Team Blog: Abergavenny Road Club’s Ras na mBan

The Abergavenny RC women’s team rides the ‘Ras na mBan’ a hilly and mountainous five day stage race for women held around the Ring of Kerry in the Irish Republic.

Terry Williamson of Abergavenny RC writes … It was decided back in May, that the Abergavenny Road Club would send a team to compete in this prestigious race from the 14th to the 18th of Sept. With one of our squad, Lauren Creamer being picked for the Irish National squad and another riding the World Paracycling Road Race in Denmark, it was necessary for the team to make up its strength with a couple of guests.

Fortunately we were able to recruit two excellent riders in Corrine Hall (team Corridori) and Rachel Bamford (Dirt Wheels) to help us out and what crucial choices they were to become. So the team of Lowri Bunn, Amy Hill, Corrine Hall and Rachel Bamford set off over a stormy Irish sea to Rosslare and then to Kerry. Sarah Bryne was flying in from Europe having ridden the Ardesch stage race.

So with a day to spare, we took a look at a couple of what we thought would be important stages. After a morning ride around the circuit for stage 4, we set off to look at the 1st stage with its 10km climb to Molls Gap followed by a fast decent to the finish. Then to stage 3 Healy Pass with three major steep climbs with highly technical decents that would tax the riders skills to the upmost. After the recce, it was off to the first stage with a flat ride into Kenmare.

After the climb of Molls Gap began with Olivia Dillion the first to put the pressure on, there were no real attacks but the pace was enough to split the field on the climb with Rachel keeping the pressure on up the last km. But it was Lowri who was first Abergavenny rider over the top in 5th place with a group of 20 riders. In the end, it was a downhill gallop with Lowri 4th, Corrine 9th, Sarah 17th, Rachel 21st and Amy 43rd. A confident start and we were in second place in the team competition.

Onto stage 2, a 56 mile stage from Waterville to Waterville via Valentia Island with two climbs on the way. The first climb reduced the field down but there was a climb with a sting in the tail on Valentia Island and this is where Olivia Dillion made her move. However, she was marked by four other riders including Sarah Byrne and the five riders were away. With the break made up of riders from the main contenders, no one was prepared to chase and the leading group had nearly 4 minutes on the second group at the finish with Lowri, Rachel and Corrine safely tucked away in the following group. On GC, Sarah was now 5th with Lowri 9th, Corrine 11th, Rachel 16th and Amy 45th but now getting stronger every day and leading the Junior competion. The team still in second place on GC.

The race the moved onto the stage which many thought would be the key to the whole 5 days and which turned out to be just that.

The field rolled out of Kenmare onto the rolling roads of the Cahar Pennisular. The first climb split the field into half but it was the vicious climb of Healy Pass and the attacks on it that reduced the leaders down to just over 12 riders. It was Linda Ringlever closely followed by Olivia Dylan and Rachel Bamford who were the first three over the top and then it was the bravest on a twisty hazardous descent with numerous hairpins over single track roads that would make up the most time.

With Sarah, Corrine and Lowri in close attendance, the descent was the turning point for Abergavenny RC. Corrine, with her excellent descending skills chased and caught Sarah and safely led her down the mountain at a mercurial pace and with great skill. So it was a lead group of six riders containing Sarah and Corrine that raced along the coast road to the final climb of the day. The second group of 12 riders containing Rachel and Lowri were the only group that could be called a main field with the rest of the race following along in even smaller groups.

The lead group now started the last long climb back to Kenmare. Possibly the hardest longest climb of the day at over 10 kms long, Olivia Dillion showed her class as a professional rider by riding away from the group on the climb and maintaining her advantage on the long descent  to the finish in Kenmare with two minutes advantage on the chasing group. The remains of the group with Rachel and Lowri hit the final climb with a series of attacks by riders who attempted to bridge the gap. Each time Rachel showed her climbing ability by going to the front and keeping the pace just high enough to stop any further attacks.

So this group finished 5 mins down on the leader and 3 mins down on the next group. With Sarah and Corrine 5th and 6th on GC and Lowri 8th, the team now led the team competition by 1min and 5 secs.

Stage 4 was a the first and only circuit race with four laps of 10 mile circuit. All the major players were begining to feel the previous days long stage and there was little in the way of attacks. Amy continued to put more time into the other Juniors but the major players of 20 swept down to the finish in Sneeem with Lowri Bunn taking 4th and the the other three safely in the bunch all with the same time.

The afternoon 3km downhill TT did nothing to change the overall with Corrine our best rider in 5th, Rachel 7th  Lowri 11th Sarah 15th and Amy 17th. No change then as the race went into the final and longest day with 2 major climbs on a course  which was an out and back to Waterville.

A few attacks by riders down the GC on the first climb saw a few riders steaming off the front. When the bunch had the attacks under control, Abergavenny’s Lauren  Creamer riding for the Irish National Squad found that she still had a useful lead and so joined by Lowri Bunn, the pair helped by a now lethargic bunch managed to slip away. It wasn’t to last however as the race approached the half way mark and the gap had crept out to four minutes, the Irish Team saw the threat and with the help of the Womenscycling Ireland team began to chase.

With Lauren no longer working, the pair were caught on the final climb before the descent to Sneem. The chase had by now split the bunch into a lead group of 19 riders with all the Abergavenny’s top four safely in the group. That was the way it finished with no time lost by the team with Lowri our best finisher in 10th and our best Queen of the Mountains Rider on the day.

Final GC result for the team.
1st Team. Despite the combined efforts of the Irish Team and Womenscycling Ireland to  make it otherwise by 1min and 5 secs.
5th Sarah Byrne
6th Corrine Hall
10th Lowri Bunn
16th Rachel Bamford
39th Amy Hill our first year Junior and winner of the Junior prize.

Queen of the Mountains Competition
Lowri Bunn 4th
Racheal Bamford 6th
Sarah Byrne 10th

Individual Stage Prizes.
Stage 1 Lowri Bunn 4th
Stage 2 Sarah Byrne 5th
Stage 3 Corrine Hall 4th
Stage 3 Sarah Byrne 6th
Stage 4 Lowri Bunn 4th
Stage 6 QOH Prime Lowri Bunn 1st

A great result and my personal thanks to team members and guests for your committed riding for the 5 days.

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