The list of Irish contenders for stage wins and possible overall victory in the Rás Tailteann has been reduced on the eve of the race, with five strong riders being forced to withdraw due to Covid positives within the team.
The Irish EvoPro Racing team is one of two UCI-registered Continental teams in the event and last week had to scrap the participation of former national time trial champion Conn McDunphy after he contracted the virus.
The other riders all isolated and tested negative since then. However, antigen tests on Monday red-flagged Liam Curly and Cian Keogh, who until then had been testing negative. They, JB Murphy, Tom Moriary and Mitchell McLaughlin have all undergone PCR tests and are awaiting results.
While antigens of the latter three are all negative for now, team co-founder and sporting director Morgan Fox has taken the difficult decision to withdraw the squad.
“Just taking into account the other riders in the race, the officials and even the general public, we are better off erring on the side of caution,” Fox told The Irish Times on Tuesday. “We might be back in good stead for the national championships in 10 days.”
The race begins in Tallaght on Wednesday morning and follows a five day, 758.1km clockwise route between then and Sunday afternoon. It is the first running of the race in four years, with sponsorship difficulties and then Covid-19 ruling it out. This year’s event features stage finishes in Horse and Jockey, Castleisland, Lisdoonvarna, Kilbeggan and Blackrock, Co. Louth.
A total of 170 riders will take part, including strong teams and competitors from abroad. Matthew Teggart is one of the standout Irish riders thanks to the strong season he has had, plus his stage win and wearing of the yellow jersey five years ago.
He will ride the Rás as part of the Cycling Ulster squad and is aiming high. “I feel good, obviously,” he told the Irish Times. “I think on paper we have arguably one of the strongest teams in the whole race. I think we’ve got the manpower and the firepower there to win the race with any one of us. So we definitely have options, which helps.
“I think the more open and aggressive and the harder the race, the better for me. I’m looking forward to it. I would like to come out of it with at least another stage win or two. It is so unpredictable that I couldn’t say that I’m directly targeting the overall, but I know I’m capable of winning the race.”
Rás Tailteann 2022:
Stage 1, Wednesday June 15th: Dublin to Horse and Jockey (140.1 kilometres)
Stage 2, Thursday June 16th: Horse and Jockey - Castleisland (154.8 kilometres)
Stage 3, Friday June 17th: Castleisland Newcastlewest to Lisdoonvarna (173.8 kilometres)
Stage 4, Saturday June 18th: Lisdoonvarna to Kilbeggan (154.1 kilometres)
Stage 5, Sunday June 19th: Kinnegad to Blackrock (135.3 kilometres)