Ireland have been announced as one of the 22 teams to line up at the Tour de l’Avenir in August, the prestigious U23 stage race in France.
The race is the final event of the U23 UCI Nations’ Cup and Ireland currently sit in 10th place in the rankings thanks to Eddie Dunbar’s victory in the U23 Tour of Flanders.
The 1201-kilometre Tour de l’Avenir starts in Loudéac in Brittany on August 18 and travels across the country, finishing with two mountainous stages in the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes region.
Teams from South Africa, Australia, Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, United States, France, Great-Britain, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Netherlands, Portugal, Czech Republic, Russia and Switzerland will also line up in addition to the French regional teams Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Brittany.
The race was created in 1961 and since its inception, some of the biggest names in the sport have taken the overall win including Felice Gimondi (1964), Joop Zoetemelk (1969), Greg Lemond (1982), Miguel Indurain (1986), Laurent Fignon (1988) and Nairo Quintana (2010)
Irish riders have taken two stage victories in the race in its history. Stephen Roche won stage 7 in the 1981 race, a 21-kilometre time-trial in Saint-Laurent-du-Pont before going onto finish 6th overall. In 2006, Nicolas Roche won the 147-kilometre fourth stage from Yutz Haute to Metz.
Other Irish riders came close to success over the years at the race including Mark Scanlon who finished 2nd on a stage in 2005 and Peter Crinnion who finished 7th in the second edition of the race in 1962, which was won by Antonio Gómez Del Moral of Spain.
The nine-stage race offers a great opportunity for riders to impress and it’s a measure of the success of the Irish U23 team this year that they have qualified a team for the race.