Koster Sprints to Stage 6 Criterium Glory

The Netherlands’ Manon de Boer fought off a flurry of late attacks in the final criterium circuit race to take the 2023 Rás na mBan magenta jersey and overall classification in Kilkenny City this afternoon. The NWVG-uplus rider finished an impressive week just three seconds clear of podium challengers Renée van Hout (Team Noord Holland) and Tiffany Keep (Hutchinson – Brother UK).

De Boer finished safely in the peloton on Stage 6, which was led home by fellow Dutch rider Paulien Koster of Team Noord Holland, ahead of Irish duo Caoimhe O’Brien (Team Ireland) and Ellen McDermott (Team Boompods) in second and third.

The day started with drama in the morning Stage 5 time trial around Kilkenny Castle, which De Boer won by the slender margin of 2.39 seconds from compatriot Van Hout, with South African Keep just one hundredth of a second further back in third. The trio were among six riders who started the day level on time at the top of the standings, with overnight leader Rixt Hoogland crossing the line in seventh, some six seconds down on De Boer, whose performance allowed her to take the magenta jersey from her NWVG-uplus teammate.

De Boer’s elevation into the overall lead continued a great run of success over the week, having already secured the IVCA Wicklow 200 Queen of the Mountains jersey on yesterday’s Stage 4.

Heading into the afternoon’s Stage 6 criterium, the fragility of De Boer’s lead meant the 28-year-old faced threats from several riders who were within a matter of seconds of stealing the overall victory.

The final stage started aggressively, with a number of unsuccessful attacks interspersed by the two intermediate prime sprints, won by Team Ireland’s Caoimhe O’Brien and Lucy Lee of DAS-handsling respectively.

Double stage winner Mia Griffin encountered misfortune mid-way through the stage, coming down on the final corner after a touch of wheels, before quickly remounting and taking a permitted lap out in accordance with the rules for criterium races.

The Team Ireland rider just missed the passing bunch whilst receiving mechanical assistance from her team, leaving her with a monumental chase to regain contact. Recognising the danger her international teammate was in, Kelly Murphy, riding this race for trade team AWOL, dropped back from the peloton to pace Griffin back to into contention in a selfless display from the Irish National Time Trial champion.

Entering the final five laps of the crit, second-placed overall and Best Young Rider Renée van Hout launched the first of two concerted attacks, attempting to establish the required gap on magenta jersey De Boer to leap to the top of the general classification. The magenta jersey stayed attentive, however, keeping the main challengers to overall victory in close proximity, with several teams assisting in keeping the race together for their sprinters and GC leaders.

Approaching the final drag to the line, it was Paulien Koster who offered a demonstration in both positioning and sprinting, claiming the stage win in convincing fashion ahead of Irish duo Caoimhe O’Brien and Ellen McDermott.

De Boer finished safely in the bunch along with her main overall rivals, sealing overall victory in this year’s Rás na mBan in the process.

In the points competition, Rixt Hoogland’s consistency over the six stages was rewarded, with the Dutch rider going home with the Cycling Ireland Points jersey.

Renée van Hout’s overall podium finish also landed her the Sport Ireland Best Young Rider jersey, while Team Dan Morrissey Primor by Pissei’s Linda Kelly ended the week at the top of the Kilkenny County Council Best Irish Rider classification. The Wexford rider’s impressive run of form continues, having won double gold in the Para-Cycling Road World Championships last month with tandem partner Katie-George Dunlevy.

In the non-jersey classifications, UCD Cycling’s Maeve Gallagher finished as Best Young Irish Rider, rejoining her teammates on the podium moments later as they were presented as winners of the Paddy Doran Best Irish Team Classification. The NWVG-uplus team of overall winner De Boer were also rewarded for their strength in depth, claiming the Best Overall Team Classification.