In a break with tradition, this year’s Rás na mBan women’s international stage race will begin on a Sunday, September 9th and run to the following Thursday. The 2012 running of Ireland’s premier stage race for women will be the seventh edition of the event and the 26th anniversary of the start of international women’s stage racing in Ireland.

Following overwhelmingly positive feedback after last year’s successful expansion from three days to five, the event will again be a five-day tour of some of the most challenging and beautiful scenery on the Ring of Kerry.

Race director Valerie Considine takes the reins of the event for the seventh year and believes that the weekend start will provide a logistical boost to teams and riders.

“Rás na mBan is now firmly established on the international calendar and we were keen to give teams travelling long distance the maximum time to recover ahead of the first stage. Coupled with the central accommodation at Louis Moriarty’s four-star Sneem Hotel and the Sunday start, the riders should be well settled in by the time the first stage gets under way on Sunday.

“The five-day format was very well received last year and there was great enthusiasm for the challenge presented by stages over hills such as Healy Pass so, rest assured, we’ll have similar fare for the riders this year.

“Plans are well advanced for this year’s race and, I have to say, we’re better prepared at this time than any previous year.

“What was particularly heart warming last year was the strength in depth from the Irish riders coupled with increased interest from teams and riders in the UK and France to go with the usual support from the Netherlands and Germany.

“There really isn’t any other race of this length and challenge in these islands and we’re keen to further develop our established status as a ‘must do’ event for Irish and international riders alike.”

The Sneem-based event will again enjoy support from An Post and Sneem Hotel. Full route details, sponsorship arrangements, participating riders and team selections will be announced in due course.