Having dominated the Shay Elliott Memorial last Sunday confirming that his form is in a very good place, Martyn Irvine is a late addition to the Britain Madison-Genesis team for the An Post Rás and will return for the first time since 2012.
Irvine is the 2013 World Scratch Race Champion on the track and while he has focused mainly on velodrome racing in recent years, his strong Elliott solo victory suggests he could well be in the mix in the UCI ranked international event.
Irvine won stage seven of the 2011 An Post Rás while racing with the Giant-Asia team, dedicating that win to the late Irish international Paul Healion. Healion had been a friend of Irvine and his solo win into Kildare that day was an emotional and impressive performance.
Now he’s heading back to the race and will see what he can do during the eight stages.
“I think it was always on my mind to come back this year,” he said. “The Elliott ride opened the door for me to get on the team.
“I have been training well and watching my power numbers creep up in recent weeks. I went in wanting to win the Elliott, not just wanting to do good training in it. I went on the climb; it was then or never, I thought I would attack before all the messing around started. It worked well for me.”
A veteran of four editions of the Rás, Irvine’s stage win in 2011 is his best result. He last competed in the race in 2012 but had been focussing mainly on the track beforehand and so wasn’t as sharp as he would otherwise have been.
He’s looking forward to this year’s race and while his British team-mate Erick Rowsell will likely be the team’s designated general classification leader after his eighth place against World Tour riders in the recent Tour of Yorkshire, Irvine will have a wildcard status.
Depending on how the race unfolds, he could end up with the team’s full support. “It is like rolling a dice in the race, you know what it is like,” he said.
The Britain Madison Genesis team will be one of fifteen international squads due to take place in the 2.2-ranked event. Also travelling are the Austria Hrinkow Advarics Cycleang team of 2014 race winner Clemens Fankhauser, the Belgium-based, Ireland An Post Chain Reaction Sean Kelly team of World Under 23 Time Trial silver medallist Ryan Mullen, fellow Irishman Conor Dunne plus the British Tour of Azerbaijan stage winner Joshua Edmondson, and national teams from Canada and New Zealand.
Other squads inlcude Austria Tirol Cycling, Australia Team Subaru-Albion, Azerbaijan Synergy Baku, Belgium Team 3M and the British JLT Condor, NFTO and Neon Velo Cycling teams. They will be joined by Italy Team Idea Conad, France Pays de Dinan and the all-diabetic Novo Nordisk development team.
The remainder of the field will be made up of eighteen Irish domestic teams. These are Antrim Phoenix, Cavan Velo Café Magasin, Cork Aquablue, Cork Strata3 Velorevolution, Down North Graham Powerhouse Sport, Down Newry Wheelers, Dublin UCD, Dublin Orwell Wheelers, Dublin South Eurocycles, Dublin Lucan Stagg Cycles, Dublin Bikeworx, Limerick Mego RT, Louth Team Asea, Mayo.ie, Mayo Coleman Electronics TKE, Meath Martin Donnelly/Fast Shipping, Meath DID Electrical and Waterford Dungarvan Minnies.
An Post Rás race director Tony Campbell expects a very aggressive and suspense filled contest, both due to the quality of the field and also because of the decision to have fewer big mountain stages.
“This year’s race is a lot flatter than recent years,” he said, “but it is very undulating and very exposed, and there is very little shelter on a lot of stages.
“Sometimes the flatter editions are the ones with the most attacking, the most action and the most tactics,” he said. “Riders will have to be vigilant every minute of the day. There are some really good riders and teams set to take part and it should make for a superb race.”
The 2015 An Post Rás will begin in Dunboyne this Sunday May 17, and will feature stage finishes in Carlow, Tipperary, Bearna, Newport, Ballina, Ballinamore, Drogheda and Skerries.
It will total almost 1200 kilometres in length and will include 21 categorised climbs plus that slew of international and domestic teams.