Returning almost 20 years after his 1976 win in the event, Ireland's cycling star and former world number one Sean Kelly is confirmed as the guest of honour for the 50th Anniversary P&O Tour of the North in Northern Ireland in two weeks time.
The Carrick on Suir man, whose victory by a slender 10 seconds in 1976 set him up for a successful Pro career in Europe, will be on the start line on Good Friday to flag the 100 plus riders away in the Prologue Hillclimb at Stormont. He will stay with the race throughout Saturday, and be guest of honour at the 50th anniversary gala dinner on Saturday evening. The dinner, reasonably priced at £10 will take place in the Park Avenue Hotel, Belfast with a 6pm start. Tickets are available from Dave Kane Cycles, Madigan Pro-Bike Centre or from Morris Foster on 9058 7889.
Whilst the presence of Kelly should not be allowed to overshadow the event, the entries have now topped the 100 mark, and a top class field should make for an exciting weekend of racing. Last years prologue winner, George Rose, who set a new record for the Stormont climb is among those confirmed in the Fuji Bikes UK squad, along with Gareth Jones, Rob Partridge, and brothers Greg & Iain Roche. Rose`s prologue win set him up for a top performance last year, ending the event in fifth place, whilst Jones and Greg Roche ended up 12th and 13th overall.
Newcomers Team Economic Energy are also in the line-up. The London outfit are fielding Stuart Heade, Ed Graffe, Steve Bonicci, Nick George, Robert Moorman and Paul Sheppard. From the local scene, Orchard Wheelers have one of last years local performers Richard Aldaheff, along with Colin Armstrong and Juniors Michael Murray and Simon Williams. Apollo CRTs 4 man squad includes last Sundays Phoenix CC event winner Alan Hall, along with Karl Dolan, Myles McCrory and Junior David Mulholland.
The event will provide an all too rare opportunity for local riders to mix with the best in the UK in a multi-day race, in an event that is both testing for the top riders and also realistically achievable for the local clubman.