When the Rás Tailteann peloton goes to the line in Tallaght on June 15 for the 140km opening stage to Horse and Jockey, all eyes will be on the only Irish pro team in the race.
The multi-national EvoPro racing squad have been based in Belgium for much of season but will return to ride the race with some of their Irish riders. Although the reborn edition of the race is no longer on the UCI international calendar, team boss PJ Nolan feels it’s an important rite of passage for the team and one that the squad are looking forward to.
“It’s great to see the race back,” says Nolan, a former president of Cycling Ireland. “Although it’s not on the UCI calendar this year it’s an important race for Irish riders and you have to commend the organisers for getting it up and running again this year after being off the road for so long.”
Although the squad have plenty of international talent, Nolan reckons the Rás team will comprise mainly home riders and there is sure to be battle within the Irish contingent of the squad for selection.
“At the moment, although we have some very good riders from different countries and haven’t picked a team yet, it looks like we will be sending our young Irish riders to the Rás which is probably only fair and gives them a chance to ride the biggest race on the domestic calendar.”
Based in Belgium and living on a diet of ultra-fast kermesses and big 1.1 ranked UCI races such as Rund Um Koln, Antwerp Port Trophy, Circuit de Wallonie, Halle-Ingooigem, the squad have a packed schedule ahead of them but management know how important the Rás is to the home cycling scene and would like to do well in the event.
“It’s a busy week for the team with two races in Belgium and one in Holland, so it’s a bit of a logistical nightmare,” admits Nolan. “But it’s our own national tour so we will definitely try and put out a good team for the Rás. We have a good crop of Irish riders and they will all be keen to do well so I would be hopeful of a stage win or doing something in the race.”
With a peloton of 170 riders and plenty of teams from across the pond entered, including another well-known but yet unnamed continental squad, Nolan knows it won’t be easy.
“The Rás is not like most other races. It’s so unpredictable. You have to be switched on all the time and be in really good form to do anything. There are so many good teams in the race that almost any of them can win it and it should make for exciting racing.”
Stage 1: Wednesday, June 15: Dublin to Horse and Jockey (140.2km)
Stage 2: Thursday, June 16: Horse and Jockey to Castleisland (154.8km)
Stage 3: Friday, June 17: Newcastlewest to Lisdoonvarna (172.1km)
Stage 4: Saturday, June 18: Lisdoonvarna to Kilbeggan (154.1km)
Stage 5: Sunday, June 19: Kinnegad to Blackrock, Co Louth (135.3km)