By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent
A turnout in excess of 200 is expected for the 2005 Rás an Turcaí on Wednesday December 28 in the village of Carraroe; it's a race that has grown in stature since its inception in 2001. The event is organised by the former Galway inter county footballer Mairtin Og MacDonnacha who gave up his career in the sport in the 1980's and now enjoys cycling with the Blazing Saddles.
The greats of Irish cycling past and present will be in attendance, including inaugural winner Sean Kelly, but he'll have his work cut out if he is to keep the young cubs at bay, particularly Philip Deignan who looks set to keep the flag aloft in the professional peloton next year.
This year's race will take place over six laps of a ten kilometre circuit in South Connemara. The first two of these will be controlled in order to enable those of all ages and abilities to ride alongside Ireland's top competitors.
Following this, the final four laps will be handicapped in order to guarantee fair and exciting racing between all those taking part.
It will also be a cue for those wishing to burn off the excesses of Christmas and have the opportunity to test their mettle against the established stars. Last year's winner, David O'Loughlin is razor sharp and back to back wins is very much attainable for the popular Navigators Insurance rider.
This year's edition is sponsored by RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, Sweeney/Statoil, Club Energise, with the organisers also thanking An Garda Siochána.
In order to ensure a broad appeal, Rás an Turcaí will be preceded by an Oíche Áirneáin on December 27, with local musicians, singers and dancers providing entertainment. A Children's Fun Cycle will also be held for those under 12 years of age. Up to 100 children took part last year.