Rás na mBan is the premier women’s cycling event and only International women's stage race in Ireland. Returning to Kilkenny for the third year in a row, this grueling event runs for five days with a total of six stages and a total of over 400km of racing action. (www.rasnamban.com)

Rás na mBan is unique in that it sees local club and national level women riders from Ireland compete with riders from the rest of Europe and beyond. In 2017 there were 117 riders from 25 teams racing.

Scott Orwell Wheelers has a very long and proud tradition of entering teams in Rás na mBan and 2018 will be no exception. In the lead up to the event we are doing a series of profiles on the riders and support team. We asked each rider a series of questions in an attempt to get to know them a little better.

Our full team including the management is:

Monica Freiband - Injured and now replaced by Isobel Oakes in the team line up
Breda Horan
Ciara Ni Fhlathartaigh
Lauren Creamer (Guest rider - Brotherton Cycles)
Sinead Molloy (Guest rider - Tullamore CC)

Team Manager: Orla Hendron
Team Mechanic: Mihai-Sebastian Paveliu
Soigneur: Gillian McDarby

 

The Riders!

Our first rider profile is a little unusual as this rider will not be racing! We talk to Monica Freiband who was about to face into her second Rás na mBan this week except that she was involved in a crash at the Laragh Classic on Sunday and has had to withdraw with a broken wrist. Monica is still hoping to travel to Kilkenny and support the team. We wish Monica a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing her back on the bike soon!

Name: Monica Freiband

Home town: Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Number of years with Scott Orwell: 2 years

Bike(s): Cannondale Caad10 (My beautiful steed)

Favourite training route: Blessington Lakes. It was the first route I did when I moved to Ireland and the beauty still never ceases to amaze me 2 years later (minus the hills, still don’t like those)

Favourite Race: Stephen Roche GP (what can I say, I’m a crit girl)

Best race result: 6th Stephen Roche GP 2017, and finishing Ras na mBan 2017 (despite some broken pieces)

Favourite cycling memory: Racing Ras na mBan 2017. It was my first international stage race, and such an amazing experience to race with and learn from some of the most talented women in cycling. I never thought I would be able to compete at that level, let alone hang in the race!

Worst or funniest cycling moment: Currently my worst moment would be this last weekend, having broken myself 3 days before this years Ras na mBan. Absolutely gutted to cut my season short before my A race after working so hard to get here, but I know that the Orwell team will have an amazing race, and looking forward to cheering them on (from the sidelines L )

Cycling hero: Katie Compton ( I mean, what can’t that woman do??)

Most likely to be heard saying: “Is it over yet??” (heard by spectators on every single climb)

 

We have a last minute addition to the team! Super sub Isobel Oakes of Smugglers CC will be racing in place of the injured Monica Freiband. Welcome to the Team Isobel and fair play for giving it a go!

Name: Isobel Oakes

Home town: Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim

What club are you currently a member of? Smugglers CC

Bike(s): Liv Langma SL 1

Favourite training route: The hilliest one around. It climbs over the Bellavally Gap and comes back over the climb at Bencroy on the Cavan-Leitrim border.

Favourite Race: It’s a toss up between Des Hanlon Memorial & Tour of Omagh

Best race result: Coming 2nd on GC at the Tour of Omagh this year.

Favourite cycling memory: Doing my first sportive – the Donegal Bay Sportive and loving every second of it.

Worst or funniest cycling moment: My worst was having an asthma attack at the John Beggs Memorial race last year, and having to DNF.

Cycling hero: I don’t have a cycling hero as such, but I really admire anyone who gets out there and gives their all.

Most likely to be heard saying: “I think I’ll go back to running next year…”

 

The next of our Ras na mBan rider profiles is Breda Horan. Breda is riding her first Rás na mBan this year but goes into the race in great form having recently blitzed the Club Hill Climb Champs, the Club League and a very strong showing in open racing this season - although from Breda's profile you may sense her heart seems to lie in the muckier side of cycling!

Name: Breda Horan

Home town: Killarney

Number of years with Scott Orwell: 5 years

Bike(s): Lapierre Sensium, Lapierre CX, Focus Mares & Grand Canyon MTB

Favourite training route: In Kerry of course- the Ring of Beara.

Favourite Race: Kilternan CX race. Beth McCluskey was leading but there was a ding dong battle for the second place. Myself and Sylvia were neck and neck for most of the last lap. The last lap had the crowd worked up into a frenzy and the commentator was turning purple trying to keep up. We rounded the barrier for the finishing sprint and I foolishly let Sylvia go up my inside. I should have pressed her into the barriers as the pros do, but I managed to edge her in an epic sprint.

Best race result: Haven’t managed to break into the top 10 of a Nat League road race yet but i’m getting there. I won the Stormont CX race.

Favourite cycling memory: Raid Pyrenees trip 2015. The weather may have been cold and wet but it never dampened anyone’s spirits. Great company meant it was non stop laughter all week long.

Worst or funniest cycling moment: The last two CX nationals I have either managed to take the course with me when it’s taped, or knock a whole section of it over when it’s steel barriers.

