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Roll call of former winners set for start line of Rás

THE build-up to next month's FBD Insurance Rás is now in earnest with by far the greatest interest stemming from the Britain, with at least four registered squads for the event.

Leading the charge is Chris Newton, a double winner of the event. Last year's victor, Simon Richardson, is heading back, hoping to take up where he left off.

Former An Post/Sean Kelly member Stephen Gallagher, victorious in 2008, is back with his Sigma Sport-Specialized team, as is Andy Roche, an overall winner in 1997 and now with Motorpoint Marshalls Pasta.

Another former winner, David McCann, will be back home for another tilt, and the rumour-mongers suggest that Philip Cassidy will also return.

It is not so strange that so many former winners have pencilled in the Rás as it could be that the last occasion that Dermot Dignam will carry the baton as race organiser, a role he has held with distinction since the '70s.

This year's Rás will begin on Sunday May 23 and runs for eight days.

It will be 1,219 kilometres in length, crosses 24 tough, categorised climbs and features stage finishes in Dundalk, Carrick-on-Shannon, Oughterard, Tipperary, Seskin Hill/Carrick-on-Suir, Gorey, Kilcullen and Skerries.

And once again it will be supported by the Irish Sports Council.