Carrick-on-Suir Wheelers cyclist celebrates Rás Tailteann victory

Carrick-on-Suir Wheelers cyclist Ray Cullen on the podium after his Rás Tailteann victory.

Carrick Wheelers cyclist Ray Cullen stormed to victory in the A2 category of the Rás Tailteann on Sunday. 

He won the title with 17 minutes to spare and it was his first time to compete in the Rás. 

Carrick Wheelers Cycling Club congratulated Ray on his victory. "Lining out on Day 1 of the Ras is nerve-wrecking but the stages never fazed him. He so deserved to be on that podium in Skerries, " said a Club spokesperson. 

The eight-day tour race, which is Ireland's only UCI ranked cycling event, covered some of the most beautiful roads in Ireland.  The route took competitors from Drogheda, through Athlone, Tiperary Town, Listowel, Glengarriff, Mitchelstown, Carlow, Naas and Skerries. 

Riders powered up some famous climbs such as Molls Gap and the Healy Pass in Kerry and Glenmalure and the Wicklow Gap.  

Ray Cullen along with teammates Cathal Purcell, Jamie Blanchfield, Daryl Kearns and Matthew Sparrow took to the start line amongst the best riders Ireland had to offer together with a number of professional teams from all across Europe and the United States.

The first three stages were relatively relaxed in comparison with other years.  The Swiss national team controlled the race as one of their riders was in the yellow jersey.  It was on the fourth day, when the race went into the Kerry Mountains, that large time gaps began to appear in the peloton. 

Ray led the A2 category since the beginning of the week and was not giving that up for anything and the team were in joint first place in the County Team Category.  On day six into Carlow, they unfortunately lost Jamie Blanchfield to illness.  A large number of riders across the whole peloton were affected by the same illness.  One American team had to withdraw completely.  Losing Jamie was a big blow to the team's prospects in the County Team competition but Ray continued to lead the A2 category and extended his lead day by day.  

By the time the race hit the Wicklow Mountains, fatigue was setting in and the peloton splintered into about eight groups but the Carrick Wheelers cyclists persevered and pushed onwards.  The final day was tough with only 35 secs separating the whole top 10.  At the finish line, the Swiss rider, having held the Yellow Jersey for the whole week lost it to one of the American Delta team riders by one second.