The An Post Chain Reaction team which will chase success in this year’s An Post Rás has been revealed, with general manager Kurt Bogaerts confirming that two Irishmen, two Belgians and a Kiwi will represent the team’s hopes in the race.
National champion Damien Shaw and Jack Wilson are the home riders, while the Belgians Nicolas Vereecken and Emiel Wastyn and New Zealand’s Aaron Gate complete the squad.
|Aaron Gate, An Post Chain Reaction|
The team has a strong history in the race, with multiple stage wins and overall victory in 2008 and 2011. They were one of the most dominant in last year’s edition and Bogaerts anticipates another strong showing, although his selection was complicated in recent weeks due to injuries.
One of those related to Shaw, who crashed in the Fleche du Sud on May 6th. He sustained a hairline fracture to his finger and was side-lined for several days. However, he was able to return to racing last weekend and Bogaerts has decided to give him a chance.
The Mullingar man also went into last year’s race with disrupted preparation but came good to place second, second and third on the final three stages. He then won the National Road Race Championships several weeks later. As a result of those performances, he subsequently secured a contract with the team.
Bogaerts said that while he still has a problem gripping the handlebars, he was able to race aggressively in last Sunday’s Shay Elliott Memorial and has decided to give him the opportunity to race.
“I made this selection a long time ago and I feel it’s the right one. Connor McConvey is riding really well and is unlucky to miss out. We have a new system on the team with long-term selections and I want to try this new approach, so we will see how it goes.”
|Emiel Wastyn, An Post Chain Reaction|
Wilson decided to walk away from the sport last year due to a spate of injuries, but an intervention by Bogaerts and Sean Kelly convinced him to give it another shot.
“Jack has come from a long way,” he states. “He was basically at the end of his career last year. He stopped cycling but since coming back he now has a renewed motivation and is at a really good level. His consistency has ups and downs but is improving all the time.
“Gate is, I think, in really good condition but I’m not sure how the general classification (GC) will work out with the toughness of the course. Wastyn is a pure sprinter who can win a stage in the sprint and I’m excited to see how he will fare.
Vereecken was going really well but crashed at a recent training camp and had bad cuts to his leg. He’s a very strong character and is definitely capable, so I expect him to challenge for a stage win.”
Last year the team was extremely successful. It won two stages plus the points classification with Gate. Aidis Kruopis also took a couple of stages while Josh Edmondson and Ryan Mullen secured second and third overall in GC.
In addition to that, Mullen won the best young rider award and the squad topped the international team’s classification.
Bogaerts is chasing more success this time around. “I think each rider can win a stage. They have winning capabilities. We are going to ensure we are in the breakaways and the bunch sprints. If we do that, we will put ourselves in a good position.” he said.
|Nicolas Vereecken, An Post Chain Reaction|
Race director Tony Campbell expects the team to be one of the most aggressive. “Every year the An Post team makes a big impression. The race and the team have the same sponsor and so the event is a huge target for it.
It’s also very important because it is the top Irish stage race and a UCI world ranked event. I’m confident the team is going to be one of the strongest in the race and really shake things up.”
With just days to go until Sunday’s start, the list of entrants is being finalised. In addition to the Irish sponsored, An Post Chain Reaction team, there will be 14 overseas squads in the race. They include the Austria Tirol Cycling Team of 2014 race winner Clemens Fankhauser, Australia Data #3 Cisco Racing Team, Britain NFTO Pro Cycling, Britain Madison Genesis, Britain JLT Condor, Britain Pedal Heaven, Britain Neon Velo, Denmark Riwal Platform, France AVC Aix en Provence, Germany Stradalli Bike Aid, Netherlands Join-S de Rijke, USA CCB Racing and the Australian and New Zealand national teams.
Together, this line-up includes former Olympic medallists, past world champions, professional riders and some extremely experienced competitors who will play a huge part in shaping the outcome of the 2016 An Post Rás.
However, the overseas competitors won’t have things all their own way: a strong Irish national team comprised mainly of under 23 riders will be looking to make their mark, as will twenty county teams.
|Ian Richardson, UCD Ftizcycles.ie|
“The county riders are an integral part of the ethos of An Post Rás,” states race organiser Tony Campbell, “and, as ever, will be a big part of the story of the race. Many of these are working full time and have to fit in their training around that, but will still line out on Sunday with big ambitions and a willingness to attack.
They are a big reason why the race is as unpredictable as it is, and why it is so highly regarded.”
Some of the county team riders to watch out for are Ian Richardson, who was best county rider last year and who will be heading the Dublin UCD Fitzcycles.ie team, as well as Kerry Group Rás Mumhan stage winners Brian McCrystal and Mark Dowling (both Louth Asea Wheelworx) and Anthony Walsh (Cork Aquablue).
Walsh will be joined on that team by Tour of Ulster winner Conor Hennebry and Des Hanlon Memorial champion Sean McKenna, while the Tour of the North stage winner Angus Fyffe and the Shay Elliott Memorial runner-up Craig McAuley are both representing Antrim Ballymoney Biesty’s.
There may well be more strong performers from the remaining county teams, namely Antrim Phoenix, Cavan Velo Café Magasin, Cork Strata3/Velorevolution, Down North, Down Newry Wheelers, Dublin Orwell Wheelers Scott, Dublin South, Galway Team iTap, Kerry, Limerick Mego Raw Cycles, Meath Dunboyne, Meath Navan Avonmore, Tipperary Nenagh, Waterford Dungarvan Minnies Lounge, Waterford Racing Club and Waterford Comeragh.
|Mark Dowling, Team ASEA|
This year’s An Post Rás will total almost 1240 kilometres, and will include 25 categorised climbs. The race will roll out from Dublin Castle this Sunday May 22nd, with the venue chosen to mark the 2016 Easter Rising commemorations. After a neutralised section, the flag will drop in Clonee at 12.30.
The world-ranked event will feature stage finishes in Multyfarnham, Charleville, Dingle, Sneem, Clonakilty, Dungarvan and Baltinglass before concluding in Skerries on May 29th.