By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent
The category one cyclists had their day in the sun (well, rain) last week in the FBD Insurance Ras, and now it's the turn of the lower categories. They will be heading to the Bayview Hotel Ras Dun na Gall, which will be held in Killybegs, Co. Donegal over three days starting on Friday evening.
The event lapsed over five seasons ago, but according to race organiser, John Curran, "The emergence of Philip Deignan, who now races alongside Mark Scanlon on the AG2R Prevoyance team, heightened the profile of the sport in the area. The enthusiasm amongst the locals and the promise of sponsorship was the turning point in kick-starting the event again."
Curran expects somewhere around 130 competitors for the event. Niall Brosnan, of the Earl of Desmond/Tralee Bicycle club, and Michael O’Donnell, a former winner of the Shay Elliott Trophy, are regarded as pre-race favourites.
The race kicks off on the Friday with a 35 mile stage beginning in Killybegs and taking in Carrick, Glencolmcille, Meenaneary, and Carrick again and finishing in Killybegs. A 5.2 mile time trial follows on Saturday morning using the hilly and twisting coast road from Fintra to Killybegs and back to Fintra, with a 54 mile afternoon stage from Killybegs to take in Bruckless, Dunkineely, Ardaghey, Kilraine and a lap of the Ardara-Narin-Maas-Glenties circuit, before finishing once more in Killybegs.
The final stage on Sunday leaves Killybegs for Ardara for a reverse of the Ardara-Narin-Maas-Glenties circuit before tackling the famous Glengesh Pass and returning to Killybegs via Meenaneary and Carrick, to give a total distance of 57 miles. The racing will be hard and fast on the Donegal roads with plenty of spectacular scenery.
The race is open to second and third category riders, juniors, ladies, and veterans. As an aside, juniors will welcome the return of this high profile stage race, as it was regarded as an ideal preparation for the Junior Tour which is now sponsored by MDonnelly and is scheduled to take place in Castlebar in early July.
The Four Masters Cycling Club was established in 1987 by Cathal Ó Raghallaigh, who himself was a competitive rider, with a stage win and a fine third overall in the 1958 Rás Tailteann, which has the backing of FBD Insurance now.