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STAGE RACING : Rás Tailteann Last Updated: 24 Apr 2018 - 3:44:43 PM

By Press Release
19 Apr 2018,

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Addition of British and American squads expands international line-up for Rás Tailteann

As the weeks tick down towards the May 20 start of the Rás Tailteann, a further two overseas squads have been confirmed for the world-ranked event.

2017 An Post Ras Stage 3, Newport to Bundoran - Damien Shaw, An Post CRC with eventual stage winner, Matthew Teggart of An Post CRC on his way to winning - Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Former Irish national road race champion Damien Shaw and talented young rider Sean McKenna are the first two to be named for the Britain Holdsworth Pro Racing Team. The rest of the squad is yet to be decided, but the two Irish riders have amassed plenty of experience in the race and will share that with their teammates.

Shaw won the national championships in 2015 and finished second, second and third on stages in that year’s Rás. He was also fifth overall in 2016 and again last year. As for McKenna, he was fourth in the mountains classification in 2017 and took 15th overall. He went on to place fifth in the national road race championships.

“Sean has had a good start to the 2018 season, winning races in Ireland, while Damien always has great form in May,” said sports director Dean Downing. “Perhaps one of our Italian sprinters will be on the team, along with one of the young Irish under 23 riders. It’s a tough decision to choose just five riders. But hopefully we will have a few surprises up our sleeves with our international riders.”

The team will do a series of big races as part of its build-up, including the Tour de Yorkshire. Downing believes the squad will be exactly where it needs to be as it starts the event.

“The Rás is such a hard race to control as it’s a small team of five riders,” he said. “But we will go in with stage win ambitions and to place riders in the big breaks on the queen stages in this year’s race. We will have no leaders, just five lads working hard together each stage.”

Meanwhile the USA CCB Velotooler Cycling Team will return for the third year running, building on participations in 2017 and 2018. The squad has raced aggressively in the past, and yielded results such as Jacob Sitler’s second place into Buncrana last year.

This year’s squad includes multiple road and cyclo-cross national team member Spencer Petrov, Jefferson Cup road race winner Thomas Humpreys, Healthy Newtown road race winner Gabe Mendez, Purgatory road race winner John Harris and former American masters world champion Tim Mitchel.

“Most of our riders are in university in the USA, so they have been doing some collegiate racing, as well as the Clif Bar Velotooler Cup spring series in New England,” said team sports director Arnie Mostowy. “In the weeks leading up to the Rás, we will do a number of pro kermess races in Belgium, and several one-day UCI races including the Ronde van Overijssel and Profronde van Noord-Holland in the Netherlands.”

As regards the team’s goals for the race, Mostowy said that a step-by-step approach would be taken. “The Rás is very difficult to predict/control for a targeted GC ride with the parcours, small team size, and unpredictable racing dynamic,” he explained.

“We will be focusing more on stage results with the goal of placing one of our three U23 riders high on the U23 GC. Look for Gabe Mendez to be contesting the stages with steeper/longer climbs, while Spencer Petrov will be looking at the stages that tend to be ‘attrition stages’ and – because of his cyclocross experience - anything with foul weather. Thomas Humphreys and John Harris are likely be on the hunt for breakaways on most days and could also mix it up in a reduced-bunch sprint.”

Race director Eimear Dignam anticipates great racing from both squads. “Damien Shaw and Sean McKenna have done plenty of strong riding in the past and will help write the story of this year’s race,” she said. “We are looking forward to seeing the Holdsworth Pro Racing team line out and chasing results over the eight days.

“The same for the USA CCB Velotooler Cycling Team. It has learned a lot about the event over the past two years, and will line out this time ready to challenge for stage wins and more.”

This year’s Rás Tailteann totals eight days and 1168.7 kilometres in length, and is ranked as a 2.2 event on the UCI’s international calendar. It will feature four gruelling category one climbs plus 30 other categorized climbs, as well as stage finishes in Athlone, Tipperary, Listowel, Glengariff, Mitchelstown, Carlow, Naas and Skerries. It will run from May 20 to 27.

Previously known as the An Post Rás, the event is searching for a new title sponsor. The race recently announced an initiative with cycling clothing manufacturer Spin 11, whereby a commemorative cycling kit is being produced and will help secure the future of the race.

The jersey and gillet feature the names of the Rás champions dating back to the first event in 1953. Proceeds will contribute to the running of the event.

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