The seven man team has been confirmed by manager Kurt Bogaerts and includes three Irish riders – Paidi O’Brien, Mark Cassidy and Ronan McLaughlin. This is the team’s first race on home soil since May’s FBD Insurance Rás, and Bogaerts admits that his team have it all to do if they are to deliver success against the most competitive field the Tour of Ireland has ever seen.
Paidi O’Brien’s inclusion was confirmed today, following the Cork man’s race against time to be fit after O’Brien picked up a hand injury in training the day after his third place finish at the National Championships in May.
“It’s definitely going to be a very tough race for us,” said O’Brien. “There is a strong field every year at the Tour, but this year is exceptional with Cavendish, who was awesome last year and recently at the Tour De France and Armstrong as well of course. I did everything I could to recover in time and I am just delighted to be included in the team. I’ll just give everything and we’ll see what happens.”
Ronan McLaughlin, the youngest member of the team at 21, will use the Tour to gain further experience and is eagerly anticipating racing against Armstrong.
“I would be the most inexperienced on the team, so right up until the last minute I was not sure of my place,” McLaughlin, who was runner up in the U-23 category at the National Championships recently, said. “The experience should do me the world of good and to compete against Lance is going to be amazing. The hype surrounding him coming over is something else. Hopefully all the build up won’t affect me and I just want to concentrate on my own race and put in a performance that will demonstrate to the manager that I’m capable of performing at this level.”
The seven man team also includes four Belgian riders, Niko Eeckhout, Jef Peeters, Benny De Schrooder and Steven Van Vooren, with the experienced Eeckhout, who has had a number of wins in Europe this year already, looking like the strongest contender for victory from the An Post team.
Team Manager, Kurt Bogaerts, is happy with his selection: “We had a serious injury to David O’Loughlin a few weeks ago, who will be a big loss, but it is now an opportunity for the other riders to show what they can do,” Bogaerts said.
“We need to realistic though, because with a world class field that includes riders like Cavendish it will be very difficult to win. We will try to take the Points and the Mountains jerseys and hopefully be on the podium and for this I’ve selected an aggressive team and we will go for the breaks. We need to show that we can handle the pressure this year and competing in Ireland is always very important for us with our sponsors.”
Bogaerts doesn’t expect Armstrong to win the race but feels his presence this year is a huge boost for the Tour and cycling in Ireland.
“The ‘Lance effect’ will be massive and you can see the publicity that him coming to race in Ireland has created. I don’t think he’ll win the race and that is probably not his aim, as he is here for other reasons like promoting his charity, but it’s good for the sport and has doubled the attention on the race.”
The An Post sponsored Seán Kelly Team for the 2009 Tour of Ireland is:
- Paidi O’Brien (IRL)
- Mark Cassidy (IRL)
- Ronan McLaughlin (IRL)
- Niko Eeckhout (BEL)
- Jef Peeters (BEL)
- Benny De Schrooder (BEL)
- Steven Van Vooren (BEL)
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