By Shane Stokes
Two days remain until the start of the Tour of Ireland and at the same time several big names are flying in to the country prior to taking part in the event, one of the home favourites, Ciarán Power, has been forced to scratch from the race.
The Waterford rider was due to co-lead the US-based Navigators Insurance team with fellow Irishman David O'Loughlin but will now miss out on one of his year's big targets due to illness.
"I won't be doing the Tour of Ireland this week," he said on Sunday. "I got a test done in Belgium last week and it turns out that I have a virus. I will be off the bike for the next week, unfortunately missing the race."
Power had hoped to do a good ride in the Irish road race championships but suffered cramps and pulled out. At the time he said that the Tour of Ireland was his big goal for the second half of the season. "It will be fantastic to ride the race," he said then. "As a kid I used to watch the Nissan Classic. I went to Cork to see it and it was fantastic. I really want to do well in it."
A good field has been lined up for the 2.1 ranked race, with the Schleck brothers Andy and Frank leading the CSC outfit, Baden Cooke heading the Unibet.com challenge and Marcus Burghardt and Bernhard Eisel likely to be the main players in the T-Mobile team. Maximiliano Richeze's sprinting ability should see the Ceramica Panaria Navigare rider fight it out for stage wins, while talented 20 year-old Edvald Boasson Hagen (Maxbo Bianchi) and Rabobank's Europe Tour leader Martijn Maaskant will also be in the hunt.
Chief Irish hopes will rest on the shoulders of Nicolas Roche and Philip Deignan (Ireland national team). National champion David O'Loughlin (Navigators Insurance), David McCann (Colavita Sutter Home) and the riders from the Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group/M. Donnelly Sean Kelly team will also be determined to show well.
A full preview of the race will follow later today on Cyclingnews.