By Shane Stokes
With the start of the 2006 FBD Insurance Rás now less than one month away, race director Dermot Dignam has announced that current King of the Mountains champion Mark Lovatt and former stage winner John Tanner will both lead the powerful Doncaster Stena Line team in the 2.2 ranked race. The Britons will be joined by Wayne Randle, another vastly experienced rider, with Gavin Evans and up and coming young rider Ashley Brown completing the team.
"If experience is anything to go by, this could be the most formidable squad in the race," suggests Dignam. "When Lovatt last teamed up with Randle and Tanner in the 2000 RÁS they took three of the top ten places on overall classification. Randle finished second overall to Julian Winn, followed by Lovatt at 13 seconds. And Tanner took tenth place overall and also won stage 5 to Enniscorthy."
Lovatt is a previous yellow jersey wearer in the FBD Insurance Rás and last year secured the red and white mountains jersey with an excellent ride on the penultimate stage through the Wicklow mountains. All three are known as attacking riders who stir up the action whenever they take part in the round-Ireland competition. Their participation will further increase the characteristically aggressive nature of the FBD Insurance Rás.
The team will be backed by Stena Line, which has a long association with the FBD RÁS. It is the official maritime carrier for the world-ranked eight day race, and each year brings teams from Scandinavia, Britain and continental Europe.
Eamonn Hewitt, Communications & PR Manager for Stena Line's Irish Sea Organisation, said that the company was happy to back the Doncaster team. "We are particularly delighted to have such strong riders as Tanner, Lovatt and Randle on the Stena team and look forward to them competing for overall honours," he stated.
"Stena Line is delighted to support the FBD Insurance RÁS again this year," he continued. "The Company has a relationship that goes back many years, not only with this great event but with Cycling Ireland also. We had the privilege of moving the Tour de France into and out of Ireland in 1998 and can appreciate the organisational complexity of an event such as the FBD Insurance RÁS. We therefore congratulate Dermot Dignam and his hard working team on their sterling efforts over the years."