
National performance coach Neill Delahaye describes the team as a mixture of youth and experience, while also acknowledging that McCarthy, the most experienced, is still just 24 years of age. “He is capable of stage wins and a strong overall performance,” he says. “This will also be his first cap for Ireland, after years of racing for Australia.
“Some of the younger guys don’t yet have experience in the Rás but do in other races. We probably won’t start off with a protected rider, as such. There are some riders who we expect to do very well on the terrain the race offers, and we have some fast finishers.
“With Marc Potts, we have someone who is seeking Olympic qualification on the track and this will be an important block of racing for him to build his condition. He also has a significant engine, which will be very useful at the end of hard stages.
“Neil Martin will manage the team and he will deliver the strategy before the race. We are going to be on the hunt for stage wins and, as the race unfolds, we are going to be mindful of the GC.”
Rás Tailteann race director Eimear Dignam has already welcomed international teams from the USA, Belgium, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales. She is looking forward to seeing how the Irish national team fares alongside those squads.
“The team looks very promising and will be keen to leave its mark,” she says. “Robert Jon McCarthy has already taken a stage and has the ability to do so again; the other riders will also play a big part in shaping the race, and in chasing success for the Irish contingent in the Rás.”
This year’s Rás Tailteann totals eight days and 1168.7 kilometres in length, and is ranked as a 2.2 event on the UCI’s international calendar. It will feature four gruelling category one climbs plus 30 other categorized climbs, as well as stage finishes in Athlone, Tipperary, Listowel, Glengarriff, Mitchelstown, Carlow, Naas and Skerries. It will run from this Sunday, May 20, to May 27.
Previously known as the An Post Rás, the event is searching for a new title sponsor. The race recently announced an initiative with cycling clothing manufacturer Spin 11, whereby a commemorative cycling kit is being produced and will help secure the future of the race.
The jersey and gillet feature the names of the Rás champions dating back to the first event in 1953. Proceeds will contribute to the running of the event.
For more details and to order, go to the www.rasireland.ie website.
Rás Tailteann 2018:
Stage 1, Sunday May 20: Drogheda to Athlone, 136 kms:
Stage 2, Monday May 21: Athlone to Tipperary, 148.7 kms:
Stage 3, Tuesday May 22: Tipperary to Listowel, 140.4 kms:
Stage 4, Wednesday May 23: Listowel to Glengarriff, 153 kms:
Stage 5, Thursday May 24: Glengarriff to Mitchelstown, 150.2 kms:
Stage 6, Friday May 25: Mitchelstown to Carlow, 154.6 kms:
Stage 7, Saturday May 26: Carlow to Naas, 141.2 kms:
Stage 8, Sunday May 27: Naas to Skerries, 144.6 kms:
Total: 1180.5 kms