Stage Races 2024

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5 months 1 week ago - 5 months 2 days ago #38736 by Dick O'Brien
Stage Races 2024 was created by Dick O'Brien
For anyone planning on stage racing in 2024, it's time to start getting organized. If you’re new to all of this and wondering what to enter, see the FAQ below. 

Ras Mhaigh Eo – 3 Stages – 9 to 10 March
Entries are now open to A1-A3 and Juniors. Usually riders book their own accommodation for this one, so it’s worth seeing if anyone else from the club is riding the race and sorting something out with them. The car is booked for the race and there is a budget for a support crew but as yet nobody has expressed an interest in looking after a team. At the moment I’m only aware of one Orwell rider planning to enter.
Current status: 3 Confirmed + 1 Possible

Ras Mumhan - Kerry - 5 Stages - 29 March to 1 April
Our entry for a team of five has been accepted. We have accommodation booked for the team and support crew. Neal Hudson has very generously volunteered to once again manage the team. We now need to finalise the team entry by the end of the week. Can anyone who wants to ride Ras Mumhan let me know straight away? If we've more than five riders interested, people preparing to ride the Ras Tailteann will be prioritised for selection.
Current status: 3 interested, not enough for a team. Not proceeding with entry.

Gorey 3 Day - 4 Stages - 30 March to 1 April
Entry is now open . Unlike Ras Mumhan, Gorey accepts individual entries, which means that there is no hard limit on the number of Orwell riders who can enter (but bear in mind that that there will be a limit on the overall field size, so don't wait around to enter). The club has booked accommodation at Seafield House, but we will be prioritizing Junior riders and support crew. Senior riders are advised to book their own accommodation. If you’ve entered or plan on entering, can you let myself or Ivan know?
Current status: 6 Confirmed.

Ras Tailteann – 5 Stages – 22 May to 26 May
Details of this year’s Rás are now out and entries will be open soon. The club has a budget to support a team and a manager. We now need expressions of interest from anyone interested in doing this year’s race. You can reply here or get in touch with me privately. It’s open to A1 to A3 riders (although if you’re A3, you’ll need to be a strong A3 to get through the race). There’s a lot of overhead and expense involved in entering a team, so we’re only going to proceed if the interest is there.
Current status: 2 confirmed (need a team of 5)

 FAQ

Does the club support stage racing teams with a budget?
Yes, a small budget is allocated to most of the major stage races. The majority of that money is meant to be spent on supporting the team, i.e. paying for fuel for the car and accommodation for a team manager and other support crew with anything leftover going as a subvention to riders. If you’re riding the race, you’ll be expected to pay the majority of your costs, which will mainly amount to entry fee, accommodation, food. When club has booked accommodation for the team, you’ll still be expected to pay for your share of the bill. We will only spend the full budget on a race if we have a team and support crew in place.

What Easter stage race should I ride, Rás Mumhan or the Gorey 3 Day?
A1 and A2 riders targeting Ras Tailteann in May will usually do Ras Mumhan at Easter. Strong A3s and Juniors can enter to, but I’d definitely consult with myself or Ivan if you’re considering it. A2, A3, Juniors, and Women will usually do the Gorey 3 Day.

Are any of these races open to A4?T
here aren’t many stage races open to A4 on the calendar (and none of the above are). One of the key benefits in getting yourself upgraded to A3 is the opportunity to do stage races. 

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Last edit: 5 months 2 days ago by Dick O'Brien.

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5 months 1 week ago #38737 by Adam McConnell
Replied by Adam McConnell on topic Stage Races 2024
Yes to Maigh Eo and Gorey
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5 months 1 week ago #38738 by Cahir O'Higgins
Replied by Cahir O'Higgins on topic Stage Races 2024
Many thanks. I’m happy to ride as a donestique for any race.
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5 months 5 days ago #38740 by Dick O'Brien
Replied by Dick O'Brien on topic Stage Races 2024
Updated the first post with confirmed numbers for each race. We're still short of a full team for Rás Mumhan and the Rás. Our entry into both will depend on whether wet get any more interest. 

