With almost two weeks remaining before the start of the 2007 cycling Tour of Ulster, the entry list is virtually complete with around 100 of Ireland's top cyclists already entered. The Tour of Ulster runs over the weekend of May 5th to 7th and this year will be largely based in counties Tyrone, Fermanagh and Derry.
The 2006 Tour of Ulster winner, Ray Clarke from Clonmel, will be back to wear the number 1 jersey, again supported by the Dan Morrissey Carrick Wheelers who have dominated in many of this years early season races in Munster. The powerful Murphy & Gunn team which took the team award in 2006 are also entered, this time with a younger squad, some of them already making their presence felt on one day events around the country.
The Irish News sponsored "Young Rider" competition could well go to one of the Murphy/Gunn outfit, but Ulster's young hopefuls, such as Simon Williams (Orchard Wheelers),or Martyn Irvine (Ards CC) have been showing great form in Northern events lately, and will be well enough able for the southern invaders. Williams in particular has rarely been out of the top ten in local races since the season kicked off in March, and he will have the benefit of experienced professional Stephen Gallagher with him on the Orchard Wheelers squad. Gallagher who normally rides with the Sean Kelly team in Europe, had been sidelined for the past month or so with a wrist injury, but if his pre accident form is anything to go by, he could be a possible overall winner.
Tour of Ulster regulars, the Stamullen/M.Donnelly Road Club will be missing this year, having instead opted for the "Presidential Tour of Turkey," an international race which takes place over the same weekend.
One competitor sure to attract major interest is the sole lady entrant, in a race that has for the last 50 years been the exclusive preserve of the men. Siobhan Dervlan, the current Irish ladies champion, and a member of the Europe Continental team,"Lotto/ Bodysol", is a likely starter. Last weekend in the Netherlands Siobhan placed twenty first from a field of 164 ladies, in the "Rondevan Drenthe" and she is a full time bike rider.
Route details can be downloaded from the race website at www.tourofulster.com.
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