Our team of youth riders report back from their exploits at the Rás na nÓg Stage Race.
Since its inception in 2007 Rás na nÓg has become one of the premier youth racing events on the calendar. Hosted by Drogheda Wheelers and under the stewardship of Gerard Campbell it is a very well run and safe event. The event attracts the elite youth cyclists of the day but it is not all about them, rather it encourages young cyclists to race to the best of their ability. You will always find someone to race your own race against if the peloton has flown off into the distance. As indefatigable MC Gaybo Howard regularly reminds us, "someone has to be last in each race and they deserve our cheers as much as those that came before them." Woe betide the parent who leaves the finishing area before all are across the line.
Rás na nÓg is about much more than racing for the youths, it’s about life experiences, it’s about doing your best, it’s about picking yourself after a fall or a tough race and going again, it’s about making new friends and renewing old acquaintances, coming early in the season it’s about seeing how much you have grown since last year, it’s about providing leadership to the younger riders coming through, it’s about learning your trade from those who have gone before, it’s about respect, for your team mates, for your competition, the organisers, your parents, your bike, and earning the respect of others. It’s about having fun.
The best way to understand that is to listen to the voices of those who took part.
The Under 12’s - Killian and Katie
My first Rás na nÓg - Killian O’Brien Age 11 + 1/365
This was my best day of the year so far. For a few weeks before the race, I did some training with my Dad. Finally it was the night before and I had so much packing to do, all my gear and an overnight bag. We travelled up to Drogheda it took ages...
The first race was a criterium. The start was very fast (I thought it would be a bit slower). The big lads we stronger and confident on the corners, and I got dropped. At the end there was a small sprint finish with me and a guy from Navan Road Club.
The second race was a 7km race, again the stronger lads pulled away from us, but a few of us worked together to finish the race. It was very rolling but good fun. Afterwards, I was a mud bath so I got into warm clothes. Then I watched the other races finish and went to a B&B with all the others. We had our showers, had dinner and then went to bed.
In the morning, we woke up early and had breakfast then we drove to the race course. In the third race, I managed to stay with the main group until 1 km from the end and there was a breakaway. I managed to tag onto a group of 16 year old passing by and finished with them.
The Rás was the most painful but exciting thing I have ever done. That kind of sums it up.
Rás na nÓg was my first open race as I had only started with Orwell Wheelers in the summer 2016. We met up early on Saturday morning across from Joe Daly’s to put the bikes and bags in the van. The team then split up for lifts between the van and two cars, Jen got left behind because her car wouldn’t start and had to borrow a car from Orla.
Our car, with Hannah and I, was the first to arrive at the racecourse in Bellewstown, soon after Jen arrived in her borrowed car followed by Andrew, David, Killian & Ruairi.
After signing on, we waited nervously for the team van to arrive with the remaining team members and most importantly all the bikes. The van did arrive safely with lots of time to spare.
I was racing in the U12 category with Killian which was the first race. The course was 1.7km long and I had to ride 5 laps. The first lap was neutralised which was good as the first corner was very tight and gave a good idea of the course and allowed the bunch to spread out for the second lap. The road surface was a bit rough in places but manageable. The course was pretty flat apart from the finishing drag and the race soon broke into groups and I found myself dropping further behind. It was a tough introduction to open racing, but I really enjoyed it. After the race Jen sent us off to change and get fed, it was then back to the finish line to cheer the U14’s and U16’s in their races.
The sunshine came to an end when the rain started just after the U16’s race had finished. We all relaxed in the van during the rain until Andrew handed us leaflets to put on car’s which also turned into a competition.
Stage 2 started in the afternoon with the U14’s off first followed three minutes later by my group the U12’s. The course was 6.5km long and we had one lap to complete. The first two corners where neutralised because they were very tight at the bottom of a hill and the course very wet and slippery. The first 2km were downhill followed by a long pretty flat straight which was covered in mud. I managed to keep with the main group until the final 2km which was uphill to the finish line. On the turn at the bottom of this hill my front wheel lost grip and I went down. The ambulance arrived as I was getting up and asked if I wanted to stop but I decided to finish. The 2km finishing drag was very tough but I gave it all and was beaten in a sprint to the finish line by a guy from O’Leary Stone Team. After the race I realised I had cut my lower leg and the chain ring had stuck into my thigh. I had to visit the ambulance to get cleaned up and bandaged. More food and warm clothes followed and then back to the line to see finish of the U16’s race. We heard that David had crashed out and was unable to finish. This was another very hard stage not helped by the weather and the muddy roads. The U16’s that finished where covered in mud after their 5 laps of the course.
Day 1 racing was over and we headed to the Hostel. I think we got lost on the way as it took ages to get there. I shared with Hannah and Annie. After showers and another change we headed to the dining room for dinner, Lasagne and Garlic Bread my second favourite food after Pizza. Thanks Jen. Some veg out time then off to bed for 9:30.
Another early start to the day as we dragged ourselves out of bed for another day of racing. Breakfast was cereal, fruit, eggs and toast and then pack up and go.
