An Post Rás na mBan Gets Off To Flying Start In County Clare
The An Post Rás na mBan got off to a flying start today, when the team of cyclists took to the picturesque roads of County Clare for the opening stage of the competition.
Kiltimagh native Team Ireland’s Olivia Dillon is attempting to defend her An Post Rás na mBan title and finished safely in the leading bunch in the same time as the stage winner, Femke Van Kessel of the Dutch WV Breda - Manieu.nl team.
A relative latecomer to the sport, Dillon is a former volleyball international and triathlete who built a successful 12 year career in financial services before making the switch to full time professional bike racing. Now based on the West Coast of the USA, where she rides for the Colavita team, Dillon has established herself at the top of the sport winning several Irish titles in both the Road Race and Time Trial and emerging as overall victor from the An Post Rás na mBan on three previous occasions. Dillon will be Ireland’s sole representative in the Women's Road Race at the World Championships in Ponferrada, Spain later this month.
Todays Stage 1 covered a relatively short 61km from the race headquarters in at the Inn at Dromoland to Ennis. After a short neutralized (non-racing) section, the flag dropped to signal the start of racing at the An Post office in Quin.
The pace was high from the start and it was lone escapee Anne Ewing, a Scot riding for same team as the eventual stage winner, that led the bunch by approx. one minute through Tulla. However, she was brought back on the day's only climb to count toward the IVCA Wicklow 200 Queen of the Mountains competition, the category 2 Maghera. Top points were taken at the summit by Helene Gerard of the French DN Bretagne team. She will wear the Purple Jersey on tomorrow’s stage.
The field was well spread out after the climb but the two leading groups joined up again soon after, which meant that a hectic bunch sprint was the outcome outside the Community College in Ennis. Van Kessel used her impressive turn of speed to edge out American Tayler Wiles, guesting on the Dublin DID Electric Cycle 4 Life team, and the first Irish rider over the line, Fiona Meade of Team Munster.
Van Kessel will wear the An Post Pink Jersey of race leader on tomorrows scenic Wild Atlantic Way stage over 112km from Loop Head to Ballyvaughan.
1st Femke Van Kessel (NED) - WV Breda - Manieu.nl
2nd Tayler Wiles (USA) - Dublin DID Electrical Cycle4Life RT
3rd Fiona Meade (IRL) - Team Munster
If you can’t make it to Co. Clare, Her.ie will be updating you from the race on these very pages, with the help of Ronan Fox, a Race Official with An Post Rás na mBan. He is always with the race leaders and is best placed to report on the top action of the day!