Rás na mBan 2010 - Well Done to Ulster Women

The final stage of this year's Rás na mBan dawned damp and misty but as the race began to roll out it looked as if the sun would win through. Unfortunately this was not to be the case and by the time the riders got to the first Queen of the hills the mist was so thick you could not see two metres in front of you. Not a great day for taking pictures. Four seasons were to make an appearance during the 90km stage with mist, heavy rain and finally sunshine and blue skies on the run back to the finish.

The main contenders stayed together on the first ascent of Coomaciste with race leader Olivia Dillon determined not to lose position to her nearest rivals.

This group were followed some seconds later by the chase group which included Cycling Ulster/Slane Cycles rider, Ciara MacManus. Ciara rode steadily and by the time the leaders were on their return pass of Coomaciste climb Ciara had joined the leading group. In the end her ride on Sunday saw her take sixth place in the County award and move up to 27th overall. This was a fantastic achievement considering the events of the weekend and the fact that the Ulster girls had little sleep on Friday and Saturday night.

Mandy Collie and Hannah Francis were the next best placed Ulster riders finishing 42nd and 46th respectively. They steadily improved throughout the event and are determined to return for the 25th anniversary of the race next year.

Thérese Smyth managed to hold on long enough to complete the full distance and finished in 48th position. Tonya Moran and Antje Otto were just outside of the ten minute cut off mark and did not get to do the loop outside of Waterville. However on the return leg Tonya found some of her old aggression and her descending was worth watching. Antje was delighted that in her first ever stage race that she most definitely was not the 'Lanterne Rouge'.

Unfortunately Louise Fullerton had a mechanical earlier on and had to pull out of the last stage.

All the women are grateful to the David McCall Foundation, Slane Cycles and Cycling Ulster for their continued support for women's cycling.

As Louise Fullerton, Chair of the UWA said, "Ras na mBan gives women a chance to ride against other women and to compare ourselves against them. There were women of all abilities in this event and while some of us may never reach the standard of the full time professional women, without us there would be no race. I would love to see one of our Ulster clubs run a women only stage race in 2011 for home based riders. This is what we need to improve and to encourage more women into cycling.The David McCall FOundation has come to our aid every time we needed it over the past two years. Kerry is a long way to go and a stage race is not cheap. Many thanks."

All of the women agreed that despite the accident suffered by Caroline, that the event was very good. The Sneem Hotel and Louis Moriarty in particular ensured that everyone was made to feel welcome and the setting was magnificent. To all the organisers, in particular, Valerie Considine, Heather Boyle and Louise Moriarty a big thank you from all of us in Ulster.

The back up and support offered by Warren Francis, Conor Graham, Cathal Smyth, Declan McMackin, Chris and David Zwahlen was amazing and nothing was too good for the women. (that's the way it should be all the time...) Mary Hunter, who had to pull out of the race, proved on Sunday that she was no mean manager and I think the women will all be in for a hard time if we let her loose on them as she was taking no prisoners.

On a personal note Tommy and I would like to thank everyone concerned not only for their generous gift on Sunday but more importantly, for the gift of friendship, support and encouragement that was so obvious throughout the weekend.

Hoping Caroline will get a chance to see the report and pics and knows that we are all thinking about her.