Cycling hero: Jolanda Neff

Most likely to be heard saying: “John has a 1hr session in the plan but I’ll just do 45mins” or “Sure we’ll just pretend it never happened”

 

Next up in the Rás na mBan Rider Profiles is another race debutante - Ciara Ni Fhlathartaigh (It's taken me a year year to learn to spell that surname!). Ciara is also the author of the famed Crit Chronicles from the Women's League so if she continues in the same vein her profile will be a good read;

Name: Ciara Ni Fhlathartaigh

Home town: Gaillimh

Number of years with Scott Orwell: 3

Bike(s): 2 specialized road bikes and a second hand CX Ridley that I love but only has about 5% working brakes..but sure you don’t need them in CX!

Favourite training route: The coastal route from Inverin to Carraroe and then on to either Letterfrack or Maam Cross is stunning - provided it is on one of the 1 in 10 days that is not raining out Wesht! In Dublin the Howth cycle route is amazing on a crisp Winters morning if you are out early enough so that the sun is coming up and there are no other cyclists on the route. You can cycle down to Dollymount to watch the sun and then build a sandcastle for good measure J.

Favourite Race: I don’t have a favourite road race yet – but I loved all of the CX races last year – in particular the one run by Epic MBT with the half pipes – a fun course. I’m also loving the IVCA races that I joined in May of this year – possibly one of the friendliest and most helpful groups of people I have met in a while – they have taught me so much already.

Best race result: Having only one year of sporadic racing under my belt thus far and this being my second year - a good race result for me at the moment is to stay with the main bunch when racing with the women. Mind you I did win a meggle for 3rd with Team Scott Orwell at the team pursuit on the track last month and I am also the proud owner of 2 mugs from the Corcagh Park league – useful prizes as I do love a good mug of tea!

Favourite cycling memory: There are too many favourite cycling memories to choose! The cycling trips away are definitely highlights – a week to do nothing else only ride your bike, be with friends and laugh, what’s not to love about that! Raid Pyrenean definitely up there along with the two trips to Girona – lots of lols J

Worst or funniest cycling moment: Worst cycling moment was T-boning a car with my head in 2014 when a car suddenly swung across the road in front of me. I remember lying on the ground telling the small crowd that had gathered that I was sure I had done untold damage to my leg as I couldn’t lift it off the ground and it felt so heavy – until some clever bystander let me know that my foot was still clipped into the bike despite the earlier somersault! A funny moment was on the aforementioned Raid Pyrnean where I had worked hard after the crash to get back to some level of fitness to tackle the enormity of the Raid. I was making painstakingly slow progress up the Tourmalet but internally reassuring myself I was doing well. Most of the group were waiting at the top but Peter Grealis cycled back down past me…got off his bike…..put it on his shoulder and proceeded to jog slowly alongside me in exaggerated slow motion in his cleats..and still passed me out! Oh the highs and lows of cycling in one split second …J

Cycling Hero: Marianne Vos

Most likely to be heard saying: “So where are we now….and where are we now….and now…and where are we again?”… I have minus zero sense of direction to the extent that I won a pair of arm warmers at an awards night from my triathlon club entitled ‘sat nav of the year’. I’ve given up trying…I just roll with it now…

 

We have two guest riders on the Scott Orwell Wheelers team this year. We are delighted to welcome Sinead Molloy and Lauren Creamer to the family! First up is Sinéad who has had a great year of racing since her debut in Rás na mBan last year. Sinéad is a great supporter of the Appleby Orwell Women's league each year so we are particularly happy to see her race in the Orwell colours.

Name: Sinéad Molloy

Home town: Ballinamere, Tullamore

Home Club: Tullamore CTC

Bike: Giant TCR Advanced

Favourite training route: Always enjoy a club spin to Kinnity, Roscrea and home through Birr, great training route with a bit of everything. The route to Ballinasloe is another favourite along with the Slieve Blooms. To be fair, anything with a bit of sunshine and a tailwind home is hard to beat!

Favourite Race: I’ve always enjoyed the Mullingar GP. Its a great circuit, testing but fair. Also the Women’s Orwell League in April is a great racing and social event! Anyone thinking of racing, it’s an excellent way to start!

Best race result: Finishing second in the Deenside Cup this year. It was a tough race with some really strong riders so was really delighted with that one. And finishing 4th in the Mullingar GP last year was also a highlight, as it was the first time to dip my toe into open racing.

Favourite cycling memory: Finishing Rás na mBan last year. So many of my friends, family and club mates from Tullamore came down to support me over the 5 days, and they all, along with the great team management and the other girls on the team, kept me going.

Worst or funniest cycling moment: Also Rás na mBan last year. It was a 5 day rollercoaster of pain, emotion, and self-doubt and there were many, many, many times that I nearly threw in the towel, so when I eventually cycled over the line, it was a huge achievement for me.

