Memories of the race by Padraig Harnett:
Once again it is the sport of cycle racing that is the real winner after the four days of the Kerry Group Ras Mumhan. Over 180 riders took to the start line on Good Friday and the majority made it through the 500km four tough stages to the Easter Monday finish.
Before looking at the daily and overall winners we must say a word about the wonderful marshals, motor bike marshals and volunteers who manned the stages and who ensured the safe progression of the race on open roads. The huge number of volunteers, many who were on duty at multiple junctions, also ensured that the Ras caused the minimum disruption to the Easter holiday traffic.
The organisers also are very grateful to the residents on the stages whose cooperation is vital for the success of the Kerry Group Ras.
And the organisers who put the whole show, under Race Director Tadgh Moriarty and Race Secretary Mary Concannon, are way too many to mention but every one of them does a vital job in ensuring that the annual cycle racing extravaganza hosted by the Killorglin Cycling Club continues its reputation as one of the countries top stage races.
So who is celebrating Kerry Group 2017 Ras success?
The yellow jersey is by this stage in Blackpool as it was won by the 27 year old Dillon Byrne of the VCUK Velochampion team. Byrne took third place on the new stage into Athea on Saturday and when he came home in 11th place the following day in Waterville he had a 16 second lead going into the final day. With a strong team around him his win was never in doubt on the Easter Monday stage taking in Killorglin and Beaufort and the gruelling 10 assents of the Killorglin Hill as part of the Donal McKenna circuit. And for his win he gets his name on the prestigious Cup named after the aforementioned McKenna.
A delighted Byrne, who raced Pro Continental on the European Continent last season, now races on the UK circuit. He has been here in Ireland on a number of occasions and a couple of years ago was placed second on the final stage two years ago in the Kerry Group Ras Mumhan.
“It was great to achieve the victory. People have a habit of remembering only winners. I’ll be back to defend the title next year. This success has to be attributed to the team and the backroom staff and to my sponsors VCUK Velochampion,” said the Blackpool (England) native.
The runner’s up spot on GC was taken by Isle of Mann rider Tom Mazzone, who was the winner of Stage 1 and third on Stage 3, while Donegal’s Ronan McLoughlin of Aqua Blue was third.
The Kerry Group Ras proved to be a very exciting one for the Killarney Cycling Club as Conor Kissane ended the 4 days as the top A2 rider, and 19th overall, and he gets the Blue Jersey. He took this from his teammate Marcus Treacy on Sunday. Treacy had a great day on Saturday but saw the other side of the sport on Sunday when he came down on the Coom an Easpaig decent but like all these guys he is tough and he, thankfully, got back on to finish.
Eoin’s the King of the Hills:
Eoin Morton of UCD Fitz Cycles was the master over the Kerry and West Limerick hills on the four days and he was a comfortable winner of the jersey as the race’s best climber.
More family success for the Mazzone family:
As Tom was taking second overall the younger of the Mazzone brothers, Leon, was collecting his own prizes as the top u23 rider. Also riding for the Isle of Mann team Leon was also presented with the John Doyle Cup.
Cathal’s the top Kerry rider:
Based on the criteria set out before the race Tralee Manor West iBike’s Cathal Moynihan was the top Kerry rider home and has the Paul O’Shea Memorial Cup for the coming 12 months. Killarney’s Eoin O’Connell also had a very strong 4 days and ended 11th overall.
The Story of the Stages:
Stage 1: East Kerry – While the first day’s stage started in dry conditions by the time the riders got to Kilcummin it had turned nasty. This section of the stage from the village to the top of Toureencahill was raced in very wet conditions and was certainly the reason why a large group of riders went out the back of the peloton.
Thankfully by Castleisland it was dry and the race back to Killorglin was certainly an exciting one. In the end it was Tom Mazzone’s day and he became the first man into yellow this year.
Stage 2: Listowel – Athea: The decision of the Kerry Group Ras organisers to take the race to Listowel and West Limerick was certainly a justified one. The stage proved to be one to remember Paul Kennedy (Newcastlewest CC) who took the win and moved into yellow overall, much to the delight of the huge local crowd who came to the finish line.
Stage 3: Down South: Once again Easter Sunday saw the Ras head for South Kerry. The roads in this part of the count have been said to be some of the best in stage racing anywhere in the world. This year the riders were taken onto Valentia Island before the tackled the only Cat 1 climb of the 4 days at Coom an Easpaigh. A tail wind off the big hill was behind the riders all the way to the finish line in Waterville and this saw them clocking huge speeds of over 70km per hour. In the end it was Leon Carpenter of the Surrey Racing Team who took the stage win with Byrne moving into yellow.
Stage 4: Back to where it all began: There was no Easter Sunday sleep-in for Ras fans as they were out in force in Killorglin for the final stage. Amongst those in attendance was former Ras winner Paudie Fitzgerald and Olympic boxer Mick Dowling who was cheering on his son Mark and Kerry Group’s Frank Hayes who was representing the multi-national sponsors on the podium.
The yellow jersey was well protected by his teammates and was happy to let break get away once there was no one in the General Classification shake-up was involved. Once again it was a cracking stage and it was Aqua Blue’s Matteo Ciagala who took the stage win with Killarney CC’s Richard Maes taking the final podium spot.
Up’s and Down’s: Finally well done to all the riders who took part and provided such a spectacle over the four days. While the focus is on those at the front of the pack the organisers thank every rider who took part.
As this was a race and a race that was hotly contested at high speeds all weekend some riders did come down and some did not finish. Sport can be cruel at times but always remember that the next race could be your time in the spotlight.
2018: The organisers will now take a short break (!) and planning will then begin for the 2018 Kerry Group Ras Mumhan. We look forward to seeing everyone back in Killorglin again next Easter.