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Three Strong Irish Teams To Lead Home Hopes In FBD Insurance Rás
By Rás Admin
May 15, 2008

David O'Loughlin Irish R.R. Champion
A star-studded field of 140 riders from
Ireland, Iran, France, Germany, Bulgaria, Holland, Poland, Norway, the Isle of Man and Britain will face the starter when the FBD INSURANCE RÁS 8 Day International Cycle Race gets underway from Navan on Sunday (18th May). Poland and the Netherlands are represented by their Beijing Olympics bound squads while twice RÁS winner Ciarán Power will lead Team Pezula, one of the two Irish pro teams in the race. 2004 winner David McCann heads a very strong Irish national team consisting of Paul Griffin, Roger Aiken, Michael Concannon and Robin Seymour.


The British challenge is packed with riders of the highest order. The powerful British pro team Stena Rapha-Condor ReCycling.co.uk includes former World Track Champion and twice RÁS winner Chris Newton and 2006 RÁS winner Kristian House. Simon Richardson heads a second British pro team, Plowman Craven. The Isle of Man and three regional squads complete the power of Britain.


While the strongest challenge to an Irish win will come from Poland, Britain, and the Netherlands the Bulgarians, Norwegians and French teams field riders well capable of taking number one spot when the eight days of racing ends in Skerries on Sunday week. Morten Hegreberg riding with the Norwegian pro team Sparebanken Vest finished 3rd overall in 2005 and again a year later only 12 seconds adrift from winner Kristian House. His team wasn’t in last year’s race but his form this season and experience ensures another top placing for the big Norwegian.


Iran is represented by Azad University professional team. The team is very well known and competes at a high level on the Asian circuit and will definitely be a force to be reckoned with, the team leader is 28 year old Amir Zargari. This will be the first time ever for an Iranian cycle racing team to compete in this country and they will be conscious of the profile a win would mean in world cycling.


The Belgium-based An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly team will feature Irish riders Paídi O’Brien, Mark Cassidy, Stephen Gallagher and Isaac Speirs, as well as the Belgian Benny de Schrooder.


Paidi O'Brien
O’Brien rode exceptionally well in last year’s race, taking second on three stages plus second overall. He was also runner-up in the Irish national road race championships. Cassidy was third there and won the national espoir title for the best under 23 rider; should he go on to win the FBD Insurance Rás, he will join his father Philip in the ranks of victors.


Gallagher is an experienced competitor who has raced abroad for many years, while Speirs is one of Ireland’s most talented young riders. Last year, at just 18 years of age, he was seventh plus best county rider on the stage to Derry. De Schrooder is a Belgian rider who was an excellent seventh overall in the Etoile de Bessèges earlier this year.


Team Pezula look to be perhaps the strongest on paper heading into the race, and both Ciarán Power and David O’Loughlin will start as joint leaders. Power won the Rás in 1998 and 2002, and has also taken a number of stage victories. He has been in excellent form this season, as has national road race champion O’Loughlin.


The latter won a stage in the 2004 FBD Insurance Rás and finished third overall; this year, he was a fine sixth in the individual pursuit at the world track championships. The team is completed by British rider Kieran Page, a former winner of the M. Donnelly Junior Tour of Ireland, Australian rider Cameron Jennings and Irish under 23 national road race silver medallist Martyn Irvine.


Isaac Speirs
Twelve county teams will also be in the line-up and Brian Kenneally’s two great stage wins in Loughrea and Skerries and his high 7th overall placing last year will be an inspiration to all the county riders who, after all, are the backbone of this highly competitive national and international event.


The strong Irish contingent will improve – but not guarantee – the chances of a home victory in the FBD Insurance Rás. The race features stage finishes in Ballinamore, Claremorris, Lisdoonvarna, Tralee, Skibbereen, Clonmel, Roundwood and Skerries. It is ranked 2.2 on the UCI world calendar and the world ranking points will guarantee flat-out racing from days one through to eight.


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