Donegal will receive a significant boost to its economy in May when Ireland’s largest cycle race will spend a significant portion of its 1,200kms race, in the county.

Five of the eight stages will have some Donegal connection, effectively becoming for this year anyway – Rás Donegal.

The organisers of An Post Rás say they have unveiled a challenging route. It features several stages of tough climbing, including two of the most difficult ascents in the country - Mamore Gap and Glengesh Pass.

Donegal last featured in the Rás, five years ago, in 2012. And the 65th edition of the race will travel clockwise around Ireland with stage finishes in four Donegal towns - Bundoran, Buncrana, Dungloe and Donegal town before the customary finale in Skerries.

 Coveted jersey

Starting in the historic settings of Dublin Castle for the second consecutive year, the race will total just under 1,200 kilometres, and will act as a platform for climbers, sprinters and attacking riders to battle it out for the coveted Rás yellow jersey.

Announcing the route for the May 21 to 28th event in Dublin’s GPO yesterday, An Post Rás Race Director, Tony Campbell believes that the race will be a test to every style of rider.

“Overall, the race is hillier than it has been in these past couple of years but you can expect that when it is in Donegal. I think that it will be very fast in the first three days and I think the Irish boys will be well prepared for the speed. After that, it is in the lap of the Gods for the climbing.”

While recognising that the uphill climbs will be decisive, Campbell also anticipates that fast, aggressive racing should also play a big part in determining the final winner.

 Ronan comes home

Donegal native and former An Post rider Ronan McLaughlin was on hand to launch this year’s route alongside UCD cyclist and 2016 An Post Rás Stage Winner, Eoin Morton. McLaughlin, who came heartbreakingly close in 2012 to winning a stage following an heroic solo ride in to Bundoran, has his sights set on securing that elusive stage win this time around.

“I’m really looking forward to this year’s An Post Rás with five days being spent in my hometown of Donegal. I went very close in Bundoran in 2012 but it just wasn’t to be so the aim of winning a stage in Donegal is still on my mind.

“The route is definitely challenging on first glance but it has something to suit every rider so it should be a very exciting from a neutrals point of view. It would be great to see more domestic riders, similar to Eoin in 2016, winning a stage again this year. That’s the challenge for us county riders and that’s also the beauty of the Rás,” Ronan said.

 Donegal Atlantic Way Ultra Race

Meanwhile, following the success of the inaugural race last year, the second edition of the Donegal Atlantic Way Ultra Race will take place this June 23 with a large entry already signed up. The ultra cycle, which follows 555km of the Wild Atlantic Way around the entire county of Donegal, is open to solo riders and team combinations of two, four and eight.

The race head quarters will again be at the Mount Errigal Hotel in Letterkenny, where the competitors will depart for Inishowen, travelling anticlockwise towards Malin head and over Mamore Gap before returning to Letterkenny via Buncrana.

The race will then follow the Wild Atlantic Way in a southerly direction taking in Knockalla, Fanad Head, Atlantic Drive, Hornhead, Carrickfin, Glengesh Pass, Sliabh League and Barnesmore Gap before finishing in Letterkenny.

With a maximum number of entries allowed, the start roster is almost full and registration will close on Thursday, February 16 online entry can be completed at www.donegalatlanticwayultra.com and on Facebook.

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