TALENTED DUBLIN YOUNGSTER Philip Lavery will play no part in this year’s Rás after he was left out of the final five-man squad declared by the An Post-Sean Kelly team.
Irish riders Sam Bennett, Mark Cassidy and Ronan McLaughlin will be joined by Briton Mark McNally and Lithuanian Gediminas Bagdonas for the eight-day event which begins in Dunboyne on Sunday.
Belgians Pieter Ghyllebert and Dries Hollanders are the other two riders who failed to make the cut from the eight-man provisional panel announced by Kurt Bogaerts last week, with the team manager conceding that it had been a difficult decision to make.
“It was hard to pick the squad for the Rás, but it is a good problem for me to have. I am lucky that the guys have been racing well recently and they all wanted to be part of the team,” Bogaerts said.
“It was an especially tough decision to leave Philip Lavery out, but at the moment I feel I have picked the strongest five for this race.”
Bennett and Cassidy are both previous stage winners of the race, while Ronan [McLaughlin] has been one of our strongest riders recently. Mark McNally also has good experience of the race, while Gediminas [Bagdonas] won at the weekend and looks in top shape.
The Belgian-based side come into the 59th Rás, sponsored by An Post for the first time, on the back of some excellent recent form with Bagdonas winning the Verrebroek-Beveren road race in Belgium last Sunday and Bennett following him home in fourth place. Belgian veteran Niko Eeckhout, another of the team’s members who will not be involved in Ireland, won the Houthalen-Helchteren the previous day.
“To win twice at the weekend will be great for everyone’s confidence,” said Bogaerts.
“We haven’t been racing a lot recently because I wanted the guys to be well rested before they reached Ireland. The weekend’s results proved that the rest has been good for the team and I feel we are in peak condition coming up to the Rás. I’m certain we will be fighting for every jersey on the race.”