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5 months 2 days ago #38744 by Dick O'Brien
Replied by Dick O'Brien on topic Stage Races 2024
Deadline for Ras Mumhan entries is tomorrow. Unfortunately we don't have enough interest to proceed with an entry. Hopefully that's just the case for this year only and we'll be back next year. We can help anyone interested in still doing it in finding a spot on another team for the weekend. 

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4 months 1 week ago - 4 months 1 week ago #38770 by Dick O'Brien
Replied by Dick O'Brien on topic Stage Races 2024
The first stage race of the year is coming up this weekend (Ras Mhaigh Eo). Here’s a few tips for anyone new to this game.

What’s a stage race?
Most people probably need no explanation. Like the tours you may have followed on TV, a stage race is run over a period of days and the overall winner is decided on the basis of their cumulative time over all stages of the race. Most Irish stage races are held over two or three days (which is why Bank Holiday weekends are popular). There is usually one stage per day but many races will feature one day with two stages (usually a time trial and road stage). The biggest ones (Ras Tailteann, Ras na mBan, and the Junior Tour) are usually held over five days.

Why do a stage race?
It’s an opportunity to move up another level and test yourself by racing several days back to back. But also they’re a lot of fun, allowing you to get away for a weekend and race somewhere new. There’s no better way to get to know your club mates and forge a bit of team spirit than being on stage race together. It also gives you an opportunity to race against different people, with most races drawing entries from all over the countries. The bigger races will usually feature a decent number of international teams as well.A stage race is also a great opportunity pick up points and earn an upgrade. Points are awarded for each stage and the overall classification. If you have a really good weekend, you could end up earning your upgrade in one weekend.

Get organised
Organisation is key to having a good race. Ideally you should have every single step of the weekend planned out in advance because it’s going to be a lot harder managing stuff when you’re exhausted. Questions you need to answer are: How are you getting there? Where are you staying? Where and when do you need to be for each stage? Where are you going to be when you finish each stage and how are you getting back from it? What are you going to eat (and believe me, you’ll eat a lot).Some race organisers are better than others at sharing information. Ideally, you’ll get a race manual, with everything you need to know in one document. Keep a copy on your phone and if you need to, pull out all the key bits of information and have them listed in one page. If the organisers are slow about sharing information, get in touch with them and ask.

Know what you’re racing for
There is usually a lot more on offer in terms of prizes. Not only is there the overall classification, there is also prizes for each stage and most races will feature additional competitions such as a points/sprints, king of the mountains or classifications for different categories. Unless you’re really strong, you won’t be able to contest them all and you’ll need to decide on your priorities. You may not be able to go chasing KOM points if you’re trying to defend a position on the overall for example.

Goals
It is a good idea to set yourself a goal for the weekend by asking yourself what you’d like to get out of it. Your goal could be anything from winning the entire thing to trying to finish each day in the main bunch. Whatever it is, it’s good to have something to focus on to prevent the weekend just drifting by.

Adapt to circumstances
Things going wrong is part and parcel of stage racing. You could lose time from getting a puncture, you could get injured in a crash, you may start feeling under the weather. Don’t let it ruin your race. You’re much better off trying to take it in your stride and modifying your goals. That could mean focussing on other prizes. It could mean riding for a team mate instead. Or you could simply just focus on surviving and making it through each day. 

Recovery/nutrition
You’re going to be going hard day after day and half the challenge is competing while dealing with fatigue. What do you in between stages can have just as much a bearing on your result as what you do on road. Recovery is vital to having a good racing. Make sure you eat well and don’t make the mistake of picking the easy option and eating fast food and sugary snacks.Try to spend as much time as you can resting between stages. When you’re full of adrenalin after a stage, it can be easy to let the time slip away without putting your feet up. Aim for at least eight hours sleep a night and if you can grab a nap during the afternoon, you should. Sometimes the more fatigued you are, the harder it can be to get to sleep, so try to wind down and switch off during the evening.

Support
Having a support crew is invaluable during a stage race. The standard set up is to have a manager and mechanic in a car following the race. The manager’s role is to drive the car, operate the race radio, and act as the team’s representative with race organisers. The mechanic is the one looking after the team on the road, whether it is punctures, mechanicals or handing out bottles/food. For big races, teams will often bring a larger crew, adding a masseur and a soigneur (general helper).

