Here's Tamsin's blog from the An Post Rás na mBan:
When Heather asked whether I'd like to go to the Ras na mBan with the Racing Chance Foundation I said yes immediately and spent the next 24 hours jumping around with excitement. It wasn't until I saw who my team mates would be that I started to wonder whether she'd made a mistake by inviting me… I'd seen/ met Alisa, Kelly and Charlie at races before and knew how strong they were, plus I'd be the oldest and least experienced which is never a good combination. In the end the excitement won out and I was just really happy to be going.
Preparation for the Ras went well up until the week before when I had root canal treatment, lost my asthma inhalers and began moving house. I'm not sure pros prepare for stage races like this but a well planned trip over to Kilkenny on the Monday meant I got over any fatigue and we had time for some gentle rides before the first stage on Wednesday evening. We were all getting on well in the team, sharing our sporting backgrounds and how we'd got in to bike racing, as well as our favourite foods to add peanut butter to. I was feeling relaxed and almost ready for the next five days!
Stage One: the hill was bigger than we thought. Quite a bit bigger really, I was somewhere in the bunch and didn't manage to see Kelly almost get some QOM points but I did manage to stay with the front group till the end which I saw as a big achievement and an encouraging sign for the next four days' racing.
Stage Two: this is my first season of racing and I have a lot to learn! I was near the back of the group and got a little bit pushed into hedge at the bottom of the first climb and came off. I chased and caught the group but I couldn't sustain it so dropped back. Due to some hard work from Alisa we managed to make contact with a group in front of us and rode to the finish together. I crossed the line a little disappointed but then heard Charlie had come in 8th - an amazing result in a field of such strong sprinters.
Stage Three: I'd been looking forward to this day so much! We'd driven up Mount Leinster the day before and I really thought a mountain finish would suit me, but how wrong I was. The weather was torrential, I maybe shouldn't have worn a cape and I definitely should have drunk more but those are all just excuses and when we hit the climb I just didn't have the legs to stay with the group. Given the gales and rain I didn't even feel disppointed when I finished, just happy to have completed it m. We all bundled into the car, got warm and congratulated each other on survival, especially Alisa who had done the stage with a possible broken wrist.
Stage Four: 11k tt went well, the main item of note being that I got to wear a tt helmet which made me feel like a pro, at least whilst strutting around if not whilst actually on the bike. Kelly did an awesome job, coming 14th overall and keeping big her place high on GC.
Stage Five: I was never going to do well in a crit and I didn't. I dropped out the main group fairly early on and unfortunately the race was stopped following a crash. Charlie and Kelly were in the group when it happened, Charlie unfortunately coming off but being hard as nails was ready for the next and final days race after the doctor patched her up.
Stage Six: My best stage and I felt I was able to correct the mistakes I'd made in the earlier stages, I stayed near the front, I kept contact with the group on the climb and I ate and drank enough to keep me going till the end. I was really happy to have finished well and put into practice all the advice everyone had been giving me.
I was completely exhausted but so happy to have completed the Ras, I learnt so much about racing and can't wait to work on my weaknesses over the off season and come back stronger next year. A huge thanks to the Racing Chance Foundation for making it possible, to Fred and John for looking after us and our bikes, and a big big massive thank you to Charlie, Kelly and Alisa for all the advice and encouragement you gave me - I learnt more racing with you over five days than I had all season by myself!
Ed: The Racing Chance Foundation would like to thank the Fred Whitton Challenge for the financial support, Bioracer and Onimpex UK for making sure the kit arrived in time, John Hammer for his assistance as a soigneur, Fred Bamforth for team manager, mechanic and helper duties, Ian Roberts for assistance with the logistics and to the organisation of the An Post Rás na mBan for making the team feel so welcome.