Cycling hero: That’s a tough one… Mick Scully, Peter Gillespie and Pat Dunigan from Tullamore CTC are seasoned racers and always have a few wise words of advice for me. Orla Hendron is an amazing cyclist in terms of what she has achieved, and also the passion and drive for developing and encouraging female cycling in Ireland. Also a great woman for a pep talk!

Most likely to be heard saying: “Ah shur I’ll give it a lash anyway!”

 

The last of our profiles is on Lauren Creamer, the most experienced racer of our 2018 team. Lauren joined the Madison - Boot out Breast Cancer Team in 2014 and has raced for a number of different professional teams since - including Pearl Izumi, Podium Ambition-Club La Santa and her current team Brotherton Cycles.

Name: Lauren Creamer

Home town: Birmingham, UK

Current Club: Brotherton Cycles

Bike(s): A mass of Specialized ones including my Tarmac SL6.

Favourite training route: I love being in the Peak District when in the UK and the Wicklow Mountains when in Ireland but a little closer to home we have a group called Chapter ll which encourages and allows parents with their children to ride safely together on local roads. Great routes and great fun for us all even if we don't have kids!

Favourite Race: Anything made tough by short, punchy climbs so most likely a race in Brittany, France. or the Ardennes of Belgium.

Best race result: Silver, National Road Championships 2017.

Favourite cycling memory: Descending for miles on end this year in the spring sun of the Sierra Nevada.

Worst or funniest cycling moment: Impressing myself and others on a snowy off road MTB ride (the 2nd time riding one) up and down hills, rocks and cambers before decking it at the last moment of the ride.

Cycling hero: My mom I think. She's awe-inspiring to me on and off the bike.

Most likely to be heard saying: Lots! I'm very talkative.

 

The Management!

Finally, we couldn't do an article on the Rás na mBan Team without a feature on the Team Management. We are extremely lucky to have two hugely experienced international riders behind our racers - Orla Hendron and Gillian McDarby.

First up is super supporter and champion of women's cycling in Ireland Orla Hendron!  The rider who has ridden Rás na mBan more than any other in its 13-year history will be the Scott Orwell Wheelers team manager at Ireland’s premier stage race for women.

Name: Orla Hendron

Home town: Kilternan 

Number of years with Scott Orwell:  Since Nov 2002 16 yrs!!! Yikes!

Bike(s): Do I have to admit to having more than my husband !!  

Favourite training route: I love Beth McCluskey's CycloCross spins around Roundwood and the lakes

Favourite Race: Stephen Roche Crit or the Collins Christle in Kilmessan but Rás na mBan will always be very special for me. I have raced in 8 consecutive editions of the race. I’ve seen the race expand from two to three days and then to five days and it really has come a long way. The bunch is a decent size now and while speeds have gone up so too has the amount of shelter.

There’s always someone of comparable ability and different groups assemble on the road each day and it always what turns out to be a great week of racing. The racing is hard and people are usually pretty friendly around the bunch. I’ve made a lot of friends in Rás na mBan over the years.

Maybe someone will break that record soon and that’s fine. There are people that have ridden the men’s Rás more than 20 times. A race like this gets into your bones. Maybe I’ll get back in there some day!

Best race result: World Masters 2k pursuit Gold medal and World Champs Jersey tieing with World Masters Points race!!

Favourite cycling memory: Cycling Holidays in France with my Husband 

Worst or funniest cycling moment: Too many funny moments to choose from.

Cycling hero:  Eddie Lynch as long as he keeps going then I'm inspired to keep racing. 

Most likely to be heard saying: "Sorry I'm late!"

 

Gillian McDarby will line up as Team Soigneur for the Scott Orwell Team with one of the best CV's about - accomplished Coach and Team Manager, neuromuscular physiotherapist, former IRFU National Team Women’s Program Manager, international cyclist and current Board Member of Cycling Ireland! The old saying "if you want something done ask a busy person" obviously applies to Gillian!

Name: Gillian McDarby

Home town: Sandyford

Number of years with Scott Orwell: 4years

Bike(s): I was an avid Giant fan until Mr. Dave Tansey converted me to Scott 😉, however I still held onto my beloved Giant and have it hanging up with my many other bikes (that I use every other day, NOT!!- BMC Road bike, Trek MTB, Dolan Track Bike, Fold up bike....And of course a Cross Bike!)

Favourite training route: Anywhere around the fabulous Wicklow mountains, we are blessed with the amount of unreal routes we have on our doorstep

Favourite Race: When I raced it was a close call between Dundalk Traders (Which I won twice) or Bohermeen (always got a great turn out)

Best race result: I won a few National League Races and Leinster Road Champs, but placing 5th and 7th on two stages of RnM in 2010 stands out for me

Favourite cycling memory: Riding Paris to Nice in 6 days in 2005. I meet some amazing people on this trip and made friends for life

Worst or funniest cycling moment: Being woken up at 2am when I was Managing the Irish National Team in RNM in 2012 to be told two of the team were hit with serious food poisoning (Lauren Creamer was one of those riders🙈) and convincing them both that they would be fine to start😂!!

Cycling hero: Jan Ulrich

Most likely to be heard saying: G’wan ya horse 🐎

 

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