While the race reports will be slow to come in from tired riders, one Orwell member recovered well enough from her weekend efforts to share with us the tale of the Étape Rás Mumhan - Ann Horan's account is below!

Playing at Racing

Ann Horan

The Étape Rás Mumhan covers the challenging Day 2 route of the four day event. Rás Mumhan is the second biggest stage race in the country next to the An Post Rás. Ten Orwellians had travelled to Kerry to take on this unapologetically gruelling event. The race is open to both men and women but only one woman rose to the challenge - serious kudos Mel! As a zealous but idle spectator on Day 1, it was nice to get a taste of the torture! The cycle takes in the Beara peninsula and the Healy pass on a spectacular 145k route which includes climbs through some of West Cork and Kerry’s most scenic countryside.

I had originally planned to do this sportif with Helen Horan but a foot injury while out running Friday morning forced her to bail out at the last minute.The sun streaming in through the window on Saturday morning made dragging myself out of bed a little bit easier. Arriving in Kenmare, I soon realised I wouldn't be short of companions. There were familiar faces everywhere. Luckily I wouldn't have to fly the Orwell flag alone either. Darragh Boyd, Danny Moriarty and Breda Horan were there to lend a hand! There was a lot of talk at sign on about a 24k group and a 34k group. I was looking for something in between myself. As it happened there was no clear group divide in the end and the two groups split naturally.

We got the toughest climb of the day done and dusted in the early stages. I noted as we crested the summit that there wasn't a sinner hanging around the top to take photos. Stick a timing chip on a bike and it turns the most leisurely of cyclists into lunatics. As I descended the Healy Pass negotiating it's many hairpin bends, I was disheartened to see all the cyclists I had worked so hard to pass on the climb whooshing past me. As Brian Mc might say 'Room for improvement!'

The first food stop came earlier than expected at the 40k mark. There was a table set out on the roadside laden with an abundance of sandwiches and bars. Coke instead of the usual tea/coffee option! A fizzy drink on a bike... everyone else seemed to be drinking it... sure why not? The only option for anyone wishing to avail of toilet facilities was a frantic squat behind the back of a derelict building. Portaloos would be a welcome addition for next year! Ten minutes later we were off again... that was the shortest food stop ever... ah ha those pesky timing chips again. I waited about 30 seconds too long disposing of my paper cup. While I was looking around wondering if they were separating the recyclables the main bunch had sped off up the road.

I had been chatting to one of the few women at the event at the foodstop. Her boyfriend had been involved in a crash earlier and had been picked up by an ambulance and taken to hospital. It happened on a straight stretch of road with no obvious explanation for the tumble. She felt guilty for riding on but he had insisted that she did so. She became my companion for the rest of the cycle and by the time we got to the second food stop in Ballingeary we had a nice bunch gathered together again. I was ready this time for the mass breakaway from the foodstop and with over 50k left I wasn't going to miss an opportunity to draft!

The final stages of the cycle passed quickly thanks to fantastic road surfaces around Kilgarvan - thanks Jackie Healy Rae. I even managed to extricate a gel from my pocket and take it while moving at speed in a group. Drinking from my bottle was a challenge last year. What next? No hands? We were in Kenmare before we knew it. We returned to our cars and as everyone filtered in we exchanged tales of the day. Darragh was unfortunate enough to take a wrong turn and ended up on the road to Bantry. Never mind Darragh I'm sure those extra kilometres will stand to you later in the summer.

Everyone had a meal voucher for the pub in the town centre. We were delighted on arrival to find we had a choice of spaghetti bolognese and a delicious Irish stew. Then it was time to return to the finish line to cheer on the ten hardy Orwell men who had raced the route three hours after we'd set off. They arrived home with smiles on their faces. Two days down and two to go! Chapeau!

Speaking to the event's main organiser afterwards he modestly remarked that "it's easy to make an event a success when the sun shines. On wet, miserable days people find all sorts of things to complain about!" Will I be back next year? For sure! It's a tough route for the month of April and the timing chips place the event somewhere between a sportif and a race. All in all a great day out and a rare opportunity to ride a classic stage of a domestic road stage race.


Horans Breda and Ann

Ann with Daragh Boyd