The future of Irish cycling

Philip Lavery

While Ireland now have four professional cyclists at the top level of the sport, the presence of Irish riders in the world of cycling does not end there. This is thanks in no small part to the An Post-Sean Kelly team who are now entering their sixth season of professional racing. Although the team is now registered as Belgian, there remains a strong Irish presence.

Both Ronan McLaughlin and Mark Cassidy, a stage winner in last year’s FBD Insurance Rás (now renamed the An Post Rás), will remain on the team for the 2011 season, both having ridden for the An Post-Sean Kelly in its various guises for their entire careers thus far. However, it is the two new Irish arrivals on the team that are creating the most excitement. Philip Lavery and Sam Bennett will be racing in the An Post colours this year. Both are only 20 years old and are fantastic prospects for the future of Irish cycling.

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Move over Frank Schleck

The future of Alberto Contador still hangs in the balance. A decision by the Spanish Cycling Federation is expected some time between next week and the middle of February. Ultimately, after the inevitable appeals process has run its course, even if he is handed a reduced ban due to the ‘accidental’ nature of ingestion, the likelihood is that the Spaniard will miss this year’s Tour de France. Consequently there will become one outstanding favourite to take the Maillot Jaune this July, the runner-up for the past two years, Andy Schleck.

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Irish riders prepare for big year ahead

Nicolas Roche and John Gadret cross the line together during the 2010 Tour. Roche was unimpressed with Gadret's refusal to lend him a wheel on Stage 15

The 2011 cycling season is already underway as the sprinters dominate in the Tour Down Under in South Australia. Closer to home though, the four Irish riders currently competing in the professional peloton have been preparing themselves for the current season in various training camps around Europe. The renaissance of Irish cycling continues as Nicolas Roche (AG2R-La Mondiale), Daniel Martin (Team Garmin-Cervélo), Philip Deignan (Team RadioShack) and new addition Matt Brammeier (HTC-HighRoad) will all be racing for ProTeams in the coming season. However, each of the four will be approaching the season with very different goals.

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Minor Races mean Aggressive Racing

Bobbie Traksel - Winner of one of the most entertaining one day races of the year, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

The last ten days have been hard for two reasons. Firstly, having recently moved house I was without the Internet for the most prolonged period of my life since the 1990s, it was almost liberating…almost. But secondly, it has been the final period of the cycling off season. From now until October there is rarely two days back to back when there isn’t a professional race to be keeping track of, which is fantastic.

I’ve been reading Stephen Roche’s book The Agony and the Ecstasy recently, and in it he has this to say:

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Liquigas Made History in 2010

Ivan Basso celebrates winning the Giro for a second time having previosuly won in 2006.

In 2010, Liquigas didn’t win the Tour de France, they didn’t win any classics and none of their riders won medals at the World Championships, and yet they have had a remarkable year for two main reasons:

Firstly, they won two of cycling’s three Grand Tours. Ivan Basso won the Giro d’Italia, reclaiming the race for the Italians after Alberto Contador (2008) and Denis Menchov (2009) had interrupted an Italian monopoly on the race stretching back to 1997. Then Basso’s team mate Vincenzo Nibali won the Vuelta a Espana becoming the first Italian to do so since Marco Giovannetti way back in 1990, thus completing a Grand Tour double by the Liquigas team.

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