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This year's Rás promises to be real test of courage

The 2010 FBD Insurance Rás organiser Dermot Dignam, in his last year at the helm, has put a very testing course together.

The event will be flagged off on May 23 and finishes eight days later in Skerries. "It is, by far, one of the toughest courses in a long time. I envisage that it will test every participant who goes to the start line in Dunboyne. The overall winner will certainly know that he has been in a quality event," said Dermot.

"This year I have been snowed under with requests to participate. Preferably, I hope to bring in at least eight overseas teams which will make it exciting for the rest of the line up."

The most difficult finish of this year's race looks to be day five with a 157km stage concluding at the summit of the category one climb of Seskin Hill on the outskirts of Carrick-on-Suir. Sizeable gaps will begin to open in the general classification, and the overall standings are likely to be shaken up once again 24 hours later when the riders cover seven categorised climbs and 127km en route to Gorey.

The penultimate stage is another one for the uphill specialists, with some of the toughest roads in Wicklow taking the riders past the Shay Elliott memorial at Drumgoff and over the Wicklow Gap. Two more climbs follow before the finish in Kilcullen, making it a day of dynamic racing, certain aggression and one of great danger for the race leader.

FBD Insurance Rás Route

Stage 1, Sunday 23 May: Dunboyne -- Dundalk, 149 km; Stage 2: Dundalk -- Carrick on Shannon, 155km; Stage 3: Carrick on Shannon -- Oughterard, 171km; Stage 4: Oughterard -- Tipperary, 169km; Stage 5: Tipperary -- Seskin Hill, Carrick on Suir, 157km; Stage 6: Carrick on Suir -- Gorey, 127km; Stage 7: Gorey -- Kilcullen, 151km; Stage 8: Kilcullen -- Skerries, 2 laps of 13.7km circuit, 140km.