Every year, cycling enthusiasts eagerly anticipate the Rás na mBan, Ireland’s premier women’s cycling race. And this year, the event certainly did not disappoint. From exhilarating route updates to sensational athletic displays, 2023’s edition was an affair to remember…
New twists and turns in the route
In a bid to keep the race fresh and challenging, the organisers introduced some interesting route modifications this year, showcasing two brand-new stages, a new finish location, and a thrilling double-feature in Kilkenny on the final day.
Starting in west Kilkenny, the race incorporated familiar roads, peppered with new challenges, such as the gripping conclusion in The Rower and a maiden finish in Mountrath. A demanding Waterford stage culminated in Tramore, while the closing day revolved around Kilkenny Castle. Racers tackled a time trial around its walls before plunging into a high-energy circuit race in Kilkenny City, where the 2023 champion emerged triumphant.
Who was in the limelight?
Several international and local teams graced the event, with everyone eager to stake their claim as the champions of Rás na mBan. We saw the return of previous champions, young upstarts looking to make their mark, and veteran cyclists who’ve been the heart and soul of the race for years.
While every stage had its unique challenges and standout participants, a few names shone brighter than the rest.
Stage 1: Mia Griffin clinched the opening stage win for Team Ireland at Rás na mBan 2023, echoing fellow Irish teammate Lara Gillespie’s success last year. In Callan, she outpaced Paulien Koster and Emma Jeffers, securing her early lead and that coveted magenta jersey for the following day’s Stage 2 event.
Stage 2: Team Hutchinson – Brother UK’s Tiffany Keep won the second stage of Rás na mBan in Kilkenny, finishing ahead of the Dutch pair, Noa Jansen and Manon de Boer. Despite Mia Griffin’s earlier win, Rixt Hoogland started to lead overall.
Stage 3: Stage 3 of Rás na mBan in County Laois spanned 104 kilometres. Emma Jeffers secured first, closely followed by her teammate Monica Greenwood, giving Team DAS-Handsling a memorable one-two finish. Tiffany Keep, the previous stage’s victor, secured third, nabbing the overall lead and the sought-after magenta jersey.
Stage 4: In County Waterford, Team Ireland’s Mia Griffin nabbed her second Rás na mBan stage win, showcasing her sprinting expertise. While Manon de Boer secured second, Monica Greenwood followed closely in third. Rixt Hoogland’s commendable fourth-place finish propelled her back to the overall lead, overtaking Tiffany Keep.
Stage 5: In a gripping Stage 5 Time Trial around Kilkenny Castle, Manon de Boer of NWVG-uplus narrowly won, finishing just 2.38 seconds ahead of Renée van Hout and 2.40 seconds before Tiffany Keep. Despite Rixt Hoogland’s seventh-place finish, she maintained her lead in the Cycling Ireland Points Classification.
And the winner is…
In an exhilarating climax in Kilkenny City, Netherlands’ Manon de Boer held her ground against persistent late challenges to claim the 2023 Rás na mBan magenta jersey and overall title. After leading the morning’s Stage 5 time trial around Kilkenny Castle by a mere 2.38 seconds, De Boer safeguarded her position during the aggressive Stage 6 criterium.
Paulien Koster of Team Noord Holland sprinted to victory in this stage, with Ireland’s Caoimhe O’Brien and Ellen McDermott closely trailing in second and third, respectively. Despite the turmoil, including a fall from double stage winner Mia Griffin, de Boer remained safely with the bunch to clinch her overall victory.
The week also celebrated Rixt Hoogland’s consistent performance, as she bagged the Cycling Ireland Points jersey, while Renée van Hout received the Sport Ireland Best Young Rider jersey. However, the final applauds went to NWVG-uplus, de Boer’s team, who took home the Best Overall Team Classification.
The Rás na mBan 2023 wasn’t just a display of sheer athleticism. It was a testament to strategy, teamwork, and the indomitable spirit of the riders. The new route breathed fresh life into the competition, challenging the cyclists and providing spectators with edge-of-the-seat action.
As we wrap up this year’s race, it’s heartening to see the growth and recognition women’s cycling is receiving on the international stage. Every pedal stroke, every uphill grind, and every sprint to the finish line in Rás na mBan takes us one step closer to a brighter, more inclusive future for the sport.
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