‘The Toughest Race’ follows the Neon Velo Cycling Team whilst they take on the An Post Ras (Irelands prestigious 8 day stage race). Nathaniel Rosa documents the teams journey and gives us a different perspective to racing, the riders mind.
The Ras is a UCI 2.2 stage race that has been held annually since 1953, with this year proving to be the toughest in recent history. Where last year brutal sidewinds were the enemy, this year it was an abundance of categorised climbs and the determination of the leading Irish teams to not allow any breakaway to happen. Relentless racing ensued, with hour-average speed checks of over 30mph being called over the tour radio frighteningly regularly.
By the end of the first stage it was clear to riders who hadn’t previously competed in the Ras that they were in for something quite different to a usual premiere calendar race – a race where firepower alone wasn’t cutting it – it became a mental game somewhere between ‘I can barely turn my legs over’ and ‘this is the one, do whatever it takes’.
With county team riders desperate to leave their mark on the race crashes were continuous with almost every competitor being caught by one at some point during the week. A startling statistic was told to us by one of the organisers on the first evening “There were almost as many crashes today [stage 1] as there were all of last year”.