By Shane Stokes
Totaling 65 kilometres more than last year's race, the organisers of the FBD Insurance Rás have upped the emphasis on endurance for the 2009 edition.
The eight day, 2.2-ranked event will this year begin in the Irish town of Kilcullen on May 17th and conclude on May 24th in Skerries, covering 1289 kilometres and 20 categorised climbs in between. Three of the stages will be longer than 175 kilometres, something which race organiser Dermot Dignam said will play a factor in determining the final outcome.
"Stamina will win the 2009 FBD Insurance RÁS" he stated this week. "The route includes something for everyone – the sprinters are catered for, the mountains are there for the climbers. But when the final accolade is presented in Skerries, it'll be to the rider with the greatest stamina.
"The long grueling stages are where the valuable seconds will be gained and that's where strength and ability will count most".
The opening stage of the race takes the riders 125 kilometres to Wexford, while the following stage is both hillier and longer, extending 178 kilometres from Wexford to Cobh, via New Ross and Waterford. Three climbs are featured before the uphill sprint to the line, including the category two ascent of The Sweep.
Day three is the longest of the 2009 edition, clocking up a 189 kilometres en route to Cahirciveen. It's also got the first category climbs of The Coom and Coomakista, making it potentially the hardest stage of the race. The following day's leg to Killorglin is also in the running for that status, though, being only marginally shorter at 178 kilometres and including five category three climbs plus the first category Conor Pass.
The profile is somewhat flatter for the final four days of the race. The penultimate day is almost completely flat, and will see the riders clash on the fast 150 kilometre route to Clara. As has been the case in recent years, the Irish tour will then conclude in the Dublin coastal town of Skerries.
Dignam expects a mixture of professional and amateur teams in the race, which was won last season by Stephen Gallagher (An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly).
He said the international line-up is thanks to the support of two big partners of the 56 year-old race. "We have a world-class international sports event in this country," he stated. "That's due to the backing of FBD since 1984, one of the longest running sports sponsorships in the country, plus the valuable support of the Irish Sports Council".
2009 FBD Insurance RÁS:
Stage 1, May 17th, Kilcullen – Wexford, 125 kilometres
Stage 2, May 18th, Wexford – Cobh, 178 kilometres
Stage 3, May 19th, Cobh – Cahirciveen, 189 kilometres
Stage 4, May 20th, Cahirciveen – Killorglin, 178 kilometres
Stage 5, May 21st, Killorglin – Scariff, 155 kilometres
Stage 6, May 22nd, Scariff – Castlebar, 159 kilometres
Stage 7, May 23rd, Castlebar – Clara, 150 kilometres
Stage 8, May 24th, Clara – Skerries, 155 kilometres