By Shane Stokes
Concerns over the non-availability of defending champion David McCann, past winner Ciarán Power plus riders such as David O'Loughlin and Philip Deignan due to commitments with their professional teams have been lessened with the news that Mark Scanlon, arguably Ireland's strongest pro rider, will lead the Irish team in this year's FBD Insurance Rás.
Cycling Ireland selectors today confirmed that Scanlon will be released by his Ag2R-Prévoyance team for the eight day event. The Sligoman showed he is on his way back from injury with a fine stage win in the recent Circuit des Ardennes, and will be in the thick of the hunt for stage victories in this year's Rás.
The 24 year old has only competed once before, taking a stage win in the 2001 edition of the race. Last year the former world junior champion became the first Irishman in over a decade to ride the Tour de France, completing sport's most gruelling event.
Scanlon will be joined on the Team Ireland squad by experienced Kerry rider Paul Griffin, who has been released by his Giant Asia pro team for the event. Promising young riders Brian Keane, Paudi O'Brien and Conor Murphy complete the five-man team.
'We are absolutely delighted with the news,' said Cycling Ireland selector Martin O'Loughlin. 'It has been on the cards since a doubt arose whether AG2R-Prévoyance would get a wild card entry to the Tour de France. Mark is returning to his best form after injury, and we are expecting a star performance from him in the FBD Insurance RÁS.'
This year's 2.2 ranked race runs from May 22 to 29.