Full route details have been announced for this year’s edition of An Post Rás na mBan, Ireland’s top international stage race for women.

Running from September 9th to 13th, the event includes 6 stages in 5 days for almost 400km of racing on some of the most famous roads in Irish cycling.

In a break with tradition this year’s event starts on a Sunday and features a short road stage followed by a 3km time trial in the afternoon of the first day.

Exciting New ‘Queen Stage’ for Sneem-Based Event

This year’s ‘Queen stage’ includes the climbs of Ballaghabearna and Ballaghasheen for the first time along with the regular ascent of Coomaciste as it works its way across some of the most spectacular scenery in the Ring of Kerry.

Overwhelming support for the expansion from three to five days last year means the event will again run for five days in 2012 over terrain that offers a variety of challenges for riders of all abilities.

Sunday’s Sneem Hotel Stage One is the second shortest road stage of the race at 66km and includes just two short category three drags to test riders and establish a leader in the IVCA Queen of the Mountains classification.

The stage 2 three kilometre WomensCycling.ie time trial on Sunday afternoon is a new challenge for the riders. With a gently rising profile, it will suit powerful riders over the pure climbers.

Stage 3 on Monday morning is the 80km Star Sailing Healy Pass stage over roads that went a long way to deciding the final outcome of last year’s general classification.

The stage, including ascents of Knockanoughanish and Caha Pass as well the climb of Healy pass, was a landslide winner in the vote for the most popular stage of the race by riders and support crew last year.

Tuesday’s Fixx Coffee House supported Valentia Island stage is the joint longest at 95km and includes just two categorised climbs, Coomaciste and Geokaun Mountain, and offers an opportunity for the ‘rouleurs’ to get in the mix for stage honours.

The penultimate stage on Wednesday is the An Post Queen Stage over 95km and three first category climbs of Ballaghabearna, Ballaghasheen and Coomaciste.

Riders must coax tired legs into action just one more time for Thursday’s brief Bracken Clinic Moll’s Gap sixth stage over just 57km with the climbs of Moll’s Gap and Carraig na Gaoithe presenting the final opportunity for a change to the final classification order.

Race organisers Valerie Considine and Louis Moriarty have designed a route that asks the maximum from local riders and international competitors alike and Considine expect a tough hard battle through the week.

With this route we’ve tried to retain the essential character while adding a few new ingredients to the mix,” says Considine.

“It’s a parcours that will make it difficult for any one team to control the race and there are stages to suit everyone in it.

“The An Post Queen Stage is an exciting new addition which will bring the most out in the overall contenders.

“Ongoing support from An Post, Sneem Hotel, the IVCA along with a host of associate sponsors means we have an enhanced prize list and an expanded County Rider stage and overall classification for local club riders to chase.

“The Rás na mBan finisher’s medals will be well earned this year and are sure to be highly prized. Entries are up on last year and we’re set for a record number of riders on the roads of Kerry come September. It’s going to be a cracker!”

See the full route details for the 2012 Rás na mBan.