Rás na mBan, is Ireland’s top bike race for women, attracting riders from all over USA, Oceania, Africa and Asia.
Team Ireland’s Lara Gillespie sprinted to victory in the opening stage of Rás na mBan, leading home a large bunch into Callan. Gillespie’s win was the first for an Irish rider since Olivia Dillon’s success in 2014.
This year, Marine Lenehan will be in the starting line-up, taking on her first Rás. Marine, grew up in Wicklow, and moved to France when she was 5. Now back living in Wicklow, she is riding with Team Dan Morrissey Pactimo squad, a Carlow-based team. Marine, a very talented young athlete, previously a hurdler and a triathlete, has just won a silver medal in the World Championships and is the current GranFondo European Champion. She’s preparing for her first international stage race at Rás na mBan.
Yvonne Doran, Thomastown, will also be lining up for the Rás. Yvonne is a seasoned Rás na mBan rider and has had three top five finishes under her belt this year in the National Series.
Yvonne came to the sport later in life, “I did a charity cycle with work and from that, I went on to do the Tour de Kilkenny, a great event by Marble City Cyclers. I was asked would I consider racing and it just spiralled from there! It’s a sport that’s not out of anyone’s reach. It’s like a community, you meet other women and there’s a real social element and you get to know everyone. I was really wowed by the Rás, there is huge organisation behind it and the atmosphere is incredible with the international teams, all the languages, cultures and accents, the road closures and the amazing finish outside the Castle. It’s astounding the number of Kilkenny riders who have competed at that level; Mia Griffin, Jane Cullen and Elizabeth Kent and this comes down to having the Rás here, it’s an accolade to ride the Rás”
As amateurs, Marine and Yvonne juggle their professional lives whilst keeping up with the demands of competing and preparing for the Rás. Both riders will be hoping to complete the six stages of the event, 400km of racing over five days. The first stage finish in Callan on Wednesday evening, includes two laps of a 13km finish circuit which will offer spectators at the finish line three chances to see the riders during the day. The day two race to Inistioge includes a grippy and spectacular conclusion at Woodstock, with an expected finish at 1.45pm. Day three moves to the Slieve Bloom mountains for the ‘Queen of the Mountains Stage’ and will be followed by another tough day of racing with a finish at Tramore on Saturday.
On hearing confirmation of the line-up for Rás na mBan this year, Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council, Cllr. Michael Doyle, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Rás na mBan back to Kilkenny for its 17th edition this September. It’s an honour to have such an event on our home turf, and we are particularly proud to see Irish and local riders making their mark in the lineup. The participation of Marine Lenehan and Yvonne Doran showcases the incredible talent that the region has to offer. Their dedication to balancing their professional lives with their passion for cycling is truly inspiring. We extend our heartfelt support to all the riders as they take on the challenging stages ahead. Kilkenny is ready to cheer them on every pedal of the way.”
The final day of the race moves back to Kilkenny on Sunday, the 10th, for two stages. In the morning, with a 9.00a.m. start, the riders will face individual 2.5km time trials, starting out on The Parade and completing a technical route with sharp cornering along by Canal Walk and around the walls of the Castle against the watch. 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. This is fantastic opportunity to get out and show some home town support for the two riders.
Mayor of Kilkenny City, Cllr. Joe Malone, welcomed the announcement of the lineup by saying: “As the Mayor of Kilkenny City, I am delighted to see Rás na mBan returning to our vibrant city once again. This event not only brings excitement and energy to our streets but also celebrates the dedication of women cyclists from Ireland and around the world. I encourage everyone to come out and support these remarkable athletes as they race towards victory in this prestigious competition particularly our local athletes, Marine Lenehan and Yvonne Doran.”