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Billy Kerr Honest Workman
Billy Kerr
A man who has captured the imagination of many sports-followers beyond the fringe of cycle-racing fraternity this season is big genial Billy Kerr from Ballymena.

At the age of 34 he won this Easter Tour of the North five-day international race in Ulster, for the second successive year, and then immediately flew to Manchester to start the Sealink International, of similar duration, the very next day. To everyone’s amazement – not least the teams from Great Britain, Czechoslovakia, France, Netherlands, Canada, Norway and Denmark – he won Sealink too.

This mid-Antrim man has left no doubt that despite all his participation in international events across the world – his travels last season included Canada and West Germany, and he was ninth in the 14-day Tour of Britain – he’s looking forward specially to competing for the first time in this big National Cycling Association promotion, the Health Race. Like many other Northern Ireland C.F. riders he enjoys racing over tough routes in the Wicklow Mountains and on many hard testing sections in the West – from Donegal right down to Valencia. More>>>

Stage Racing In Ireland
Henri Desgrange Founder Of The Tour de France 1903
Ever since Henri Desgranges founded the fabulous Tour de France away back in the early 1900’s, stage racing has caught the imagination of cyclists all over the world.

Here in Ireland the call came later than in most countries. Proximity to England caused the road sport to develop along Time Trial lines. However, even time-trialling was a poor relation branch of the sport for Track Racing was the big attraction.

The Split in 1949 swept away all the NCA roadmen leaving the NCA predominantly a track racing association with virtually no time-triallists so what road racing there was became Massed Start.

As the NCA regained strength this branch of the sport started tothrive and a road-racing calendar became established and naturally, fed on a diet of cycling reading which highlighted the Tour de France and such legendary figures as Coppi, Kubler, etc. the roadmen started to think in terms of stage racing.

The first stage was held in August 1950 when the Western CC, Belfast, put on a Belfast – Dublin – Belfast Two-Day for the Irish News Cup. (The Western had run a Belfast-Dublin one-day race since 1948).

"The Men Of The Rås"
Ray Kennedy
The Rás, or give it its full title An Rás Tailteann, was the brainchild of a Dublin barrister Joe Christle. He wasnt satisfied with a one day cycle race that lasted for just a few hours, he wanted to create a race that lasted for a whole week.

His dream was to create an event that would capture the imagination of the people at home and showcase the best of Irish athleticism to the world. On the 19th of September 1953, his dream became a reality.

The first Rás Tailteann was a two-day affair, from Dublin to Wexford and back, covering a little over two hundred miles.

In wet, miserable conditions, 52 cyclists set off from O'Connell Street, most of them having no idea of how they were going to cope with this new phenomenon of multi-stage racing.

During the 1940's and 1950's, the staple diet of the average racing cyclist was either short distance road races or out-and-back time trials against the clock. Indeed, for the majority of them, their weekly racing was at sports meetings where they raced on grass tracks over very short distances. More>>>

Cycling Ireland Interview With Dermot Dignam An Post Rás Director

Dermot Dignam
There was actually no tradition of racing in my family although everyone had bikes. My Dad & Uncle would have ridden everywhere so being on a bike was second nature. I was interested in riding and when I decided to join a club I went for The (St. James ) Gate CC. They were the only club in Guinness at the time that accepted outsiders (non-employees) and it was known that one of their members, Philip Clarke, had been captured during an arms raid on a British Army Barracks, which added a bit of allure for me at the time. Those earlier days of cycling in Ireland were highly poIiticised and it was virtually impossible to be impartial at the time. Not long after joining the Gate CC I was roped into being club secretary and that was really the start of my involvement in the admin side of the sport. Over the years I progressed through to eventually become President of the NCA (National Cycling Association) as it was known at the time. I put in a lot of hard work over the years and have been lucky to have worked with very good, like minded people which ultimately culminated in the previous 3 Irish Federations (NCA, ICF & NICF) merging in 1987 to form what we now recognise as Cycling Ireland. More>>>

Rás 2012 By Myles McCorry
Myles McCorry
“You’re riding the Ras?” Simple question “YOU’RE riding the Ras!” – Un nerving clarification “You! riding THE RAS”- Sheer Disbelief

I have received all of these over the past few months since I decided to return to our national stage race. Its not like I don’t ask myself the same question every time I struggle the 3-mile climb home. The house was bought in a younger, lighter, fitter time; when the climb was a selling point to the house, like underfloor heating- an en suite level 3 session. But Yes, I am riding it.

The ‘Why’ I'm riding the An Post Ras is a more difficult question, again asked with leading levels of scepticism. Level 1 “Are you riding the RAS?” Level 2 “Are you still thinking of riding the RAS?” Level 3 “You’re not still thinking of riding the RAS …are you!?” Level 4 “The Ras, REALLY? YOU?!”

The WHY is a personal thing for every single soul riding it, mine is a collection of various reasons, excuses and dreams that add up to a rubbish 2nd Cat having only two beers instead of five at Christmas and forgetting my younger son's name.

Paul’s Passing Changed Everything For Me; It Was Time To Get Serious About The Bike
Aaron Buggle
Following a return from injury last year, Aaron Buggle is enjoying his first prolonged period of uninterrupted racing. With a good Ras under his belt he is returning to France with big goals for the weeks ahead. In the first of what will be regular dispatches, he writes about his uncle and friend Paul Healion and how his attitude’s changed after Paul’s passing. He also looks ahead and outlines his hopes of progressing further in the sport and of catching the eye of a bigger team for next season.

