Malaysia will be first major test this year
THE programme of international engagements for the season was outlined at the FIC training get-together in Carlow last weekend and the first attractive assignment is the Tour of Langkawi in Malaysia from February 19th to March 2nd.
The invitation is for a team of six and four officials. Sean Kelly was mentioned as the likely manager, but he said yesterday he would not be available for a trip of such duration at that time.
Kelly is a member of the committee, with Frankie Campbell and Kevin Kimmage, who have taken over part of the work that was done by Alasdair MacLennan before his retirement as national team director on December 31st.
Kelly said it is a temporary arrangement with him acting chiefly as adviser on what events to go to and although he was asked about being manager of the team in Malaysia he declined. He added, however, that he would be interested in going with an Irish team to a short stage race in Belgium during the season: "Something like the Franco-Belge Tour or that sort of event, but hopefully they will be able to sort out the position of national team director soon", he said.
The Malaysia Tour is upgraded this year and Mapei and some of the other top trade teams will be represented with Italian Gianni Bugno, winner of the world championship in 1991 and `92, expected to be in the line-up.
The Irish team will be David McCann, Ciaran Power, Paul Butler, Eugene Moriarty, Brian Kenneally and Richie McCauley. Bernie McCormack goes as manager.
National champion Peter Daly - and Aidan Duff were original choices but they were forced to withdraw. Daly, who is joining the St Quentin club today, has to go for pre-season training with them while Duff's French team would not release him either.
Kenneally, who is going to ACBB in Paris, and McCauley are the replacements. McCauley was a stage winner in Malaysia last year.
The next international event will be the Tour de Loir Et Cher from April 16th to 20th followed by another race in France, the Ruban Granitier Breton from April 26th to May 1st.
The FBD Milk Rags is from May 17th to 25th, with Swords confirmed as the venue for the finish and from June 18th to 29th an Irish team will go to the Tour of Ohio.
The Franco-Belge Tour is on July 4th, 5th and 6th but a five-day race at Nizcaya in the Basque region of Spain from July 2nd to 6th may be preferred. Then there is a race in Belgium from August 1st to 6th which will be final preparation for the new five-day Tour of Britain from August 19th to 23rd.
The Tour of Hokkaido in Japan from September 14th to 20th and the Hessen-Rundfahrt Tour in Germany from the 22nd to 28th are the usual end of season engagements.
While those based in France will be chosen when available for the top events, there will also be opportunities for those racing on the home scene to go to some of the main races in Britain.