In only its second appearance in the challenging Rás na mBan road race Team WNT has come away with multiple team and individual successes, including taking the overall team classification and second place overall for Irish national Road Race Champion, Lydia Boylan.
The 11th running of Rás na mBan (literal translation: Women's Race and pronounced 'rawss na mon') was always going to pose challenges with the daunting 112 km Queen Stage finishing 436 metres up the ferocious climb of Mount Leinster in atrocious weather conditions. Adding to the complications was a serious crash on stage five, which caused the stage to be cancelled, due several riders lying injured on the ground, with a number of them ending up in A&E, including Team WNT’s Lydia, who suffered cuts requiring stitches. Fortunately, she was well enough to continue to the end of the race following treatment.
Stage one saw the first indications that it would be a good week for Team WNT with guest rider Eileen Roe taking a podium spot finishing third, 30 seconds behind stage winner Danish rider Rikke Lønne. The relatively short, but fast stage two saw Lydia begin her climb up the general classification taking sixth place on the stage in the same time as team mates Eileen Roe, Natalie Grinzcer, Rebecca Rimmington, Rebecca Carter, laying the foundations for team success. This brought the peloton to Stage three and the shadow of Mount Leinster looming large in the distance. The stage finished, and was run, in some miserable and windy weather, with support vehicle headlights shining bright through the gloom. Eventual race winner, Rikke Lønne of Team Crescent D.A.R.E by took the stage with a solo breakaway, she was followed home 2 minutes 11 seconds later in a lonely second place by Team WNT’s Lydia, which moved her into second place overall.
The following day after a good rest came the relative ease of the individual time trial on the Waterford Road, Kilkenny, and Team WNT once again staked its claim for general classification honours with Natalie Grinczer taking third place just sixteen seconds further back from stage winner Marieke Kerkvliet (WV Breda), with Bex Rimmington also taking a top ten finish for Team WNT and Lydia finishing well to maintain second place on the general Classification. This brought the race to Stage five, a 2.1km circuit race around Kilkenny, with the castle as a backdrop. The high pace resulted in a serious crash that caused the stage to be cancelled as riders were cared for on the road, with four being taken to hospital including Team WNT’s Lydia, who required stitches to a hand injury. Thankfully, none of the injuries were too serious.
The final 85 km stage was a circuit that began and ended in Kilkenny and was the final opportunity for stage victory for Team WNT, an opportunity they were determined to realise. Taking the honours at the line was Eileen Roe, ably supported by the rest of the team and in the final kilometres, especially by Natalie Grinczer who made her presence felt in the breakaway group. Eileen took the stage in a sprint finish with six other riders, including race winner Rikke Lønne, sharing the same time, with Natalie being given sixth place. Lydia came home safely in the main peloton to secure second place overall, with Natalie taking fifth spot in the general classification. Due to a mechanical earlier in the week Eileen was pushed down to 17th overall, with Bex Rimmington in 19th place and Becca Carter in 28th. Lydia and Natalie also took first and second placed British Rider awards and in the overall team event Team WNT took top honours with a combined time 6 minutes 33 seconds ahead of its closest rivals.
Rás na mBan was also the first major race for Team WNT under the guidance of new Director Sportive, Graeme Herd, who got his new role off to a flying start: “It was a great first trip with the team for me, and I am excited about 2017 as the team continues to develop and grows. Rikke Lønne rode really well to take the overall honours in the race. Team WNT took its opportunities well and can be happy with the performance, both as individuals and as a group, despite the crashes and mechanical incidents that are part and parcel of the sport. The Rás na mBan is a superb race organised by a group of very hard working people, we are very grateful to have had the chance to compete in such a great event and look forward to returning next year.