Cycling started with me following after my late uncle and mate Paul Healion everywhere he went. I was like a bad smell to be honest. I got mad into cycling very fast and learned a lot from him; mostly good things but some insane stuff also!
In 2009 I started to do some of the track camps with the team pursuit squad and although I wasn’t yet strong enough it was a great learning curve. I had an eye on the TT champs from early in the year. More>>>

Plaque Unveiled To Honour The Achievements Of Local Cyclist
Ben McKenna
IT'S hard to believe that it's 50 years since the late great Ben McKenna won the gruelling cycle race of Ireland, known as the Ràs Tailteann.

The young, 20 year old cyclist from Julianstown had taken part in his first Ràs Tailteann only three years earlier in 1956 and was progressing through the ranks of Irish amateur cycling in the lead up to his greatest achievement over the eight-day race, which began in Dublin on August 2nd 1959 with the first stage of the race passing through Drogheda shortly after 3.20pm on that glorious summers day.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Julianstown man's victory a small gathering of family and friends gathered at Matthews shop at Mosney Cross Julianstown on Saturday last where his wife Grace unveiled a commemorative plaque in honour of her husband's thrilling performance back in 1959.

The Remarkable Story of Paudie Fitzgerald - Kerry's Ras Tailteann Winner of 1956
Paudie Fitzgerald Rás Winner 1956
Year after year I never cease to be amazed at the magnificent sporting stories that continually come to light in this county. Just when you say to your self no other story of great achievement will top the last one, along comes another. And the Paudie Fitzgerald story of his incredible winning ride in the Ras Tailteann of fifty years ago equaled anything that I have heard about in the past. The triumph of the human spirit over adversity and set back is here in all is glory. When you consider that his win in this most grueling of all Irish Cycle races was achieved in the so called "hungry fifties" when training facilities, diet, sponsorship and semi-professional were words you read only in the dictionary, then you begin to realize the magnificence of the West Kerry mans victory

Next Tuesday 23rd May the great cavalcade that is the Ras sweeps into Dingle town. It arrives there to commemorate and honour Paudie's historic win in 1956 and no man deserves the honour more. I have said here in this column many times in the past that sporting men and women outside the realm of the GAA find it very difficult to achieve the recognition they so richly deserve. Now this is only a personal opinion. Being a GAA activist myself for over fifty years I make no apologies for saying that the achievements of many great Kerry sportsmen and women are not lauded and applauded as they should in this county while GAA victories in all grades are generally the talk of every town, parish and village. Nevertheless I must add that that is the tradition and history of the county we live in. How many time have you the reader heard about Paudie Fitzgerald. Not often I would bet. More>>>

Coalisland Cyclist Wins "Toughest" Stage In Rás Tailteann 1958
The Tyrone 1958 Rás Team Left To Right Paddy Campbell Dungannon, Seamus Devlin Coalisland,Stage Winner 1958, Joe McIvor Dungannon, Stage Winner 1954 Tommy Drumm Dungannon And Ned Devlin Coalisland Trainer.
Screamed the newspaper headlines in August 1958 after local cyclist Seamus Devlin claimed victory in the toughest stage of the 8-day Rás Tailteann.

Seamus was one of four local men who represented Tyrone in the 1958 Rás Tailteann: the others were, Paddy Campbell, Joe McIvor and Tommy Drumm. Their trainer was also a local man, Ned Devlin. At that time, to ride the Rás was the ultimate achievement for Irish cyclists, without betraying their principles.

The Rás Tailteann was born out of a complex political and sporting context. After the Partition of Ireland in 1922, cycling in Ireland was organised by the NACA (National Athletics and Cycling Association) and later in 1938 by the NCA (National Cycling Association). Neither organisation recognized ‘Partition’ and cycling was organised on a 32-county basis.

In 1947 the BNCU (British National Cyclists’ Union) proposed a motion to the world governing body of cycling – the UCI “that the NCA confine its area of jurisdiction to the 26 counties.” This motion was strongly resisted by the NCA as its acceptance would have amounted to an endorsement of Partition. The British vigorously pursued the motion, and with the support of the block Commonwealth votes, it was passed by the UCI. More>>>

Rás Memories By Barry Meehan 2005
Barry Meehan
Each year during the third week in May several towns in Ireland reverberate to the sound of Paddy Fitzsimons voice encouraging the people of the town to ‘ Give a big Templemore ( or eight other town names each year ) welcome to the Men of The Rás ‘.

‘ The Rás ‘ holds a mythical place in the hearts of all Irish cyclists along with much of the general public . It gets daily TV and radio coverage along with plenty of column inches of print and even has had an excellent book published about it .

So , what does it take for an ordinary cyclist to become ‘ a man of The Rás ?’

Well , two years ago I completed my first Rás and here is my story .

Having raced as a first cat for two years after turning senior I fell away from the sport as do many others at that age when travel and skirts and beer appear out of nowhere . Cycling , however is a bug which never leaves the system , as can be seen by the number of people who return to the sport in their thirties and forties . When we opened the shop in 1999 I would be tuned in every hour on the hour to Roy Willoughby to see how Ray and the lads were getting on , and that pattern continued for a number of years . Also there is a huge amount of ‘cycling chat ‘ each day in the shop . Even though I had competed in some good races I still felt a pang when the ‘Rás’ talk began . It was as if the Rás is what it takes for a boy cyclist to become a man cyclist . It is akin to a soldier who has been to war . No matter how much training or manoeuvres you take part in , it is only when you experience the battle for real that a deeper understanding sets in and you are never the same again . That for me is The Rás . More>>>

Last Updated: May 30th, 2021 - 11:17:01

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