By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent
Orwell Wheelers and Dungarvan CUCC are concerned that their promotions on Sunday will hold the key to those finalising their programs for the upcoming FBD Insurance Ras, which will kick off on Sunday week. Taking place in Ballybough, Co. Dublin this Sunday, the Orwell club, who are sponsored by the Dundrum Town Centre, will stage a memorial double bill in honour of Noel and Aidan Hammond.
Philip Cassidy of MyHome.ie/Cycleways.com is the defending champion, but for the first time in years, he will not be on the start line for the Ras. He may be out of the big one, but you can be assured he'll give it a go on Sunday as the defending champion. Unfortunately, Philip will be without the services of Eugene Moriarty, who has been forced out of this event, but also the Ras. He was involved in a pile up in a race recently, but only last Friday did it come to the attention of a specialist that he had further complications which ended his dream of cycling into his home town of Listowel, which is hosting a stage in the Ras. He may be back in the saddle for the Irish championships, which are scheduled for Westport, Co. Mayo.
The course that the Orwell is using consists of the roads that were used for the Liam Toolan many years ago, but because of the volume of traffic they moved inland. Now they are back on familiar territory because those roads have been bypassed by the new motorway.
The infamous 'Nags Head' climb is still part of the course. Six times up that little blip sorts the men from the boys. Runner-up here last year was Bill Moore of the MDonnelly-Stamullen Road Club, and he should be one of the favourites again.
"Of course it would be an ideal world for us if one of the club members was to succeed," said Aidan the organiser of the Ballyboughal events. "Especially since our sponsor Dundrum Town Centre are involved with the promotion. In a usual turn of events, the winner of the junior race, Simon Williams from the Orchard CC, is coming in defence of his title. Naturally Simon will be hoping to do well, so he can plan later for the upcoming MDonnelly Junior Tour in July."
Or could Colm Bracken, a winner of the Waller Cup and Coombes Conor over the last two weekends, be the surprise packet of the Noel Hammond Memorial?
Also on Sunday, Dungarvan, the local club is anticipating a big turnout, and here Michael Hennessy from Fermoy is the title holder. The course around Milstreet (Co. Waterford) includes a stiff climb which will be met on three occasions on the 23-mile lap. If, as anticipated, the local hero, Ciarán Power of the Navigators Insurance makes an appearance, Michael will have his work cut out to remain in situ as the holder.
Back in action after a lengthy lay off, Power has been saying that he has little miles in the legs, but on the showing of the Tour of Ulster and last Sunday in Carrick-on-Suir, he must have carried them over from last year. He'll be the one to watch also in the coming weeks. Anyway, Ciarán is delighted to be back in action and thankfully he has seen the back of his injury which has plagued him, particularly in the 2005 season.