The sun was shining and it was looking like the perfect day for a race. Sign on for stage 3 was at the racecourse but the stage start was in different location. All the groups cycled from the racecourse to the start about 5km away. The U16’s went first followed by the U14’s and then U12’s. The course was 7.6km long and I had one lap to do. The course was mostly flat with no sharp corners. All the groups where on the course at the same time which was exciting but scary as the U16’s went barrelling past at one stage. This was my favourite stage because the road pretty smooth and had no big hills. The pace was very high for the last stage with everybody trying to gain extra points. The guy from O’Leary Stone and I were working together for most of the stage and we tried to get on to the back of any passing groups but we could not keep the pace. With 50m to go we were neck and neck but I was determined not to let him beat me again, so I sprinted to the finish line beating him by three bike lengths. I almost collapsed when told to continue around the first corner before stopping.
I watched the finish of the U14’s and U16’s races from the finish line which was very exciting because they were so fast.
Later we went back to the racecourse in the van, I was happy at this because I thought I had to cycle back up the big hill.
Prize giving was after lunch in the sign on area. I was surprised to learn I had won First Girl in all three Stages.
Thanks to Jen and Orla for a brilliant weekend and I can’t wait for the next stage race in Donegal in August.
The Under 14's – Ronan and Andrew
Ronan O’Connor had a tough few days at the office but his warm spirt shines through in this account.
I had a great time at Rás na nÓg this year. We had a big team of eleven riders travelling. There was a great excitement meeting up at Joe Daly's and seeing Orwell’s team van ready to take us.
Stage One was 1.7km circuit that we raced seven times. At the start of the race there was one neutralised lap before we started to race where everyone tried to get into a good position. I could only get into the middle of the bunch as there was so many riders. When the race got going it was a sprint. I managed to stay in the front group for a few laps but then I got dropped with three laps to go. I was a bit disappointed because I thought I would be able to stay with the group. I finished in 16th place.
Stage Two was the road race a 6.5km circuit which we had to race 3 times. I was hoping to do well in this race because it was one of the qualifying races for the Irish Youth Academy. This time I got off to a good start, getting into a good position at the front. But on one of the corners on the first lap I crashed. This was a bit of shock because I had never crashed before on the road and it hurt. I managed to get back on my bike and continue and finish the race. I was disappointed as I had hoped to do well.
Stage Three was a 7km loop which we did three times. The bunch stayed together. There was a lot of attacks but they eventually came back. I was in the group with Andrew, Ruairi and Dylan for the race which was great. I finished in the middle of the bunch and was happy enough.
Overall I had a great weekend. One of the best parts was hanging around with the team over the weekend and Jen’s great cooking on Saturday night. Thanks very much to Jen, Orla and Terry who looked after us all weekend.
We will be back next year for more.
A veterans’ tale - Andrew Ryan in his 3rd Rás
Rás na nÓg is known for its weather extremities. From hail to shine to gale force winds, but it never fails to draw big numbers. This year was no different. With over 40 starters in my race, the competition was going to be tough.
Day 1 Stage 1
7 laps of a 2km circuit was very fast. After 4 laps I got dropped. I managed to stick in a group of four and catch a few people. This left me in 19th in GC.
Day 1 Stage 2
3 laps of a 7km circuit in lashing rain proved to be tough. On lap 1 there was a crash, which saw three riders go down including the race leader Mark McGarry and, my fellow teammate, Ronan O’Connor. With two laps to go I was spinning like crazy which caused me not to be able to keep touch with the wheels in front. I was in a group of three and we managed to catch a few guys. With 300 metres to go I was forced to the front so it was a long sprint which I won. I was still 19th GC but was happy with my improvement on placings on the stage.
Day 2 Stage 3
3 laps of a 9km circuit. This parcours has been my best stage in years gone by, and this year was no different. Staying with the group and was happy with my sprint to conclude Rás na nÓg for 2017. I moved up to 17th in GC.
Our U14 team won the Team prize. This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of all the riders, Jen, Stephen, Terry, Orla, all the other parents who have helped on Sundays and of course our team coach Dave Mc.
The Under 16's - Tadhg
Rás na nÓg 2017 was a great experience. The racing was really tough but very enjoyable. We all had a great time, and definitely learned a lot.
The first stage was a short criterium around the racecourse. Everyone was really nervous and the racing was very fast. Everyone was very tired after this but we had to prepare for the next stage which was starting in under three hours!
The second stage was very hilly and tough. It had been raining for a few hours beforehand which made the corners very slippery and there were quite a few crashes, including David, one of the Orwell U16s, who had to retire from the weekend after the stage. I think everyone was glad when the stage was over and we got to the hostel.
We were all pretty tired and didn't really do much apart from lie down that evening. We went to bed at around ten o'clock and everyone fell asleep pretty quickly.
The next day we all got up at around half seven and had our breakfast before heading back to the racecourse. We had time for a quick warmup and a few team photos before the start of stage three.
The stage began with a neutralised zone for about six kilometres which was all downhill. It was pretty nerve-wracking as we were all in a tight bunch going downhill at 50kph! The stage had a rolling start so the tempo was high from the off. The racing was fast and very enjoyable. Everyone was pretty exhausted afterwards. Once the stage was over we spun back up to the racecourse for the awards ceremony where the U14 team won a prize.
Not long after we were on the road again and were heading home. Really big thanks to everyone who organised the weekend for us and kept us ready for racing. It was a great weekend of racing and fun and I can't wait to do it again next year.