The race organisers have now closed the entries for the P&O Irish Sea Tour of the North, which gets under way in less than three weeks time on Good Friday. The race will start with a full field, and unfortunately some squads, local and mainland have had to be turned away.
The addition of leader's jerseys for juniors and under 23s has proved a big hit, with the under 23 line-up particularly strong. One of the UK's top teams, Agisco-Viner.co.uk are sending their under 23 four man team, including Irishmen Sean Brennan and Daniel Davies who has been riding for the team's Belgian squad for 2006, having been based in Holland during 2005.
Not to be outdone, local Irish clubs are also fielding strong under 23 riders. Northern CC, first promoters of the event in 1955, has three under 23s in its line-up. They are led by recent Phoenix GP winner Fraser Duncan. He is joined by 2004 junior Commonwealth Games riders Dave Watson and Adam Petrie-Armstrong, with Armstrong already showing class this year, his first in the senior ranks, taking last week's Downpatrick-Armagh race and also Surgenor Cup.
The pick of the crop of under 23s is undoubtedly 20 year-old Ards man Martyn Irvine. Winner of the Armagh-Downpatrick in 2005, he has notched up a win in the Cicli Sport GP this year, was runner up in the Surgenor Cup and took 6th in last weekend's big race in the South, the Des Hanlon Classic.
The locals will have to be at their best to be in contention for the under 23 leader's jersey over the Easter weekend, however with the race having been won in the past by 'youngsters' Sean Kelly, Gary Scott and more recently Ryan Connor, it could well be an under 23 who pulls on the race winner's yellow jersey on Easter Monday.