Former world junior champion Kai Reus and Canadian national champion Zach Bell are amongst a strong line-up of riders confirmed this week as competing in next month’s An Post Rás, with Reus and Bell leading powerful Dutch and American teams in the world-ranked race.
|Jasper Ockeloen Park Hotel Valkenburg Holland|
Reus will spearhead the Netherlands Parkhotel Valkenburg selection and will seek to take his second big stage race success on Irish roads.
Back in 2003, months before he took his world championship title, he won the Junior Tour of Ireland and is fired up to take more success here.
Reus’ world championship victory marked him out as someone who could go on to a very big future in the sport but things haven’t followed the expected trajectory. He crashed during his first pro season in 2007, with the-then Rabobank rider suffering head injuries and ending up in a coma. He bounced back from that to win a stage and finished fourth overall in the 2009 Tour of Britain, but then contracted mononucleosis and struggled to find his best form.
Those frustrations caused him to leave the sport and while he returned in 2011, he later took another hiatus away from cycling. Now he’s in action again and, according to team manager Paul Tabak, he’s on course once more.
|Brian Bulgac Park Hotel Valkenburg Holland|
Reus finished fourth on a stage of this month’s Tour of Morocco and Tabak believes he will be in strong shape for the An Post Rás.
“Kai is on his way back. He just finished the ten stage Tour of Morocco and made a good impression on me there,” he states.
Double national time trial champion Reus will be joined by four others on the Dutch team. The identities of three of those have been confirmed this week, with former Tour de Liege stage winners Jasper Ockeloen and Brian Bulgac set to travel for the race, along with Tour of Morocco race leader Remco Broers.
Of those, Bulgac will likely be closely watched by his rivals, with his two years as part of the Lotto-Belisol WorldTour team giving him a level of experience above many in the race.
The final place on the team will be made up of one rider out of Bram Nolten, Gert Jan Bosman and Rutger Schellevis.
“Our goals are to win a stage and have a few riders up in the general classification,” states Tabak. “The strength of the team is that we are able to have a few leaders. At this particularly moment I seem them as Reus, Bulgac and Ockeloen.”
The second squad confirmed today is the USA Smart Shop team. Current national champion and 2012 Olympian Zach Bell will be one of its big names, while former Grand Prix Pino Cerami winner Jure Kocjan and Mount Hood Classic stage winner Rob Britton have also been confirmed for the An Post Rás.
|Jure Kocjan Smart Stop USA|
Team manager Mike Creed will finalise the two remaining slots closer to the race. He wants his riders to play an important part in the results. “Our goal is stage hunting,” he states. “I think our riders are all capable of showing the race a great amount of respect by riding well and being competitive.”
The team’s chances of performing successfully will be boosted by riding the Tour of the Gila beforehand. Won by Ireland’s Philip Deignan last year, the event features tough climbing stages and will help the riders hone their form in advance of the Irish contest.
“It is a race at altitude and because of that, it should be a good fitness preparation,” states Creed. “Still, we are aware that the weather and the wind in Ireland will also be a big factor in how the race turns out.”
An Post Rás race director Tony Campbell has already announced a range of international teams, with national squads from Belgium, Canada and New Zealand confirmed, as well as Continental teams from Austria, Germany, Norway, Azerbaijan, Ireland and Britain.
|Rob Britton Smart Stop USA|
The line-up points towards a very aggressive and dramatic event, and he sees the addition of the Netherlands Parkhotel Valkenburg and USA Smart Stop teams as further boosting that prospect.
“There are strong riders on both teams,” he states. “I think that riders such as Kai Reus, Zach Bell and the others will have an important role to play in shaping the final outcome of the race.”
The 2013 An Post Rás will begin in Dunboyne on Sunday May 18th and will feature stage end finishes in Roscommon, Lisdoonvarna, Charleville, Cahirciveen, Clonakilty, Carrick on Suir, Baltinglass and Skerries.
It will once again be a 2.2 ranked event on the UCI world calendar, and will feature a large number of international and professional teams.