Our 2018 Rás Tailteann challenge got under way in Ireland on Sunday, with Dexter Gardias clinching fifth place on stage one.
So what better time to take a closer look at stage racing, with our latest beginner’s guide from Canyon Eisberg fan Marina Stedman…
What is the Rás?
The Rás is an eight-day stage race around Ireland that is ranked as a 2.2 event on the UCI’s international calendar.
It was first held in 1953 and has been held every year since then.
This year’s race covers 1168.7km. It started on Sunday in Drogheda and ends in Skerries on Sunday, May 28.
How are UCI races classified?
The first number in the UCI ranking represents the type or style of race – a 1 means it is a one-day race, and a 2 means it’s a multi-day or stage race.
The second number represents the importance or difficulty. World Tour teams such as Team Sky, Dimension Data and BMC must compete in all races classified WT (World Tour).
The next level, HC (hors catégorie or beyond categorisation) is open to UCI World Tour Teams (max 70 per cent), UCI Professional Continental teams, UCI Continental teams, such as Canyon Eisberg, and national teams.
Races rated 1.1 and 2.1 are open to UCI World Tour teams (max 50 per cent), UCI Professional Continental teams, UCI Continental teams and national teams.
Meanwhile, 1.2 and 2.2 races are for UCI Professional Continental teams, UCI Continental teams, national teams plus regional and club teams.
As a 2.2 race, the Rás is a multi stage, level 2 UCI race. The Tour de Yorkshire is a 2.1.
How are climbs categorised?
Climbs are ranked in five grades or categories according to their level of difficulty. Category four is the easiest, progressing through three, two, one and HC.
This year’s Rás features four category one climbs, 10 category two climbs and 20 third category climbs.
There are some traditional standards on how climbs are categorised – a ‘typical’ category four has 2km at 6 per cent, for example.
A category three has 2km to 3km at 8 per cent or maybe 4km to 6km at 4 per cent.
In turn, a category two has 5km to 10km at 5 to 7 per cent, while a category one has a similar distance at more than 8 per cent.
An HC climb is the toughest. Think Alpe D’Huez, which is 1,860m high at the top of an ascent of 13.8km, with an average gradient of 8.1 per cent and a maximum of 13 per cent.
In many races, however, climbs are usually ranked subjectively based on the race’s location, steepness of the available climbs, their length and also where they occur in the stage.
Climbs near the finish are typically given a higher ranking, so a category one might be classified as HC if it is the last of the day.
What happens to riders who get left behind?
When competing in any stage race, riders have to complete the previous day’s stage in order to start the race again the next day.
While roads are usually closed to traffic on a rolling basis, time limits are set for stages to ensure the safety of the riders and allow each stage to finish in a reasonable time.
In the Rás, the time limit for all stages will be 20 per cent of the stage winner’s time. So if, for example, the winner takes 4hr to complete the stage, the cut-off time will be 4hr 48min.
Any rider taking longer than that will not be allowed to start the race the next day, although the race director has the discretion to increase the cut-off time in exceptional circumstances.
Riders outside the time limit are classified as HD in the results (hors delai in French, meaning out of time.
After his memorable opening stage victory, Harry Tanfield was hors delai on the final day of the Tour de Yorkshire.
Riders who get left behind or are involved in crashes and unable to continue may be picked up by the broom wagon (the Voiture Balai).
Broom wagons have been in existence since high Pyrenean climbs were first added to le Tour de France in 1910.
The organisers thought it would be a good idea to have a rescue van follow the riders in case they couldn’t all get up the steep mountain roads.
he broom wagon has been used in long races ever since, following the last rider in a stage.
However, riders who abandon during a stage may prefer to get into their team car.
In the 1910 Tour, a rider who could not finish a mountain stage could restart the next day and compete for stage wins but not the general classification competition. That is no longer permitted.
Riders who abandon during a stage will be marked as DNF (did not finish) in the results and those who do not line up to start a stage will be marked as DNS (did not start).
More to follow…
That’s enough to get us started. Stay tuned out for the next edition when we’ll talk about who looks after the riders before, during and after the races.
Click the following links to read Marina’s beginner’s guides to road racing and the Tour Series.