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52nd FBD Milk Rás - 2.5
Ireland, May 23-30, 2004
By Shane Stokes, irishcycling.com
By including the first mountain top finish in over 20 years, race organiser Dermot Dignam has ensured that the 2004 FBD Milk Rás will be a particularly gripping contest.
The riders may make the race, but it is the route which provides the spectacle. Any successful stage race is a blend of different types of terrain, the flat and undulating roads which favour the power riding of the rouleurs and the hillier slopes which play into the hands of those gifted at racing uphill.
Each year the FBD Milk Rás route features a well-balanced mixture of both types of terrain. Ireland being Ireland, factors such as the wind and the weather also play a big part in making the race what it is, an exciting cut-and-thrust contest which never fails to excite.
Race director Dermot Dignam has this year gone one step further in ensuring a fantastic spectacle. There was a real surprise in store when he unveiled the route in February; for the first time since the Wicklow Gap stage in 1983, he has included a big mountain finish. The legendary Seskin Hill beside Carrick on Suir will animate the sixth stage of the race, a twisting legbreaker of a climb renowned as both Sean Kelly's old training haunt and the battlefield for the several Nissan Classic races.
Seskin should be a blistering finale to the day's action. When the riders race out of Millstreet that morning those final few kilometres will be playing heavily on their minds. A strong ride there could earn them a stage or win them the race; anything less will be quickly exposed on those cruel slopes. Seskin Hill may not be particularly long but the time gaps will certainly open in the final kilometre that day. It's going to be a humdinger of a stage.
'It's been a long time since we had a mountain top finish,' said race director Dermot Dignam. 'Each year we try to do different things with the route, and what better place for a stage end than at the top of Seskin Hill? It is very well known in Irish cycling and with the top just one mile from Carrick on Suir, should generate huge crowds and a really great atmosphere.'
The one thousand-kilometre FBD Milk Rás gets underway on Sunday, May 23rd with a 132 kilometre stage from Dublin to Trim. Several hot-spot sprints and third category King of the Mountains climbs punctuate the route, with the points won at Stamullen, Greenanstown, Slane, Glassallen and Collen counting towards the sprints and mountains classifications. As per usual, a constant stream of attacks can be expected throughout the stage before the final sprint on Emmett street in Trim.
Day two takes the riders on a twisting route from Trim to Oranmore, 167 kilometres passing through towns and villages such as Ballivor, Mullingar, Athlone and Ballinasloe. The stage has no major climbs but winding, undulating roads combined with small time gaps in the general classification will promote aggressive racing from the off.
152 kilometres from Oranmore to Charleville await the following day, with the riders racing through Ballina and Newport and disputing three KOM sprints. Points are up for grabs at the third category climbs of Killanena, Aylevaun and Ogonelle, but Dignam expects that a bunch sprint should be the most likely outcome at the finish in Charleville.
Day four to Cahirciveen is where the big time gaps are most likely to start to appear. This is both the longest and one of the most difficult stages in the race, with a total of nine categorised climbs rearing up along the 181 kilometre route. The tiring riders will encounter third category slopes at Glenduff Hill, Glenquin, Glenshearoon, Seefin, Drum West and Mount Foley, while towards the end of the stage the second cat Raheen and Cill Urlait ascents plus the first category Coonanaspig set the scene for a rip-roaring battle between the emerging favourites.
Just three climbs feature on stage five, but the first category ascents of Coomakista and Inchee Mountain may well shatter the main field and see many riders come in a long way down. The first of these two climbs comes shortly after the start of the 152 kilometre stage; the danger is that many of the weaker riders could lose contact, beginning what would be long, lonely day in the saddle. The two early climbs plus the third category County Bounds ascent should however provide ample opportunity for the contenders to try to take time from the yellow jersey before the stage finish in Millstreet.
Day six is destined to go down in Rás legend as it has been 21 long years since the race last featured a summit finish. The 151 kilometre stage to Carrick-on-Suir has just two climbs, one of which is the third category Pike, but the gruelling uphill slog to the finish line at the top of Seskin Hill is guaranteed to blow the race apart. The former world number one Sean Kelly built his strength on this cruel slope; it will take another strong, determined rider to come away with the honours at the end of this prestigious stage.
