Lydia Boylan is the leading Irish entry in An Post Rás na mBan which begins today (Wednesday) in Kilkenny City.
Boylan, the reigning and three-time Irish national road race champion, warned up for a maiden An Post Rás title with victory in the Laragh Classic in Wicklow on Sunday and has a UCI stage victory in the Settmana Ciclista Valenciana earlier this year to her name.
Second overall last year and in 2012, her national stage race is a major season goal. Boylan is part of a strong British registered WNT team that includes Kerry’s Josie Knight, also a team-mate of Boylan’s on the Irish national high performance track squad.
There are several other Irish riders on the list of visiting teams, including An Post Rás stalwart Lauren Creamer and Alice Sharpe of the British squad NCC Group Kuota Torelli.
Sharpe was 15th overall and fourth under-23 last year as a road racing neophyte. She will be looking forward to building on her experience of 12 months ago.
Róisín Thomas is back, this time with her AlAsayl Cycling Team from Dubai while Glasgow-based Ellen McDermott from the British EDCO Continental is another returning rider.
Riders from 18 nations will participate in the Rás na mBan. The first stage starts in the City and will finish in Gowran after a 70km race.
Day two (Thursday) is a road race starting at the Discovery Park in Castlecomer and finishing back in Castlecomer after a 75km run.
The 112km third stage on Friday features the daunting ascent to the nine stones on Mount Leinster, a stage that proved decisive a year ago.
Saturday morning begins with a 11km solo time trial against the clock beginning and ending outside Kilkenny rugby club.
The evening 40km circuit race will be, for many, the highlight of the week, with fast bunch racing for an hour around a closed road circuit in Kilkenny City Centre.
Sunday’s final road race will end with the riders racing across the St Francis Bridge and along the Medieval Mile where the 2017 An Post Rás na mBan champion will receive her final winner’s jersey in front of Kilkenny Castle.