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Belgian and Swiss national teams to add speed and aggression to Rás Tailteann

Belgian and Swiss national teams to add speed and aggression to Rás Tailteann

With less than a month to go until the start of the 2018 Rás Tailteann, a further two international teams have been added to the six already announced for the race. National teams from Belgium and Switzerland will compete in the round-Ireland event, drawing their track racing background to ramp up the speed and aggression of the event.

The Belgian squad is comprised of riders who are set to represent the country in the 2020 Beijing Olympics velodrome.

Former Rás stage winner Moreno de Pauw is returning after two previous participations in the race. These yielded a stage win in 2013. On the track he is a winner of six six-day races and has taken bronze medals in the world and European track championships.

Kenny de Ketele is a past world Madison champion and has also taken silver and bronze medals at the worlds. He is a winner of 16 six-day races and has been seven times European track champion. He will ride the Rás for the second time in his career, having taken fifth in the mountains classification in 2013.

Jules Hesters is riding his second Rás and is a past European junior track champion. The team is completed by two Rás debutants, namely 2017 under 23 European Madison track champions Lindsay De Vylder and Robbe Ghys.

“Our goal for the race is winning a stages and placing one rider in the top ten of the general classification,” says team manager Peter Pieters.

The Swiss national team also has a big emphasis on track. It is building up to the Elite European track championships in August, which is the beginning of the Olympic qualification for the team pursuit and Madison events.

The line-up for the Rás Tailteann is likely to be Cyrille Thièry, Claudio Imhof, Frank Pasche, Thery Schir and Lukas Ruegg.

Thièry raced in the Rio Olympics as part of the Swiss team pursuit squad. His road results include third in the mountains classification at the 2017 Flèche du Sud and third in the points classification in the 2016 Tour de Hokkaido.

Imhof is a past medallist in the world and European track championships, netting silver with Thièry in the Madison at the 2011 Europeans. Pasche and Schir were part of the Swiss squad in the Rio 2016 Olympics and won the European under 23 Madison championship in 2015.

As for Ruegg, he was part of the victorious team sprint and team pursuit squad at the 2017 Swiss national championships. He is aiming to break into the Elite national track team for the 2018/2019 season.

“We are here to ride strongly in individual stages and look for riders such as Schir, Thièry and Imhof to be in break- aways in the hunt for a stage win,” said national track coach Ross Machejefski. “Also the main sprinter would be Thery Schir.

“This race is the first big stage race the team is doing for the 2018 season but each rider will come in having done several races in Switzerland through the spring. We look forward to the lap around Ireland and some great racing!”

Race director Eimear Dignam also anticipates some top competition. “Having these two track teams will add much to the race; they will be aggressive, they will have a strong turn of speed and they will be accustomed to working very well as a unit,” she said. “Together with the international teams previously announced and those yet to be named, there will be a very promising overseas element in this year’s race.”

This year’s Rás Tailteann totals eight days and 1168.7 kilometres in length, and is ranked as a 2.2 event on the UCI’s international calendar. It will feature four gruelling category one climbs plus 30 other categorized climbs, as well as stage finishes in Athlone, Tipperary, Listowel, Glengarriff , Mitchelstown, Carlow, Naas and Skerries. It will run from May 20 to 27.

Previously known as the An Post Rás, the event is searching for a new title sponsor. The race recently announced an initiative with cycling clothing manufacturer Spin 11, whereby a commemorative cycling kit is being produced and will help secure the future of the race.

The jersey and gillet feature the names of the Rás champions dating back to the first event in 1953. Proceeds will contribute to the running of the event.

For more details and to order, go to the www.rasireland.ie

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