The penultimate leg of the race provides further opportunity for those looking to steal yellow, with 149 kilometres and nine climbs separating start and finish. The day's slopes include the category one ascents of The Heights, Corrabutt Gap and Mount Leinster, with plenty of fireworks guaranteed before the fragmented field descends down towards the stage end in Tullow. There remains but the final day, an hour long criterium in Dublin's Phoenix Park, so unless the time gaps are uncharacteristically small, the mountainous run from Carrick to Tullow will provide the final real shakeup in what should be a dramatic, distinctive edition of the FBD Milk Rás.
Thorntons Recycling Kazakhstan 1 Tommy Evans (Irl) 6 Valentin Iglinskiy (Kaz) 2 Denis Lynch (Irl) 7 Valeriy Dmitryev (Kaz) 3 David McCann (Irl) 8 Ivan Andreeyev (Kaz) 4 Eugene Moriarty (Irl) 9 Vadim Vdovinov (Kaz) 5 David O'Loughlin (Irl) 10 Alexandr Dyachenko (Kaz) Great Britain U23 Wales Stena Line 11 Graham Briggs (GBr) 16 Jamie Norfolk (GBr) 12 Matthew Brammeier (GBr) 17 Huw Pritchard (GBr) 13 Edward Clancy (GBr) 18 Anthony Malarczyk (GBr) 14 Evan Oilphant (GBr) 19 Paul Sheppard (GBr) 15 Mark Cavindish (GBr) 20 Steven Roach (GBr) Scandinavia Bianchi Nordic Perutnina 21 Glenn Bak (Den) 26 Valter Bonca (Slo) 22 Mikael Segarsall (Swe) 27 Matej Stare (Slo) 23 Kimmo Kananen (Fin) 28 Branko Filip (Slo) 24 Petter Renang (Swe) 29 Massimo Demarin (Cro) 25 Tobias Lergard (Swe) ComNet Senges Stevens Von Hacht 31 Michael Schweizer (Ger) 36 Thorsten Wiedenroth (Ger) 32 Uwe Sengewald (Ger) 37 Arne Hinrichsen (Ger) 33 Rene Schild (Ger) 38 Sonke Thiel (Ger) 34 Tjarco Cuppens (Ned) 39 Sven Eckert (Ger) 35 Stefan Cohnen (Ned) 40 Jens Schiwedler (Ger) Stelvio Teamwear - Orbis CRCA/Sakonnet 41 Michael Pudlinski (USA) 46 Greg Abrahamson (USA) 42 Michael Henson (USA) 47 Robert Giannini (USA) 43 Xavier Melendez (USA) 48 Andy Guptill (USA) 44 Michael Norton (USA) 49 Chris Kuhl (USA) 45 Isaiah Adams (USA) 50 Lee Rosenthal (USA) USA/Britain Century 51 Johnny Rondash (USA) 56 Andy Bennett (GBr) 52 Curtis Gunn (USA) 57 Terry Giblin (GBr) 53 Ben Greenwood (GBr) 58 Ant Cassidy (GBr) 54 Steve Howells (GBr) 59 Mike Harrison (GBr) 55 Peter Hey (GBr) 60 Graeme Hatcher (GBr) Energy Cycles Bannatyne 61 George Rose (GBr) 66 Richard Eastham (GBr) 62 Richard Jones (GBr) 67 Steve Gibson (GBr) 63 Andy Hoskins (GBr) 68 John Charlesworth (GBr) 64 Greg Roche (GBr) 69 Richard Cartland (GBr) 65 Gareth Jones (GBr) 70 Steven Kenny (GBr) Murphy & Gunn Surrey Racing League 71 John Tanner (GBr) 76 Tim Dunford (GBr) 72 Mark Lovatt (GBr) 77 John Ibbotson (GBr) 73 Kevin Dawson (GBr) 78 Roger Morgan (GBr) 74 Malcolm Elliott (GBr) 79 Chris Birch (GBr) 75 Julian Winn (GBr) 80 John Veness (GBr) Kanturk Credit Union Usher IRC 81 Daniel Lynch (Irl) 86 Michael Mulcahy (Irl) 82 Adrian Hedderman (Irl) 87 Paul Healion (Irl) 83 Paidi O'Brien (Irl) 88 Brian Stewart (Irl) 84 Simon Kelly (Irl) 89 David Peelo (Irl) 