Battered and bruised; what a 39-year-old learned on his first Rás

Posted on: February 15th, 2019

Ken Tobin Rás Tailteann

Full body batter: The photos that prove cycling, and especially the eight-day An Post Rás, is simply not like football…


A very talented rider in his early days, Bray man Ken Tobin was arguably the best youth and junior competitor in the country in his teenage years.

Having turned senior in 1994 he won a number of major races including a round of the old National Classic League.

The former national junior road race champion was selected at the end of his first year in the senior ranks to ride for the Irish elite team at the Tour of Hokkaido in Japan.

He had already won races in the green of Ireland at the international week on the Isle of Man.

Injuries plagued him thereafter and he would abandon the sport while still a teenager. In 2014 he returned to cycling after almost two decades away.

He won a number of good races, including the criterium stage at the Suir Valley Three Day.

And a sense of unfinished business drove him in the arms of the beast that is the An Post Rás in 2015.

Despite several crashes on the way, he survived to become a Man of the Rás. Here he outlines 12 things he learned about the sport, the race and, most importantly, about himself on the longest road from Dunboyne to Skerries.

Ken Tobin wrote this piece for us at the time and we run it again today as a reminder of what the Rás means to Irish riders and why so many are compelled to ride it.

It may now be on the ropes and put on ice for a year, but it’s far from finished and the cycling community needs to pull together to save it.


Ken Tobin Rás Tailteann

Calling for help after a spill on stage 3 on the road to Bearna. It was just one of a number of crashes to strike the Bikeworx man the week before last.


The things I’ve learned, by Ken Tobin

1. Just because the bunch rides 95km in two hours doesn’t mean that that’s as fast as it gets.

2. Connemara roads are made for line outs, especially if it’s windy. But if you do the training you’ll be ok.

3. It amazes me how after a 40-rider pile-up that a certain county rider that left after I departed the crash scene still manages to finish 13 minutes ahead of me even though not one single rider passed me in the 45km ride to the finish.

4. If you’re hurting you can be sure everyone else is too; so hang in there and think of the honey badger (look him up).

5. It took me four days to acquire “the Rás stare”… But I savoured the moment as part of the experience.

6. It’s so important to have a laugh with your team mates at breakfast and dinner. Your moral will be boosted.


Ken Tobin Rás Tailteann

Still looking fresh, but clearly beginning to get on top of “the Rás stare”, at the finish of stage 2 into Tipperary (Photo with thanks to George Doyle)


7. You do, in fact, hear people shouting your name even though you’re in the hurt locker.

8. One pint after each stage does not hurt.

9. Simon Ryan’s ride to form the break on stage 4 and Bryan McCrystal’s effort on stage 2 were the stand-out county rider performances for me.

10. This was my first and last Rás… as a rider.

11. Had this not been my first Rás, I’d have abandoned the race after hitting the tarmac at 65.9kph on stage 5.

12. Ten to twelve hours quality training per week is enough to get you through the Rás comfortably.


Ken Tobin Rás Tailteann

On the climb of Aherlow, which blew the race apart. Just behind Tobin is Timmy O’Regan, a silver medalist this year at the National Cyclocross Championships (Photo with thanks to Ger Cusack)

Ken Tobin Rás Tailteann

It’s amazing the shape county riders like Tobin – riding the Rás for personal satisfaction and in pursuit of form that can bring big wins later in the summer – get into in the build up to the race.