Rás Stories

Men Of The Rás In The Tour de France 2013
Jul 14, 2013, 20:57

John Dempsey
All of us in Ireland know that the Rás is by far the most important race in the world and everything else is a mere warm up to it or a cool down afterwards. Some ex riders of the race may insist that the lap of France that is happening at the moment is a little bit more important

All joking aside the Rás has always being a proving ground for some of the world’s best amateur riders and it’s a buzz for the county riders to be sitting at home on the sofa watching these guys in the tour and turning to the missus for the 100th time and saying to her “did I tell you about the time I bet him in the sprint for 50th coming into Scarriff in 08??” 

So which of this year’s tour men learned there trade racing around Ireland in a May gone by?

By far the two most well know are Tony Martin who won the race in 2007 and Mark Cavendish who rode for the British national under 23 team in 2004.

Paudi O’Brien can always count himself a bit unlucky that he came up against Tony Martin in 2007, Paudi seemed to be the most consistent rider in the race but came away with 3 second places in stages and second overall. Martin had a quiet first day and finished in the bunch on day two he made the front group but lost out to the motor bike that is Brian Keneally in the finish. On day 3 is was another pro tour rider Dominique Rollin that gave Paudi his second, second place finish in 3 days in a bunch sprint. Day 4 finished in another bunch sprint with Tony Martin finishing comfortably mid pack and staying within striking distance of the jersey. On day 5 in Donegal Paudi finished second yet again but Martin finished with another former winner Chris Newton only 42 seconds down to go into yellow by 17 seconds. Paudi and the race organisation actually thought that he had gone into yellow until it was realised that Martin had also made one of the front groups. Paudi told me that when he was waiting for the podium presentation he was shown the yellow jersey that had the Murphy & Gunn transfer of our team on it; it was printed up in error as Martin had being initially confused with a teammate. Talk about literally coming close to the yellow jersey. That’s how the GC remained for the next 3 stages as Martin ran out a winner of what has since being described as one of the hardest rás’s in the last decade.

Tont Martin Thuringer Energie Germany

Cavendish lined out in a British under 23 national team that included now 4 time Irish national champion Matt Brammier, Evan Oilphant, double Olympic champion Ed Clancy and Graham Briggs, a team stacked with future pros. Cavendish did not impress the way his current teammate Tony Martin did but he capped the week by finishing 4th on the final stage a 30 mile dead flat crit in the phoenix park, ideally suited to his talents especially then as he was carrying a few extra pounds. He finished the race 77th overall at 53 min and 8 seconds behind David McCann and only 11 seconds ahead of my current teammate John O’Shea. That British team did not set the race alight but it shows the importance of national federations sending teams to these races and nurturing the talents they have

Malcom Elliott Takes The Final Stage With Paul Healion On Right Cavendish Further Back

Laurent Didier of the Radioshack team was a rider who became a man of the Rás in 2009 the year Simon Richardson won for Rapha. That year’s race was marked by Rapha crushing the life out of the race once they had yellow and number of bunch sprints followed. Didier finished the race in 20th overall riding for the impressive Danish team Designa Kokken. I remember him from the race as it was known beforehand that he was off to the pro tour the following year so I was keen to see what a pro tour rider in waiting looked like. He was not that impressive to be honest but I suppose he had his contract in his bag and it’s hard to be fired up for every 2.2 you ride if you’re riding a race like that twice a month. He did manage 7th on a stage to Cahirciveen which I would have not being too disappointed with. He is after carving out a nice career for himself so far, being from Luxembourg and buddies with the Schlecks can’t be hurting.

Laurent Didier Experiencing The Pain Of Sticking With Brian Keneally

Assen Bazayev of Astana rode the Ras in 2003 for the Kazak national team. The Kazaks were a real mercenary team I remember on the stage into Carrick in 2004 they started riding for the yellow jerseys team, the rumour was they were getting two Willier bikes as payment. Some of them at the time were riding old Panasonic bikes so you can see the motivation. I remember 2003 as my first Ras and the terrible weather, Bazayev adapted well with 5th on the first stage that was won by Tommy Evans and second on the second stage that was a mega cold day into Clifden that saw the bunch come in 15 minutes down. On stage 3 he slipped back to 9th  and was 8th on stage 4. He started to slip back on stage 5 by losing 6min but that was still 18th on the stage such was the madness of one of the older rás’s. On stage 6 he hung into the front group through the mountains of Donegal to stay 10th overall. On stage 7 a relatively handy day the wheels came off for our Kazak friend and he finished dead last loosing 58minutes, surely a mechanical befell him that day as on the last day he finished 8th in the crit in the phoenix park. He finished 4th in the points competition and 2nd in the KOM and finished 53rd overall just pipped to the coveted 52nd overall by current route designer Stephen O Sullivan.

John Degenkolb Thuringer Energie Germany Outsprints Matt Cronshaw,Britain Rapha Condor Sharp To Take His Second Stage Of The 2010 FBD Insurance Ras In Skerries

Giro and Vuelta stage winner John Degenkolb is also a man of the rás having rode in 2010. He started his race strongly finish 9th leading in the chasing group as 8 men were up the road on stage 1. On stage 3 he was at it again finishing 5th as there was 4 men up the road, stage 2 had being cancelled due to a huge crash that year. Close but no cigar so far for our German friend. On stage 4 into Tipperary town it was another of his team mates who has gone onto the pro ranks Maxillian May who won the stage and Degenkolb was in the main bunch. Into Carrick on Suir and Seskin hill he finished 7th, not bad for a “sprinter” current SKY pro John Tiernan Locke won that day. The next stage was into Gorey and went over mount Leinster but Degenkolb showed his strength by going clear with Dan Craven and easily beating him into Gorey. Stage 7 was over the Wicklow mountains into Kilcullen and yet again he showed he had the devastating combination of being strong as a horse and having a really good sprint when he won the sprint for 5th with Mark Cassidy staying away in a break to win the stage. On the final stage into Skerries he capped a magnificent week by winning the final stage. He finished the week 9th overall, won the points competition and was third u23 clearly demonstrating that he was a star in the making. 

Interestingly out of our current crop of pros, Roche, Deignan and Martin none of them have never rode the Rás, Dan Martin may have won a stage of the Tour De France but in some quarters of the country he won’t be viewed as a complete bike rider as he is not “A Man of the Rás”

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