Most of the time, your support crew will be fellow club members, volunteering their time. They’re giving up their weekend for you and the club.

At the start of every year, the club will identify which stage races it is going to support and attempt to secure the club car and a support crew for each. If you want enter any other stage races, be proactive and see if any other club members would like to enter and ask around if anyone would like to support the team. The club car can be requested by any member, so don’t be afraid to ask. And if the car isn’t available, there’s always the option of someone using their own car to support the team.

Most stage races will have a neutral support vehicle travelling behind the race. Neutral support is there to help all riders in the race. If you don’t have a team car, you can put spare wheels in with them. Even if you do have a team car, its usually a good idea to give Neutral at least one set of wheels, since they travel at the top of the cavalcade and you may get a wheel quicker from them.

If you’re giving wheels to Neutral, be sure to label them well. The best way is taping a name to the rim (not the braking surface).

Bear in mind that Neutral support is usually two dudes from the organising club in a car full of badly labelled wheels. Don’t waste time trying to get them to get your particular wheel. Your priority is to get back moving as quickly as possible. If you get a compatible wheel from them, great. Sometimes even an incompatible wheel will do the job. I finished a stage in the Gorey 3 Day once on 11 speed Campag and a 10 speed Shimano wheel. The gears were slipping non-stop but I was able to hang in there.

Team
I’d strongly encourage people to try to race as a team. Having said that, it’s important for everyone to be realistic about how much influence the average team can have on the race. This isn’t professional cycling, where everyone knows who the team leader is before the race and a team can control a race by riding on the front for most of the day.

What tends to happen is that everyone starts the race with their own ambitions and it's usually only after a stage or two that it becomes apparent who is going well and in with a chance of a good result. It’s at that point you start to think more as a team and try to support your strong riders. A result for them is a result for Orwell.

Again, it’s important to be realistic about what the team can do. There’s a good chance that there’ll be a lot of very tired bodies on the team and some people will be struggling. However, even a small amount of help can make a massive difference. I’ve been in situations where even 30 seconds from a team mate helping to close gaps when the pressure has been on has really helped me out.

Communication on the road is really important. Sometimes team mates will know what needs to be done, but often you need to be clear about what you want or are planning to do. There’s no point wasting your legs drilling it on the front if your teammate doesn’t need you to.

Overall Classification
If you are lucky enough to be in contention for the overall classification, it’s really important to know who your rivals are. Memorise their race numbers and the time gap between you. If you can, write down as many as you can and stick it on your top tube so you can check during the race. I dropped from second overall to third on the final stage of Ras Mhaigh Eo one year because I was too focussed on marking the yellow jersey and I didn’t realise that a guy who had gone up the road wasn’t that far behind me on GC.  

What to bring
Pack lots of kit. Ideally you should have at least two sets of kit because you don’t want to be washing your jersey and shorts after every stage. You should also have plenty of options in case the weather changes: arm warmers, base layers, mitts, full fingered gloves, gilet, rain jacket. You should also have a jacket or long sleeve jersey to wear before and after the stage.

If you can, bring a spare bike and/or spare wheels. You don’t want to a crash or a mechanical to ruin your weekend and leave you unable to finish. It may not be feasible for everyone to bring a spare bike to the race. In that case, even having one or two spares can help. Brian McArdle once did part of a stage of Ras Mumhan on my spare bike. It looked comical (and descending the Healy Pass on it was hair raising according to him) but it kept him in the race.

Budget
The club has a small budget set aside for the most popular stage races. The main purpose of the budget is to cover the costs of anyone volunteering to support the team. Their principal expenses are likely to be accommodation, petrol, and meals. If there is anything left over from the budget, the club can subsidise the team themselves and help cover some of their costs. As a general rule, we expect riders to pay at least some of their costs for every race.

Budgets are like speed limits. They’re a limit, not a target. If we can support a race under-budget, we will and use the money we save on other events. If there is no support crew travelling to a race, we won’t be spending the entirety of the budget on the riders.

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Last edit: 4 months 1 week ago by Dick O'Brien.

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