With just over six weeks to go until the start of the 2018 Rás Tailteann, the first two international teams have been announced for the event. The British Canyon Eisberg and Saint Piran squads have confirmed their attendance and are aiming high in what is Ireland’s most prestigious cycling race.
Dexter Gardias will be one of the big guns on the Canyon Eisberg squad, having taken third overall last year in the King of the Mountains competition. He was also fourth on stage one in 2016. He will be joined by fellow Britons Max Stedman, Louis Rose Davies and Matt Nowell, plus newly-declared Irishman Rory Townsend in the event.
Townsend has clocked up five top-ten results in UCI races. These include second in the 1.2-ranked Midden Brabant Poort Omloop, as well as ninth in the 1.1 Rad am Ring. He was also points classification winner in the 2.2 Tour of Quanzhou Bay and mountains classification victory in the 2.1-ranked Tour of Almaty.
Stedman similarly had a strong 2017, netting a stage win and overall success in the Tour of Quanzhou Bay. Rose Davies took the British junior championship title in 2017.
“The team’s objectives is to walk away from the race with as many stage wins as possible while going for a GC placing with either Max or Dexter,” says sports director Simon Holt. “We are looking to better our best GC placing in 2016 of ninth with James Gullen while under the name of Pedal Heaven.
“Rory is very keen to show himself in this race given he has recently changed his nationality to Irish, and could be a strong contender in the points competition.”
As part of its build-up, the team will ride the Tour of Yorkshire plus Dutch races such as the Ronde van Overijssel and the Profronde van Noord Holland.
The Britain Saint Piran team is a new squad based in Cornwall. “It is pulling on our Celtic roots with sponsors from within the region, and has the aim of producing riders from this area,” explains team manager Steve Lampier. “I see the Rás as major stepping stone in that ambition. Only one of our team members had the opportunity to race the Rás before, and in doing so has the advantage and knowledge of doing an eight day race.”
Joe Evans is the rider with past experience in the Rás. He competed twice in the event and was seventh on stage four and 19th overall last year. Lampier, who participated in the Rás multiple times during his career, states that Evans will be the protected rider.
“He will be our leader and we are hoping to push him into the top ten. As for the two Cornish lads, Jake Alderman and Will Harper, both pack a fast finish. I will let them off the leash and see what they can do on Irish soil.”
The fourth member of the team is Northern Ireland rider and popular blogger Cameron Jeffers. “He is keen to show the Irish public what he can do on and off the bike,” says Lampier. The remaining team rider will be confirmed at a later date.
The team will do races such as the HSBC Chorley GP, then the Rutland Melton CiCLE Classic, the Tour of Ulster and the Lincoln GP as part of its build-up .
Lampier is motivated to help is riders achieve the best possible results. “I rode the race four times in my career, and to be able to pass on my knowledge from the race, and to see the race from the other side is a massive pleasure to me.”
Race director Eimear Dignam welcomes the participation of the Canyon Eisberg and Saint Piran squads. “There is a long history of British teams in the Rás Tailteann, and they have contributed to the aggressive racing each year,” she says. “We anticipate the same in May, and look forward to seeing them in action.”
More international teams will be announced soon.
This year’s Rás Tailteann totals eight days and 1168.7 kilometres in length, and is ranked as a 2.2 event on the UCI’s international calendar. It will begin in Drogheda on May 20th. The race will feature four gruelling category one climbs plus 30 other categorized climbs, as well as stage finishes in Athlone, Tipperary, Listowel, Glengariff, Mitchelstown, Carlow, Naas and Skerries.
Previously known as the An Post Rás, the event is searching for a new title sponsor. The race recently announced an initiative with cycling clothing manufacturer Spin 11, whereby a commemorative cycling kit is being produced and will help secure the future of the race.
The jersey and gilet feature the names of the Rás champions dating back to the first event in 1953. Proceeds will contribute to the running of the event.
For more details and to order, go to www.rasireland.ie