Hoogland takes magenta jersey at The Rower

Team Hutchinson – Brother UK’s Tiffany Keep took the win in the second stage of Rás na mBan in County Kilkenny this afternoon, leading home a reduced bunch sprint up the final climb to The Rower.

The South African rider led home Dutch duo Noa Jansen of JEGG – DJR Academy in second and Manon de Boer of NWVG-Uplus in third, bettering her own podium finish from last year’s final stage at Kilkenny Castle.

De Boer was closely followed over the line by teammate Rixt Hoogland, who moves into the overall lead of the race after Stage 1 winner Mia Griffin of Team Ireland finished 35 seconds back on the leading group.

93 riders signed on this morning for the roll out from The Hoban Hotel in Kilkenny City, with the first hour of racing covered at a steady pace, tempered by a solid headwind and the prospect of three categorised and several uncategorised climbs awaiting the riders.

Ras na mBan 6/9/2023 Stage 1 Kilkenny – The Rower
The peloton passes Jerpoint Abbey
Mandatory Credit ©Lorraine O’Sullivan

The patience of Team Boompods eventually wore thin, however, with Sian Marsh first attempting to get clear before being reeled in by the peloton, only to be swiftly followed by another solo attack from teammate Charlotte Hodgkins-Byrne. The 26-year-old former Olympic rower showed her strength, perhaps inspired by the location of the day’s finishing location, to open up a gap that neared two minutes at one point, holding off a chasing peloton for over 30 kilometres before being brought back on the second categorised climb of Coppenagh.

That wasn’t before the first QoM ascent of The Rower, which Hodgkins-Byrne crested first, with the following bunch led over the line by IVCA Wicklow 200 Queen of the Mountains jersey wearer Manon de Boer. The Dutch rider also summited the subsequent Coppenagh climb in second place, this time behind Linda Kelly of Team Dan Morrissey Primor by Pissei, while her podium finish on the stage also secured further mountains points to extend de Boer’s lead in the classification.

The attritional nature of the route resulted in a gradual thinning out of the peloton until a group of just 25 riders remained in contention at the foot of the final ascent of The Rower. Protagonists from several teams pushed the pace on the front as soon as the road rose upwards; forcing a further split in the bunch by the time they rounded the final curve and got sight of the line.

Tiffany Keep proved to be the strongest of the riders remaining, going on to take the victory in convincing fashion. As reward she’ll wear the Just-Print.ie Stage Winners jersey on tomorrow’s Stage 3.

Rixt Hoogland’s consistency over the first two days has given her the lead of both the Cycling Ireland Points Classification, and the all-important Rás na mBan overall classification and the magenta jersey.

In the Sport Ireland Best Young Rider competition, Team Noord Holland’s Renée van Hout takes over the lead here ahead of Ruby Oakes of Shibden Hope Tech Apex who sits on the same time on GC.

Elsewhere, Linda Kelly was the first of the Irish finishers today, and will wear the Kilkenny County Council Best Irish Rider’s green jersey tomorrow after moving to the top of the standings.

Tomorrow sees the race enter County Laois for a 104 kilometre stage, starting in Portlaoise before taking on the challenging mountain climb of The Cut, before finishing in Mountrath in what’s sure to be another decisive day in Rás na mBan 2023.