Drapac Professional Cycling Team and New Zealand national squad to take part in May
With less than two months to go until the start of this year’s An Post Rás, two strong teams have been revealed as the first international squads confirmed for the prestigious race.
Both are from the southern hemisphere, with the Australian Drapac Professional team and New Zealand national squad returning a year after competing in the 2010 edition.
The Drapac riders were amongst the strongest last year, with the team working well together to help Joe Lewis net a superb second on stage four to Tipperary, sixth on stage six to Gorey, and a fine eighth overall. Stuart Shaw was also fourth on stage eight to Skerries.
Lewis has since moved to the Trek Livestrong under 23 team, but Shaw is expected to return at the helm of the squad. He is likely to be joined by former Australian road race champion Darren Lapthorne, who rode the race with Rapha Condor in 2009 and took an excellent fourth overall.
Also travelling will be fellow Australians Rhys Pollock and Thomas Palmer, as well as the Dutchman Floris Goesinnen. He will be very much one to watch, having taking the King of the Mountains prize in both the Three Days of De Panne and the Eneco Tour. He moved to the team after several seasons with the Skil Shimano team, and is determined to have a big year.
“Our goals will be a stage win, the King of the Mountains classification and also we’ll go for top five in the general classification,” said Drapac’s European coordinator Dirk Van Hove.
Several riders of the New Zealand team are about to compete in the track world championships. The squad for the An Post Rás will include 2008 Olympic team pursuit medallist Marc Ryan, who competed in the race last year. He was sixth on the tough fifth stage to the top of Mount Seskin.
Also returning is Shane Archbold, who was third on stage six to Gorey and also clocked up seventh place in the big sprint which decided the final stage. He has had a successful showing on the track of late, winning Omnium events at the Melbourne and Manchester track World Cups. He’ll compete in the world track championships as one of the favourites for a medal.
Those in the running for the team also include Cameron Karwowski, a former team sprint world junior track champion, as well as Aaron Gate, Myron Simpson and William Bowman.
“Our goal will be to win stages and see how the overall race develops…we know the Rás can be unpredictable,” said team manager Stephen Connell. “We’ll have some good races before going to Ireland as we’ll do all the Nations Cup races in April, including the Tryptique Ardennais in Belgium and the Rund Um Finanzplatz.”
“All the lads are very much looking forward to coming back to the Rás – they had a great experience last year and really enjoyed the unique atmosphere of the race.”
An Post Rás race director Dermot Dignam believes both squads will play a major part in the results. “The teams rode well last year and now that they have an idea of what the race is about, we think they will be even more competitive,” he said.
“The teams are just two out of what will be a very good line up this May, and we are really looking forward to the event.”
The 2011 An Post Rás will begin in Dunboyne on Sunday May 22nd and will feature stage finishes in Portumana, Kilrush, Castleisland, Castletownbere, Blarney, Tramore, Kildare and Skerries. The tough route includes 29 categorised climbs, of which three are first category ascents, plus eight days of racing and a total of 1247 kilometres.
It is the first to be sponsored by An Post. More strong teams will be announced in the near future.
NEW ZEALAND AUSTRALIA Drapac Porche Pro Team
Shane Archbold Joe Lewis
Marc Ryan Peter McDonald
Westley Gough David Pell
Thomas Scully Rhys Pollock
Aaron Gate Stuart Shaw