Ahead of tomorrow's Shay Elliot classic, we've put together an account of one of the other tough events of the Irish calendar - the Kerry Group Rás Mumhan. This year the riders were blessed by blazing sunshine for three of the four days, with standout rides from Aidan Collins and Eric Downey, though many of the Orwell contingent's chances were scuppered by crashes. Read on for all the details!

After making the long trek from Dublin either Thursday night or Friday morning, ten Orwell riders took to the start line in Killorglin for the 2014 edition of the Kerry Group Rás Mumhan - Tom Blennerhassett, Aidan Collins, Diarmuid Collins, Odhrán Connors, Eric Downey, Neal Hudson, Graham Hurley, Shane Hurley, Brian McArdle and Patrick O’Brien. With four stages totalling nearly 500km and 24 categorised climbs throughout, the unforgiving hills of Kerry and Cork were not to show any mercy.

As the race neared Killarney on the first stage, the inevitable first spill occurred amongst some roadworks, taking down a handful of riders on either side of the bunch. This unfortunately included Blennerhassett and O’Brien, with the latter coming out worst off. The team were worried when he didn’t return home shortly after the stage, but Orwell’s own Lucy Soden brought both body and bike back to the house personally, after treating him in her official capacity as official race doctor. At the front of the race, Aidan Collins was chomping at the bit, and was unlucky to miss the winning move that broke away in Castleisland. Both Collinses and Downey arrived home in the front bunch, just 52” down on the local stage winner, Cathal Moynihan (Tralee Manor West).

On Saturday the riders started out from Kenmare for the queen stage, tackling the dreaded Healy Pass just 30km into the race. Hudson was the casualty of the day, hitting the deck early, and facing a long lanterne rouge ride home with the broomwagon for company. He soldiered on to arrive almost an hour down, only then conceding to being brought for an x-ray - again Soden taking it upon herself to ensure he was given the all-clear. Also accompanying them on the long trip to Tralee was friend of the club Fiona Cooke, who live-tweeted the Rás from the lead car, and kept spirits high in the Orwell camp throughout the race.

In racing matters, Aidan Collins was his usual aggressive self, putting in a flurry of attacks in the last 20km to try gain time on the blue jersey holder, who was only leading the A2/3 classification on placings. Collins made it into a three man move within the final 10km, but was ultimately closed down. It was little consolation to be first Orwell across the line again, with Downey in the same group, losing less than six minutes to the stage winner. At the head of the race, former Orwell member Sean McKenna was now wearing the yellow jersey. Though now riding with UCD, he was a last-minute addition to the CI U23 team for the Rás Mumhan, and clearly validated that pick with an outstanding performance to take the overall lead.

Sunday would prove the last of the truly sunny days, starting in Waterville for a looping, twisting tour of the tip of the Iveragh peninsula. With a sneaky uncategorised climb only 20km in, there were prompt big splits. Once again, a well positioned Aidan Collins stayed in the front, while Downey was amongst the last to bridge across as the gap widened. They rallied well in the lineouts and crosswinds to keep position ahead of the feared Valentia climb, with Collins pinging off the front in pursuit of breakaway chances.

However, both would lose contact after crashes left them with minor injuries - Downey when the rider ahead of him clipped a stopped car during a lineout in the right-hand gutter, and Collins while chasing the blue jersey on the final descent. He then fell victim to a lack of support or service when he punctured shortly after remounting, costing him more precious time - 15 minutes went by before a tube was offered, and Collins was reduced to changing his puncture at the side of the road the old-fashioned way, tyre levers and all. That sadly put any tilt at the blue jersey to bed, though we expect he won't have lost any fighting spirit at Kanturk next month.

Apart from Hudson with his injured hip, and a tired Graham Hurley paying for his efforts towing a group around the previous day, the rest of the Orwell crew ended up in the same laughing group, and had a lovely sunny cycle around western Kerry. Upon returning to base camp, the team found further welcome relief at the hands of masseuse Rachel Glendon, who eased out much of the aches and tension of the previous days.

The final stage promised to be fast and furious, with the top two on GC tied for time, and the yellow jersey only leading on countback. O’Brien decided not to race, with one eye on next weekend’s racing, and drove the superb looking team car in the cavalcade instead, while the Hurleys headed home for some well-earned family time. The pace was as high as expected around the outskirts of Killorglin, which meant a crash on a narrow section had a devastating impact on the race. With several riders hitting the tarmac ahead of him, Aidan Collins had no chance of avoiding it, but was lucky to come away with cuts and bruises. Only Blennerhassett and McArdle managed to hang on to the front group, while Collins remounted and joined the chase.