85 John Horgan (Irl) 90 Gregory Swinand (USA) Orwell Dundrum Shopping Dublin Wheelers All Systems 91 Donal Byrne (Irl) 96 Brian Taaffe (Irl) 92 Alan Lane (Irl) 97 Brian Keane (Irl) 93 Gary McNulty (Irl) 98 Daire McCaughley (Irl) 95 Brian Ahern (Irl) 99 Maurice Hickey (Irl) 100 Roger Aiken (Irl) Exel Ravens Stagg Cycles Bennett 101 Kieran Keane (Irl) 106 Eugene Murtagh (Irl) 102 Noel McGlynn (Irl) 107 Emmet Hogan (Irl) 103 Noel Maloney (Irl) 108 Ian Paine (Irl) 104 Graham Thomas (Irl) 109 James Walsh (Irl) 105 Derek King (Irl) 110 Gary Sheehan (Irl) Galway Newbridge 111 Colm Bracken (Irl) 116 Richard Malone (Irl) 112 John Peppard (Irl) 117 Fintan McCormack (Irl) 113 Michael Fitzgerald (Irl) 118 Seamus Kelly (Irl) 114 Padraig Marrey (Irl) 120 David Early (Irl) 115 Dermot Nally (Irl) Lee Strand Martin Donnelly 121 Philip Cassidy (Irl) 126 Bill Moore (Irl) 122 Mark Cassidy (Irl) 127 Paul Slane (Irl) 123 Stephen O'Sullivan (Irl) 128 Craig Sweetman (Irl) 124 Philip Finegan (Irl) 129 Robert Moore (Irl) 125 Aidan Crowley (Irl) 130 Simon Mulvany (Irl) Kerry Dan Morrissey 131 Paul Griffin (Irl) 136 Tim Barry (Irl) 132 Kieran McMahon (Irl) 137 Pat Keneally (Irl) 133 Sean Lacey (Irl) 138 Rory Wyley (Irl) 134 Ritchie Cahill (Irl) 139 John O'Shea (Irl) 135 Vincent Gleeson (Irl) 140 John Dempsey (Irl) Wicklow 141 Brian Harris (Irl) 142 Frank O'Leary (Irl) 143 Fergal Kelly (Irl) 144 Derek Cunningham (Irl) 145 Robert Wyse (Irl)
2003 Chris Newton (Great Britain) 2002 Ciaran Power (Ireland) 2001 Paul Manning (Great Britain) 2000 Julian Winn (Wales) 1999 Philip Cassidy (Ireland) 1998 Ciaran Power (Ireland) 1997 Andrew Roche (Kerry) 1996 Tommy Evans (Armagh) 1995 Paul McQuaid (Ireland) 1994 Declan Lonergan (Ireland) 1993 Eamonn Byrne (Dublin) 1992 Stephen Spratt (Dublin) 1991 Kevin Kimmage (Meath) 1990 Ian Chivers (Ireland) 1989 Dainis Ozolse (U.S.S.R) 1988 Paul McCormack (Ireland) 1987 Paul McCormack (Longford) 1986 Stephen Spratt (Ireland) 1985 Nicola Kosiakov (U.S.S.R) 1984 Stephen Delaney (Ireland) 1983 Philip Cassidy (Ireland) 1982 Dermot Gilleran (Ireland) 1981 Jamie McGahan (Scotland) 1980 Billy Kerr (Ireland) 1979 Stephen Roche (Ireland) 1978 Seamus Kennedy (Kerry) 1977 Yuri Lavyrushkin (U.S.S.R) 1976 Fons Steuten (Netherlands) 1975 Paddy Flanagan (Kildare) 1974 Peter Doyle (I.C.F) 1973 Mike O'Donoghue (Carlow) 1972 John Mangan (Kerry) 1971 Colm Nulty (Meath) 1970 Alexander Gysiatnikov (USSR) 1969 Brian Connaughton (Meath) 1968 Milan Hrezdira (Czech) 1967 Shay O'Hanlon (Dublin) 1966 Shay O'Hanlon (Dublin) 1965 Shay O'Hanlon (Dublin) 1964 Paddy Flanagan (Kildare) 1963 Zbigniew Glowaty (Poland) 1962 Shay O'Hanlon (Dublin) 1961 Tom Finn (Dublin) 1960 Paddy Flanagan (Kildare) 1959 Ben McKenna (Meath) 1958 Mick Murphy (Kerry) 1957 Frank Ward (Dublin) 1956 Paudie Fitzgerald (Kerry) 1955 Gene Mangan (Kerry) 1954 Joe O'Brien (National C.C) 1953 Colm Cristle (Gate C.C) Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com