As excitement builds for the return of Rás an mBan to Kilkenny, organisers have announced two new stages for the 2021 edition of the race.
Included are a challenging new mountain-stage finish on 12 September while Callan will host the finish of Stage 1 on Wednesday 8 September.
Ireland’s only international stage race in 2021 returns with a familiar format featuring four road race stages of varying length and difficulty, a time trial and a circuit race which for a fifth time centres on the beautiful city of Kilkenny.
Racing begins on 8 September, using the Springhill Court Hotel as a base, with six stages taking place over five days in and around the race base in County Kilkenny.
Once again, the route offers a variety of challenges, from testing hilly stages including the stage three summit finish to the ‘The Cut’ in the Slieve Bloom Mountains in County Laois, to the stage four time trial where riders will ride solo against the watch on the Tullaroan course back for a third time.
The all-new opening stage is a move to the west of Kilkenny County with a stage finish in Callan and a 13km finish circuit which will offer spectators two chances to see the riders during the day.
The other stages cover roads that will be familiar to riders and fans of Rás na mBan from previous years.
The day race to Piltown with two ascents of the Sweep proved popular when first introduced in 2019 while the short stage four time trial in Tullaroan is on a hilly course that suits a variety of abilities.
Stage five on Saturday evening is the hugely popular circuit race in Kilkenny City Centre, the fastest stage of the week which has as its backdrop the imposing medieval splendour of Kilkenny Castle.
Sunday’s sixth and final stage brings the riders back to Kilkenny Castle via the scenic climb of Woodstock in Inistioge after which the champion of Rás na mBan 2021 will be crowned.
“The move to Kilkenny five years ago has been overwhelmingly positive for Rás na mBan and we’re looking forward to another great week of racing through the beautiful countryside in September”, says race director Valerie Considine of the 2021 edition.
“The last two years have been challenging for everyone and we’ve been very grateful for the continuing support and encouragement from all in Kilkenny as we continued preparations for the event.”
“We’ve retained the best aspects of the 2019 route and added two new challenges that could alter the character of the fight for overall honours.”
“Our all-new first stage finishing in Callan is a new departure for us with a 13km finishing circuit which will condense the action into a relatively small area and offer fans multiple opportunities to see the race. It’s a new destination for us with unexplored challenges and it’s great to be bringing the race to a new audience.
“The all-new stage from Castlecomer to The Cut on stage three is a welcome second visit for the race to County Laois and I’m certain the riders and spectators are going to love the race challenge and the beautiful scenery in the Slieve Bloom Mountains on Friday 10 September.
“The hilltop finish on The Cut follows the tough ascent of Wolftrap Mountain and with two tough climbs on the day, it’s sure to be a great test. The Rás na mBan summit finish has become established as a wonderful occasion in the cycling calendar and I look forward to seeing many bike fans on The Cut to watch the riders do battle again this year.
“The city centre circuit has been a highlight of the event over the last few years. It’s a thrilling spectacle and it’s particularly gratifying for us to be able to bring top-class women’s bike racing to the people in such an iconic setting as Kilkenny Castle.
“We’ve had wonderful support from Kilkenny County Council and An Garda Síochána throughout the planning of this event and they have helped smooth the not inconsiderable process of bringing top class bike racing to the county.
“Our major backers continue to make this race possible and it’s gratifying that we have retained the support of so many partners for another year.