With time ticking down to the start of the 2012 An Post Rás in sixteen day’s time, three more strong international teams have been announced for the race.
Pro teams (UCI Continental) Denmark Blue Water Cycling and Norway Team ONECO Mesterhus and the first-ever appearance of a Moroccan national team raise the number of international squads announced to fifteen, and point towards this year’s race as being an extremely competitive and unpredictable one.
Norway Oneco Mesterhus will be led by Magnus Børresen, the 2010 Norwegian under 23 champion, who was second last year in the 1.2 ranked Rogaland Grand Prix.
He will be backed up by 2012 Tour of Malta stage winner Andreas Landa, 2011 Amore Vita competitor Kristian Forbord, 2011 Norwegian under 23 championship bronze medallist Christian Hannestad and Krister Hagen, winner last year of the Tonsberg four day race.
“We go to Ireland with a goal to win stages and at least one jersey,” said team manager Lars Junker. “We have very good sprinters and climbers so we really want to get some of the jerseys.
“To lead these crazy Vikings we got a good and experienced captain in Magnus Børresen; we want to take some scalps because that’s an old Norwegian Viking tradition!”
After racing in Spain, Malta, Holland, Denmark and Norway, the team will do the 1.1-ranked Rogaland GP on May 13th as its final big preparation event.
Scandinavian neighbours Denmark Blue Water Cycling will feature the experienced 34 year old Jacob Nielsen, who was second in the world junior road race championships back in 1996 and has won many UCI races since.
Former junior world track champion Lasse Norman Hansen is also on the team, and travels here after being up against Ireland’s Martyn Irvine in the omnium event at the world championships in Melbourne. He was third there, sealing his place alongside Irvine in the Olympics, and will seek to ride strongly in the An Post Rás as part of his buildup for London 2012.
The team is compeleted by Rolf Broge, third overall in the recent 2.2-ranked Tour du Loir et Cher, Jesper Odgaard Nielsen and Christian Jersild Jensen.
“The An Post Rás is a very important race for us and we want to bring our best team,” said Nielsen. “We will try to do our best on the stages and then see how thing will turn out for the overall; we have some riders who can do well there too.”
The team will ride the Ronde van Overijssel this weekend, then fine-tune its build-up before travelling to Ireland.
The Moroccan national team is building international experience but its manager Andreas Petermann promises that it will be a big factor in the race. “We have not yet one leader like other professional teams, but we will play a very good role in the 2012 An Post Rás.”
One of those certain to impress is Adil Jelloul, who last year topped the UCI’s Africa Tour rankings and who this year has been runner-up in both the Tours of Algeria and Morocco.
Team-mate Moussine Lahsaini won the 2011 Tour of Marocco and this year’s 1.2-ranked GP Youssoufia, while Tarik Chaoufi has clocked up several victories, including two stages of the 2.2 Tour of Morocco.
The remaining two riders on the team are Ismail Ayoune and Essaid Abelouache, who finished first and second in this year’s 1.2 Grand Prix Al Massira in Morocco.
“There are some very strong riders amongst the three teams from Norway, Denmark and Morocco,” said An Post Rás race director Dermot Dignam. “Together with the international teams already announced, I think they will present a very impressive lineup for this year’s race. There will be a very worthy final winner.”
The 2012 An Post Rás will be the sixtieth edition of Ireland’s toughest cycling event.
It will begin on Sunday May 20th with a stage from Dunboyne to Kilkenny, and will continue with finishes in Gort, Westport, Bundoran, Buncrana, Killybegs, Cootehill and Skerries.
It will total almost 1200 kilometres and will feature strong international professional and national teams from Europe and further afield.