Thirty six Irish riders, including the national team, are beginning their final taper for An Post Rás na mBan which gets under way in Sneem on Saturday week, 9th September.
With last year’s winner Olivia Dillon absent on International duty at the World Championships in the Netherlands, the way has been left clear for the five riders on the Irish team in Kerry to make their mark.
All but one of the selected squad will be making their Irish debut at the event with Lauren Creamer having worn green on her way to 11th overall last year.
The Welsh-based rider will be looking forward to an opportunity to shine having spent last year’s race supporting Dillon and Irish team manager Gillian McDarby has plenty of other options in the fight for overall honours.
London-based former Orwell Wheelers rider Lydia Boylan has been in scintillating form on road and track this season and earns her Irish cap on the back of a raft of strong results including fourth at the National Road Race Championships.
Amy Brice and Anne Dalton rode last year’s event on the Ulster and Leinster teams respectively and both have made enormous strides on the national road scene this year.
The fifth member of the team is 20-year-old Fiona Guihen from Navan Road Club, a Rás na mBan rookie whose elevation to the national team comes on the back of impressive form this season.
While the Irish squad members are not eligible for the Sneem Hotel backed County Rider awards, the Leinster and Munster squad and the Irish club selections will have this prestigious title to aim for along with the other classifications.
The County Rider and County Team trophies and the highly prized Rás na mBan finisher’s medals are supplied by Karl Dolan of Cuchulainn Crystal, a long time supporter of the event and a stalwart of Irish cycling.
The Leinster team includes Caroline Conway, one of the reserves for the Irish team, who rode the event with Leinster last season as did team mates Orla McEvoy and Niamh Stephens. Charlotte McDonald and Fiona Cooke graduate to the Leinster team having made their debuts with Orwell Wheelers last season.
The Munster team is led by Cork’s ace sprinter Fiona Meade whose victory in last year’s first stage was a race highlight. Her team mates include the other Irish team reserve Dungarvan’s Emma Walsh, Nicola Doherty and Anne Keohane.
The mighty Dublin club DTC Orwell Wheelers sends two squads to An Post Rás na mBan this year along with their representatives on the Ireland and Leinster teams.
Star veteran rider Orla Hendron will marshal the troops for a tilt at the County Rider prizes aided by Ciara Kinch, Lucy Soden and Mags Donnelly. The fifth member of the Dundrum Town Centre supported team is Kerry-born Trish Buckley, an emerging force in Leinster League racing.
The Orwell Joe Daly’s Cycles team includes a couple of guests: Junior European Championship rider Lauren Gourlay swaps her Castlebar CC colours for the event while ace vet Monica Marconi rejoins her old club for the week. They are joined by up and coming Orwellians Isabel Cogan, Catherine Downes and Siobhan O’Connor.
One of the stars of the local racing scene this season has been Spain’s Sara Ortiz who leads the Galway-based Black Rose Racing Team. Ortiz, a former Giro Donne competitor, who will surely be a force to reckoned with.
Ortiz will be joined in the team by Clare Dallat, the Australian based Irish woman who went within forty seconds of winning the Irish Time Trial Championship when finishing fourth in 2010.
Backing them will be the in-form road and track star Rosin Kennedy, Derry’s Tonya Moran and Scottish visitor Anne Ewing.
The final local-based team in this year’s race is the Wheelworx 3D TC team made up of triathletes Vanessa Fenton, Aisling Coppinger, Marie Fox, Tania Finn, Maria Mulvany and Karen Robinson.
Riding on the London-based Look Mum No Hands! team but also eligible for the Sneem Hotel County Rider classification by nationality are twice former winner Louise Moriarty and event sophomore Siobhan McNamara.