By Shane Stokes
It has been confirmed that two strong Continental teams will travel from the US for this year's FBD Insurance Rás, which starts in Naas on Sunday May 20.
Both the USA KodakGallery.com-Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and USA Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast Pro Cycling will line out in the 2.2 ranked Irish tour with high ambitions. Race director Dermot Dignam expects a strong performance.
"Last year the USA-TIAA CREF team went close to winning the event, with former world under 23 champion Danny Pate taking second in the closest-ever FBD Insurance Rás," he said this week. "We believe that the KodakGallery.com-Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast Pro Cycling teams will also be a major factor, and look forward to see their riders fighting for stage wins and the overall classification."
One of the riders who helped Pate to that second overall will be part of the Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast Pro Cycling team. Dan Bowman placing 11th on stage one and eighth on stage six of the 2006 edition and, importantly, will come here with an important insight into the peculiarities and style of racing of the Irish event. Justin Spinelli, Ryan Roth, Jonny Sundt, and Nick Waite complete the lineup.
Spinelli has a strong level of experience, having competed with the professional Farm Frites, Saeco, Navigators, and Nerac teams in the past. Roth won the Canadian National Under 23 championship in 2005 and 2006, and last year also took Le Classique Montreal-Quebec
Sundt took second place in the sprints competition of the 2004 Wachovia Classic in Trenton, New Jersey, and is a valued team worker. As for Waite, he has competed as a member of the USA Cycling's elite U-23 road and mountain bike programs, splitting time each season racing in Europe and the US National Mountain Bike Series.
"The FDB Insurance Ras draws a phenomenal field of riders," said Jonas Carney, performance director of the team. "Our goal is to really be competitive in the overall GC against some of the top riders in the world and to pick up some stage wins along the way. We're sending a line-up of guys who know how to climb, so we'll be chasing a climber's jersey in the hills, too."
Meanwhile the KodakGallery.com-Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. team will be led by three experienced riders. Reigning Canadian national champion Dominique Rollin will take part, fresh from his successes in the Comcast Jacksonville Crit (NRC) and Jacksonville Road Race.
He will be joined by another top Canadian, five time national champion Mark Walters. The 31 year-old has taken 29 pro victories during his illustrious career, including the 2002 First Union-Philadelphia (at 156 miles, North America's longest race). He recently placed second at the Sea Otter Classic Road Race.
Josh Thornton is currently in his first full season back after taking time off to start a family. He was junior national road champion in 1997, has also won the prestigious Tour D'Abitibi in Quebec, and was previously 22nd in the Under 23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège Classic.
The final two places on the team will be decided based on performances this week in the Tour of Virginia. First year pro Ben Raby, Jesse Anthony and Dan Timmerman are in the running. Raby was a stage winner in the 2006 Vuelta a el Salvador and a former silver medallist in the US National Elite road race championships, Anthony is the reigning Under 23 national cyclo-cross champion and Timmerman won a stage and took second overall in the 2006 Tour of Virginia. He was ranked number one amateur in the USA in 2005 and 2006.
'The Kodak Gallery presented by Sierra Nevada team is looking for a very high place on the overall GC and a stage win would be ideal for us, said General Manager Robin Zellner. We have a very strong team and look to be contenders in this year's FBD Insurance Rás.
The 2007 edition of the Irish Tour gets underway on Sunday May 20th with a 157 kilometre stage from Naas to Templemore. The riders will cover almost 1,200 kilometres of highly competitive racing as they travel anti-clockwise around the country, taking in additional stage finishes at Loughrea, Sligo, Dungloe, Buncrana, Derry, Newcastle and Skerries.