National postal operator An Post has confirmed sponsorship of Rás na mBan 2012, Ireland’s top international stage race for women.

The five-day race running from September 9th to 13th pits the cream of local racing talent against full time racers from the continent and beyond in a series of tough stages based around the Ring of Kerry.

An Post took over title sponsorship of the event last season as it expanded from three to five days, a move that drew widespread support from riders and officials. Barney Whelan of An Post said:

“An Post is the leading supporter of Irish Cycling. An important element of this support is our sponsorship of An Post Rás na mBan 2012. International stage racing for women in Ireland is 26 years old this year and the event is growing in stature, attracting Irish talent and international riders to compete. Together with the Rás na mBan organisers we are putting Ireland and Irish riders on the map at international level while the event itself is a benefit to local businesses.”

Race Director Valerie Considine expressed her delight at the continuing support of An Post and looks forward to further expansion for Ireland’s premier road racing event for women.

“An Post Rás na mBan is an event that has gone from strength to strength in recent years, thanks in no small part to the support of sponsors such as An Post. We’re bringing in more teams and riders from abroad this year and the support from An Post will allow us to really focus on developing presentation and profile of the event. It’s now a real challenge to ride as well as a real challenge to win and we’re looking forward to further establishing the event as the premier stage race for women in these islands.”

The race will feature ascents of the fabled climbs of Healy Pass, Caha Pass, Coomaciste, Valentia Island and Molls Gap which have earned an important place in Irish racing folklore from previous appearances in Rás na mBan, An Post Rás and the Nissan Classic events of the 1980s.

The race enjoys the four star luxury of a base at Sneem Hotel in the heart of the Ring of Kerry. Sneem Hotel proprietor and former Kerry Rás Tailteann team member Louis Moriarty has played a key role in the promotion of the event as joint Race Director for several years. Moriarty believes the topography in his native county offers a unique challenge in women’s stage racing.

“Kerry roads are tough and demanding and always produce a great winner. Last year’s stage over Healy Pass was one of the epic days in Irish stage racing and Olivia Dillon’s performance that day will live long in the memory. I’m pleased to say we’ve got more of the same this year and one or two new challenges which will be very worthy additions to the race route.”

The race also enjoys ongoing support from the Irish Veteran Cyclists Association which has provided vital financial backing since the race’s inception.

Race entries have already been received from as far afield as Australia and the US along with increased interest from the UK and mainland Europe.

Full team and route details will be announced in the coming weeks.