With the start of the 2010 FBD RÁS just over two months away, the first team for this year's race has been confirmed. A powerful New Zealand national team will be travelling from its temporary base in Europe for the prestigious Irish event, the first such visit since 1988. The quintet is expected to leave a real mark on the race.
While the final lineup will be decided shortly before the start of the eight day contest, a strong squad of seven riders has been announced. Five will be selected from those, with the initial shortlist being Jack Bauer, Marc Ryan, Wes Gough, Hayden Godfrey, Tom Scully, Shane Archbold and Shem Rodger
Bauer is the likely leader of the team, and will take a break from competing as a professional with the Endura Racing team in order to join his compatriots. In January, the 24 year old beat the highly experience pros Hayden Roulston and Julian Dean to win the national title, and recently finished nineteenth at the Tour of Murcia. He also clocked up an impressive eight wins in Belgium in 2009, thereby securing his pro contract.
The rest of the squad come from a track endurance background; Godfrey (31) was the Omnium gold medal winner at the 2008 world track championships, while Ryan (27) and Gough (21) both took bronze medals in the team pursuit at the Beijing Olympics.
Scully (20) won the scratch and Madison races at the Melbourne round of the track World Cup in November 2009, and won stage three of the Jayco Bay series criteriums. He and Archbold (21) are the 2009 Madison track champions; the latter also took bronze in the Beijing World Cup.
The seventh member of the squad is Rodger (21), who is the current national points race champion.
Team manager Steve Connell says that the team will head to the race targeting specific goals. "The aim of the New Zealand team is to be active protagonists in the RÁS and search for a stage win," he states. "Most of the team are track endurance riders. They will be in Europe from May through September to train and race as preparation for the Commonwealth Games in October 2010."
Race director Dermot Dignam is pleased by the news, particularly in terms of the strength of the team.
"We are absolutely delighted that the New Zealand national team will take part in the race," he states. "it's many years since New Zealanders competed in the RÁS and we are looking forward to a huge performance from such a star-studded national team. The riders are all strong and experienced and, as we have seen many times before with the British competitors, a track background can translate really well into road racing. They will have the pure speed and the group discipline necessary to take some big results."
This year's FBD RÁS will begin in Dunboyne on May 23rd and concludes the following Sunday, May 30th. It will be 1219 kilometres in length, crosses 24 tough categorised climbs, and features stage finishes in Dundalk, Carrick on Shannon, Ougherard, Tipperary, Seskin Hill/Carrick on Suir, Gorey, Kilcullen and Skerries.
It will be once again sponsored by FBD Insurances and supported by the Irish Sports Council. The race is ranked as a 2.2 event on the UCI's international calendar.