Freiband talks fighting to finish Rás na mBan with broken shoulder

Posted on: September 12th, 2017

Monica Freiband, stage 6 Ras na mBan 2017

Monica Freiband determinedly rolls over the line to finish stage six and An Post Rás na mBan, her gears and shoulder broken.


Monica Freiband shows grit to finish Rás na mBan


SCOTT-ORWELL’S Monica Freiband was in a surprisingly positive mood as she relieved Sunday’s bizarre crash in the final 200m of the five-day An Post Ras na mBan in Kilkenny.

The 26-year-old had enjoyed a hard debut week on the international stage race, buoyed by strong performances by team mates Michelle Geoghegan and Orla Walsh.

But as she ramped up for the last 200m of the race, a man stepped out in front of her.

She hit him square, flying out over the handlebars to land on the tarmac shoulder first.

“We were coming into the final 200 and there was this man in the middle of the road,” she said.

“He seemed to walk out and then it almost seemed like he realised what was happening and took a step back, but straight into my line.

“I went straight into him and over the handlebars. Apparently the whole thing is on CCTV, so I’d like to see that some time.”

A man was arrested in connection with the incident. While the gardai did their thing, Freiband lay stricken.

Her body and bike broken, on-lookers felt sure her race was over within sight of the finish line. Freiband was having none of it.

“If I had to pick up my bike and run, I was finishing that race,” she said.

“Come hell or high water, one way or another I was going over the finish line.

“Our masseur James Davenport was in the car right behind me when the crash happened.

“And I just remember him saying: ‘Get up!’. He threw a wheel at me and gave me one giant push.

“I could see the finish line, and I remembered to grab my computer too, so it’s all on Strava.”

The photo of Freiband crossing the line, one-armed and steely-eyed has since become a symbol of what it takes to become a woman of the Rás.

And that she is; finishing 15th of the 20 county riders on general classification, despite her untimely fall.


Monica Freiband, Ras na mBan 2017

Monica Freiband powering through the Stage 4 TT at Ras na mBan (Photo: Sean Rowe)


She has vowed to come back stronger next year, the race having well and truly captured her heart.

“I’d watched the Ras na mBan crit last year during my first week in Ireland and thought, that’s a race I want to do,” she said.

“But I’m from Chicago and we mostly do crit racing there. I’d never done a road race before.

“I’ve been coaching with Matteo Cigala, and he said, ‘why doesn’t it have to happen, you can make it a goal’.”

Freiband did, taking in all seven Joe Daly Cycles National Road Series Races in preparation, and being driven not least by the likes of leading Irish rider Eve McCrystal, and the uber strong Katharine Smyth and Claire McIlwaine.

“It’s something to aspire to be,” she said. “You watch them race in the National League, and it’s a level you want to reach.

“You can learn a lot from those girls, they are so strong, and it’s pretty amazing to be able to walk up to them at the end of a race. Everyone in this community is there for each other.”

Having raced in Chicago with 2015 Irish Cyclocross Championships silver medallist Maria Larkin, Freiband had planned to continue her year of firsts by taking in the off-road tests this winter.

But her Rás na mBan hiccup may have put paid to that.

“A fractured shoulder is the worst of it,” she said. “Aside from that, just a lot of road rash, swelling, and bruising, the usual – there’s not a scratch on my helmet.

“My bike came out of it worse; a taco-ed wheel and two shifters that are completely mangled.

“The fact that we were doing 40kph in the final sprint and I went over the handlebars, I’d say I’m incredibly lucky.

“We all are (lucky), as a lot more girls could have come down. And considering how many crashes there were during the week – I think only 100 girls finished – the fact we still had four riders going into that stage was amazing.”

On her recovery, she added: “The fracture is in a very difficult position, surrounded by cartilage. So it will depend how it heals as to whether I need surgery or not.

“The real problem is it’s my dominant arm, so I’m having to learn how to brush my teeth with my left hand. It’s not easy!”