McArdle popped off the front to spend 10km in a short-lived break of six, being reeled back just as the race entered Killorglin to start the shorter, crit-like circuit. A 25-strong chasing group were pulled out at that point, including Collins and Collins, as well as Downey and Hudson. Connors was further up the road, but was taken out in a later cull. Blennerhassett took the top Orwell honours, finishing in the main bunch just 31” behind the stage winner, while McArdle lost contact on the final lap, coming in solo just over a minute down.

While ultimately the team came away empty-handed, there was no shortage of gritty performances. Despite half the team being unsaddled at some point, everyone got back on and kept riding, and started the following day too. Some credit for that must be given to the hard-working Dr Soden - having her as race doctor meant the many injuries on the team were given personal and professional attention. Kudos also to Rachel Glendon for coming all the way down to Kerry to get the teams' legs ready for that final stage. The team also asked to pass along their gratitude to family, friends and clubmates who turned out at stage starts and finishes to cheer them on. And thanks finally to President Dave Tansey of Joe Daly Cycles, who supplied a box of gels and bars to keep the lads fuelled on their bikes, while Diarmuid Collins’ delicious cooking fed them well off it!

Results available at rasmumhan.com. Plenty of photos available at irishcyclingphotos.com including Aidan Collins, Diarmuid Collins and Graham Hurley. If you want to read about the race in some of the riders' own words, you can have a look at the forum.


L-R: McArdle, Hudson, D. Collins, Blennerhassett, Downey and O'Brien in front of the newly acquired and coloured club car

L-R: Blennerhassett, A. Collins, D. Collins, Hudson, and Connors before the final stage (photo thanks to Pat O'Brien)


Kerry Group Rás Mumhan, Kerry (18-21/04/2014)

Stage 1
1 Cathal Moynihan (Tralee Manor West) 2.14'52"
63 Aidan Collins @52"
89 Eric Downey s/t
102 Diarmuid Collins s/t
117 Odhrán Connors @13'36"
118 Graham Hurley @14'42"
121 Brian McArdle s/t
136 Shane Hurley s/t
139 Neal Hudson @17'06"
173 Tom Blennerhassett @22'48"
191 Pat O'Brien @40'46"

Stage 2
1 Dylan Foley (Irish Dev. Riders) 3.35'03"
59 Aidan Collins @5'58"
84 Eric Downey s/t
95 Diarmuid Collins @12'21"
136 Shane Hurley @22'20"
139 Brian McArdle s/t
144 Tom Blennerhassett s/t
153 Pat O'Brien s/t
157 Odhrán Connors s/t
168 Graham Hurley @35'47"
188 Neal Hudson @1.05'37"

GC after Stage 2
1 Sean McKenna (Irish Dev. Riders) 5.50'36"
60 Aidan Collins @6'09"
77 Eric Downey s/t
87 Diarmuid Collins @12'32"
123 Odhrán Connors @35'15"
130 Brian McArdle @36'21"
132 Shane Hurley s/t
155 Tom Blennerhassett @44'27"
169 Graham Hurley @49'48"
173 Pat O'Brien @1.02'25"
185 Neal Hudson @1.22'02"

Stage 3
1 Paidi O'Brien (Team Osborne Meats/The Edge Sports) 3.23'20"
85 Aidan Collins @18'40"
90 Eric Downey s/t
126 Brian McArdle @25'32"
127 Diarmuid Collins s/t
129 Pat O'Brien s/t
133 Tom Blennerhassett s/t
145 Shane Hurley s/t
150 Odhrán Connors s/t
165 Neal Hudson @39'35"

GC after Stage 3
1 Patrick Clarke (Liquidworx Fitscience) 9.14'35"
78 Aidan Collins @24'10"
80 Eric Downey s/t
100 Diarmuid Collins @37'25"
120 Odhrán Connors @1.00'08"
127 Brian McArdle @1.01'14"
130 Shane Hurley s/t
150 Tom Blennerhassett @1.09'20"
160 Pat O'Brien @1.27'18"
175 Neal Hudson @2.00'58"

Stage 4
1 Bryan McCrystal (Aquablue) 2.31'21"
61 Tom Blennerhassett @31"
69 Brian McArdle @1'04"
114 Odhrán Connors @21'09"
149 Aidan Collins @35'09"
150 Diarmuid Collins s/t
164 Neal Hudson s/t
166 Eric Downey s/t

GC after Stage 4
1 Mark Dowling (DID Dunboyne CC A) 11.46'15"
93 Aidan Collins @59'00"
94 Eric Downey s/t
100 Brian McArdle @1.01'59"
112 Tom Blennerhassett @1.09'32"
113 Diarmuid Collins @1.12'15"
121 Odhrán Connors @1.20'58"
162 Neal Hudson @2.35'48"