Bagdonas returns to defend title as four Irish riders are selected
An Post Sean Kelly team manager Kurt Bogaert today named his team for the 60th edition of the Rás, which starts in Dunboyne next Sunday, 20th May. Four Irish riders have been named in the side, namely Sam Bennett, Conor McConvey, Ronan McLaughlin and Sean Downey, while Lithuanian strongman Gediminas Bagdonas returns to defend his 2011 title.
The Belgian based side have been in good form coming into the race with Bagdonas taking second place at the Omloop der Kempen (1.2) in the Netherlands last weekend and all four Irish riders putting in solid team performances to ensure a second place finish for teammate Kenneth Van Bilsen at the Circuit de Wallonie (1.2) in Belgium.
Team manager Kurt Bogaerts admitted that the promising form that some of his riders have shown in the last few weeks made his team selection a very tough decision.
“Deciding on the team for this year’s Rás was not an easy task. It is a race in which all of the riders want to be involved in, but unfortunately I can only select five to compete”, Bogaerts said.
While he also felt that the team’s experience in Bagdonas’ overall win last year will be a huge boost ahead of this year’s race.
“I think experience will play a vital role in the outcome of this year’s Rás. Bennett and McLaughlin were both involved in Bagdonas’ overall win last year, while McConvey finished top U23 rider and 4th overall in 2010 and Sean Downey was the highest placed Irish rider last year.”
He is also counting on local knowledge of Donegal native Ronan McLaughlin to assist the team as no less than four stages of the eight day race pass through the county.
“Ronan was delighted when he saw the Rás route this year as he trains regularly on the roads, so I’m sure that will be positive for us. A couple of years ago David O’Loughlin won a stage for the team near where he grew up so hopefully Ronan can do the same.”
Despite the great form of his riders and the experience they possess Bogaerts is in no doubt as to how difficult the competition will be again this year.
“Bagdonas is returning as the champion so there will be a lot of expectation and pressure on us as a team to perform. It is a very difficult race to win and I’m sure with the quality of riders we face again this year it will be even harder to retain it, ” said Bogaerts.