By Tommy Campbell
Irish riders Ciaran Power and David O'Loughlin will be team-mates on the Navigators Continental Pro team in 2006, and according to team manager Ed Beamon, their role will be an important one as the team treks the world next year.
"We are looking forward to another exciting season and happy to have two of Ireland's best cyclists on the squad," said Beamon. "I am also happy to begin the season again next year with the Irish champion." O'Laughlin made it back to back wins in Ireland's premier road event in 2005 and will be riding a specially painted 'Irish Green' Colnago, and wearing Biemme's Navigators imprinted Shamrock jersey.
"David goes into action early January," said Beamon. "His first race will be the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under in which the Irish normally do themselves justice, it must be the crowds and particularly the ex pats who come out to support the event.
"Ciaran will try his hand in the Telekom Malaysia Le Tour de Langkawi. We have raced there for a number of years and it brings the best out of the boys. At the moment there is a question mark whether or not we get the invite to 'Le Tour.'
"Of late problems have surfaced which I am sure will be resolved. Like Australia, the Irish are involved with the race in Malaysia, both on the organisational front and the competitive side."
Beamon is confident the duo will improve on the previous performances in 2006. "I think David matured a great deal in 2005, and I am expecting some even better things from him in '06," he said. "It looks like Ciaran will have his nagging leg injury corrected over the winter, and he should be able to duplicate the type of form that led to his great ride for Ireland in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. I think we have put together a very strong roster for 2006, but even with many capable leaders, I expect to see both Irish guys in leadership roles at various points of the season."
After the team's stint in the Southern hemisphere, Navigators returns to the team's base in the US. "Tour of California will be a new race in America this February, and an important goal for the team, and I expect at least one of the Irishmen will be on that event roster," said Beamon. ".Both guys should spend most of the Spring in Europe, and then pick up a big block of USA racing before returning to the Emerald Isle for the National Championships. They'll be back in the USA in July, but I expect the team to return to Europe in late Summer, and hope we will see both guys competing with the team at Tour of Britain."
The British Tour is important as a chance to showcase the team to the sponsors. "Navigators Insurance has a strong presence through their offices in London and Manchester," said Beamon, "and also have a very successful office in Antwerp, so we hope to continue to develop the European part of our competitive schedule."