By Shane Stokes
Despite recent incorrect suggestions that he was to retire from professional cycling, the former world junior champion Mark Scanlon has confirmed that he will compete in the US in 2007. The 26 year old Irishman has raced four seasons with the French Ag2R Prévoyance squad but although he received offers to continue to compete in Europe, he has decided to turn his back on the ProTour scene and seek new motivation across the Atlantic.
"I can't yet say who the team is until things are confirmed," he said. "I want a fresh start and so a move to a totally different scene seems like a good idea."
The Sligoman recorded several good results in his first four years as a professional and rode the Tour de France in 2004, helping teammates Jaan Kirsipuu and Jean Patrick Nazon take stage wins. However, he hasn't reached the same form since then, and while injury and illness have both played a part, he admits that it has also been difficult at times to remain fully focussed.
"Firstly, I have been in Europe since I was 17 or 18 and it has come to the point now where I am not getting motivated for the big races the way I should be. At the same time too, you wonder if you should be making big sacrifices to finish 16th or 17th in a race, if guys are doping. It is not very motivating."
Scanlon was also known to have been frustrated at his selection for the Giro d'Italia this year, despite not being listed as a reserve. He was short of condition due to the disrupting effects of a bad tooth abscess but had to line out in the three-week Grand Tour when fellow Irishman Philip Deignan pulled out of the line-up due to illness.
He thinks a different scene and a slightly lighter, more structured programme will suit him. "Where I will be, it will have a good standard of racing, be English speaking as well which will be good. Also I will be in a team where I won't be doing 120 days in a year racing, instead of 80 or 90 which I should be doing. I feel I have been over-raced in Europe, basically. A change is as good as a break, that is the way I am looking at it."