The 2013 An Post Rás route was announced this morning at the GPO. A demanding eight days of competition faces the riders with the 61st edition of the race featuring over 1180 kilometres of cycling and no less than 33 categorised climbs, four of which are category one mountains. Cork is set to see plenty of racing with three stages passing through the county. The action will begin on stage four which gets underway from Listowel, County Kerry and finishes in Glengarriff. Stage five will begin from there the following morning taking the riders 150 kilometres up to the stage finish in Mitchelstown. The race will then set off from there on stage six and finish up in Carlow. Two time Rás winner and former Olympian Ciaran Power was on hand to launch the annual international cycle race at the GPO today along with amateur county riders Brian Ahern and Robin Kelly and newly appointed Rás organiser, Tony Campbell. Campbell, who recently took over the reins from Dermot Dignam, insists the mixture of flat and mountainous stages was designed to strike the right balance while also providing the amateur riders with a better chance of competing against the top teams “It is a different type of course this year. The route designer, Stephen O’Sullivan wanted to make some changes. The first three stages are pretty flat, which will keep the time gaps close and the suspense high. You don’t need the hills to have good racing. It’s up to the riders to be aggressive and to break things up. Part of the thinking was to provide encouragement to the Irish riders to race, as they should be able to compete against the professional teams. The stages are of a length to encourage them to race hard over that distance. But there are also a couple of stages with plenty of hills, and that will give the climbers the chance to make a difference”, Campbell said. A new and exciting aspect of the race for Irish riders will be the addition of a ‘County Rider’ jersey. This will spice up the action between the county teams as they compete to claim the jersey and local glory that goes with it on each day of the race. The world-ranked race begins in Dunboyne on Sunday 19th May, the fourth consecutive year it has started there. It will then move counter-clockwise around the country, and includes stage finishes in Longford, Nenagh, Listowel, Killarney, Glengarriff, Mitchelstown, Carlow and Naas, before concluding on Sunday 26th May with the customary finale in Skerries, North County Dublin. Campbell expects that as usual, the race will be a much sought after event in the cycling calendar by strong international professional and national teams from Europe and further afield. An Post continues to sponsor the race, which will be a key event in the company’s Gathering 2013 schedule of activity. An Post CEO, Donal Connell said “This is the third year of partnership between two well-known Irish institutions. We look forward to another year of great racing and fabulous support from communities all along the route. We are expecting over 14 international teams to compete so this is a great chance to showcase our racing talent, our countryside and our culture to a world audience. The An Post Rás will be a great asset to the Gathering’s 2013 calendar.” Details of the international teams set to join this year’s An Post Rás will be released over the coming months. The An Post Sean Kelly team has already committed to participating. The 1180.5 kms inlclude: Stage 4, Wednesday May 22: Listowel to Glengarriff, 153 kms: Day four is substantially more difficult, with O’Sullivan cramming in no less than eight climbs on the 153 kilometres between Listowel and Glengarriff. The first of those, Lacka West, comes just 7.9 kilometres after the start and the category two climb will shake up the bunch and could provoke early splits. After that, the riders head on to the Crinny climb (category three, km 28.3), Castleisland, the category three ascent of Farranfore (km 47.3) and then pass through Killarney. From there the peloton will be shaken up by a succession of mountains, starting with the category two trio of Ladies View (km 82.4), Molls Gap (km 87.3) and Garranes (km 117.1), then the gruelling Healy Pass, which comes 127 kilometres after the start and marks the first category one climb of this year’s race. That is certain to rupture the main bunch and scatter riders going over the summit, but with 25 kilometres remaining from there until the line and only the category three Cooleriagh (km 145.3) interrupting a fast run-in to the finish, some of those gaps could tighten up. “There is a long chase in from the Healy Pass so there could be a regrouping of sorts,” confirms Campbell, who for many years worked as right hand man to the previous race director Dermot Dignam. Stage 5, Thursday May 23: Glengarriff to Mitchelstown, 150.2 kms: The sprinters will feel better about their chances on stage five, a 150.2 kilometre race from Glengarriff to Mitchelstown. Early on the peloton will face the category two ascents of the Pass of Keimaneigh (km 25) and Gortnabinna (km 37.7), but after the latter there follows 100 kilometres of mainly flat roads, passing through Macroom, Millstreet, Banteer and Mallow. The sole obstacle to a bunch gallop comes at the category three climb of Kildorrery (km 137.9), but it remains to be seen if that ramp is sufficient to enable a rider or small group to get clear. Stage 6, Friday May 24: Mitchelstown to Carlow, 154.6 kms: Campbell believes the following day’s race between Mitchelstown and Carlow could be much more decisive. “I think this is the day when the race will really start to take shape,” he said. “The last climbs come quite close to the finish and will likely play a big part.” The 154.6 kilometre stage doesn’t present any major difficulties early on, with only the An Post, post office sprint at Urlingford (km 77.4) featuring in the first two hours of racing. However things get considerably tougher after the 100 kilometre point, with five climbs rearing up between there and the finish; these are Byrnesgrove (category 2, km. 108.8), Castelcomer (category 3, km 116.3), the first category wall of Gorteen (km 120.9), plus the second category pair of Coan West (km 124.6) and Clogrenan (km 133.5).