The roads of Kilkenny and neighbouring counties will be awash with some of the biggest names in women’s cycling this week as the 2023 Rás na mBan officially gets underway today.
Ireland’s international bike race for women is back in Kilkenny for a seventh year – the 17th in all – and features two all-new stages, another new finish location and the return of the dual-stage conclusion on Sunday.
Beginning today (Wednesday) and continuing through the weekend, Ireland’s best riders will battle it out against teams from Europe, the US, Oceania and everywhere in between as the cross through Kilkenny, Laois and Waterford for 400km of competitive cycling.
The week concludes once more on Sunday evening with the hour-long criterium race, a 2.1km loop starting on The Parade and continuing to the Nuncio Road, Waterford Road and Patrick Street.
Olympic, World and European championship rides will feature this year with stage finishes in Callan, The Rower, Mountrath, Tramore and Kilkenny City all on the agenda.
“The move to Kilkenny seven years ago has been overwhelmingly positive for Rás na mBan. The beautiful countryside and wonderful support from Kilkenny make planning the route of a pillar event for cycling in Ireland an absolute pleasure,” says race director Valerie Considine.
“The route we have assembled for 2023 will challenge the riders and offer an opportunity to further showcase the beauty of Kilkenny City and County. “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.”
2023 Rás na mBan Routes
Once again, the route offers a variety of challenges from testing hilly stages including the stage three climb of ‘The Cut’ in the Slieve Bloom Mountains in County Laois followed by the demanding Tramore stage in Waterford on the penultimate day to the stage five time trial on Sunday where riders will ride solo against the watch on the new Kilkenny Castle course.
For a third year, the race begins in the west of Kilkenny on Wednesday 6 September with a stage finish in Callan and two laps of a 13km finishing circuit which will offer spectators at the finish line three chances to see the riders during the day. The opening stage begins around 4.15pm on Wednesday with teams departing the Hoban Hotel on the Waterford Road for the ceremonial start at Kilkenny Castle before the official start from Kilkenny Rugby Club at Foulkstown.
The other stages cover roads that will be familiar to fans of Rás na mBan from previous years while also introducing new challenges for the riders. The day two race to The Rower includes a grippy and spectacular conclusion to a demanding stage. The day three stage in the Slieve Bloom mountains features, for the first time a finish in Mountrath after the climb of The Cut following a start in Portlaoise.
Saturday’s all-new stage in County Waterford starts and finishes in Tramore along with a ride which returns along the Copper Coast on what will be one of the toughest days of racing across the week.
The final day of the race brings the riders back to Kilkenny City for two stages centring on the imposing edifice of Kilkenny Castle, one of the most popular visitor sites in Ireland.
In the morning the riders will face a 2.5km time trial around the walls of the castle as the specialists against the watch have an opportunity to offset the advantage enjoyed by the climbers on previous stages. The final stage of the week is the hugely popular circuit race in Kilkenny City Centre, the fastest stage of the week, approximately an hour and fifteen minutes of high-octane city centre racing after which the champion of Rás na mBan 2023 will be crowned.