By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent
Intense competition is anticipated from professional teams in this year's FBD Insurance RÁS. It has soared in recent days with the news that Continental teams from Canada, Netherlands and Britain are to join those of the Czech Republic, Estonia and Norway when the eight day international cycle race gets under way from the GPO in a fortnight's time.
The British squad, Recycling.Co.Uk/MG-XPOWER/Litespeed, is particularly strong with the inclusion of two former winners of the race, Paul Manning, 2001, and Chris Newton, 2003, ably backed up by a nice blend of youth and experience in Rob Sharman, Shaun Snodden and Ben Greenwood. The Dutch Team B&E riders are seasoned campaigners competing with all the big names in races throughout Europe, and also have the added advantage of having competed in the RÁS a few years ago. David Butler, Directeur Sportif of the Canadian team, Jet Fuel Coffee, has built a solid, cohesive team of young riders around the experienced Stig Somme and Andrew Randell since their last appearances on Irish roads in 2002, when Randell notched up a stage win into Castletownbere. Somme and Randell will have the solid support of three of Canada's most promising young riders, Zach Bell, Kevin Miller and Mark Pozniak.
In addition to the six Continental teams, the record, and maximum field of 200 riders will also include France, Germany, Scotland, Wales, and Irish national teams, and seventeen county teams.