Winning British squads from two previous editions of the An Post Ràs will race as a strong set of UK registered teams travelling to Ireland for next month’s race.
The Rapha Condor Sharp team, 2009 victors with Simon Richardson are returning and targeting success. So too are the UK Youth Pro Cycling squad, which helped Alexander Wetterhall to success in 2010 (then titled Team Sprocket).
They are joined by the Node 4-Giordana Racing team, IG Sigma Sport and Metaltek-Scott. Together the five squads will be amongst the strongest in the race, and will play a major part in shaping the final outcome.
The Rapha Condor Sharp team will be led by John Herety, a former professional who has guided several riders to Rás victories. UK-based Irish rider Felix English will be one of his five riders. English recently won the final stage of the Tour of the North and is psyched to ride well in his first edition of the top Irish event.
Luke Grivell-Mellor, who took the Under 23 classification of the Tour of North, will also be part of the team, as well Richard Handley, Mike Cuming and Christopher Jennings.
“It is my intention to bring a young team, which is all part of a change of focus for the Rapha Condor Sharp Team in 2012,” said Herety, who will be one of the most experienced managers in the race. “We will be targeting the Irish Sports Council U23 White Jersey Competition.”
Three of the riders will compete in the Tour of Korea next week as part of their buildup, while two others will do the tough Rutland Classic.
Swedish rider Freddy Johansson will lead the Team UK Youth Pro Cycling squad, riding the race along with compatriot Christofer Stevensson, Welsh National Road Race and Critierium Champion Gruff' Lewis, Jersey rider Richard Tanguy and Englishman James Lowsley-Williams.
“Freddy was a key member of our team when we raced The An Post Rás as Team Sprocket in 2010, with Alex Wetterhall as our team leader,” said Directeur Sportif, Dave Povall. “I think Freddy can take up the challenge and responsibility of leading our team this year, and I've selected a strong team to support him. Christofer Stevensson also has the potential to win the race.”
Former An Post Rás stage winner and race leader Dan Craven is part of the provisional line-up with the IG Sigma Sport team. Finishing third place overall in 2010, he knows what it takes to fight for the final yellow jersey.
Having triumphed in 2009, Simon Richardson is even better positioned in that regard. He is designated team leader, backed by Peter Hawkins, stage winner in the Tour of the North, Steve Lampier and Wouter Sybrandy.
“We will obviously go into the race looking for an overall result on the GC,” said Becky Frewing, media manager of the IG Sigma Sport squad.
Irish rider Stephen Halpin will be part of the Metaltek-Scott squad, the fourth of five UK-based teams. “Dale Appleby will be the team leader,” said manager Andy Swain. “He is returning from a broken collarbone but is fired up for the Rás. We will be targeting stage podiums, a top fifteen in the overall classification and to challenge for the King of the Mountains.”
Swain and Halpin will compete alongside Rhys Lloyd, James Gullen and Ben Stockdale.
The final squad confirmed today is the Node 4-Giordana team, current squad of talented young Irishman Philip Lavery. Lavery is expected to take part, returning to the race one year after missing out on the 2011 event.
Marcin Bialoblocki, Peter Williams, James Sampson and David Clarke are part of the provisional line-up. Former stage winner and past Vuelta a Espana points champion Malcolm Elliott will manage the riders and share his considerable experience with them.
An Post Rás race director Dermot Dignam believes that there’s several potential winners in the squads announced today. “There are some very strong riders there, and many of them have ridden this race before,” he said. “They know what the race is about, are aware of the tactics necessary for success, and will ride a very strong race next month.
“It wouldn’t be surprising at all if the final winner emerges from these teams.”
The 2012 An Post Rás is the sixtieth edition of Ireland’s toughest cycling event: Starting on Sunday, May 20th, from Dunboyne to Kilkenny, with finishes in Gort, Westport, Bundoran, Buncrana, Killybegs, Cootehill and Skerries.
The race totals 1200 kilometres and will feature strong international professional and national teams from Europe and further afield.
Meanwhile, the An Post Sean Kelly Team are in action in Holland on Sunday at the Ronde Van Noord-Holland (1.2). Sam Bennett returns to the team following his recent outings at the U-23 Nations Cup . Bennett is the sole Irish representative in an eight man squad. He is joined by Belgian riders Niko Eeckhout, Pieter Gyhllebert, Niels Wytinck, and Joren Segers, British riders Mark McNally and Jonathan Mould and Lithuanian, Gediminas Bagdonas.
Team manager Kurt Bogaerts is pleased with the team’s form ahead of Sunday’s race.
“We have put in some solid performances of late and have been in contention coming into the final stages of the last few races so we will be hoping to continue that and go for the victory on Sunday”.
“It’s a tough race. The route is very flat so it will be difficult with the crosswinds but our conditioning is improving every week and the morale in the team is high”, Bogaerts added.
An Post Sean Kelly Team for Ronde Van Noord-Holland (Sunday 22nd April)
- Sam Bennett (IRL)
- Mark McNally (UK)
- Jonathan Mould (UK)
- Niko Eeckhout (BEL)
- Pieter Ghyllebert (BEL)
- Niels Wytinck (BEL)
- Joren Segers (BEL)
- Gediminas Bagdonas (LTU)