With Sunday’s race start looming on the horizon, the organisers of the An Post Rás have confirmed that 195 riders will line out in the event this year. This will mark the biggest participation since 197 signed on in 2005 and sets the scene for much aggressive racing over the eight days of competition.
There will be 39 five-man teams in all, including a staggering 25 Irish county teams. This is substantially more than recent years and shows that, despite the difficult of this year’s race, its attraction to home riders is stronger than ever.
"The race was formed on the county culture, and long may it last," said An Post Rás race director Tony Campbell. "We hope it continues for many a year. We have some talented young guys coming through, and it is a good sign of racing in the country that there are so many county teams willing to take part this year."
Campbell and the rest of his team are facing a search for a new sponsor after An Post announced on Thursday that it would not continue its backing past this year.
The State-owned company is facing financial challenges and has scaled back on its sponsorship of cycling and also affected will be the An Post Chainreaction Seán Kelly squad. It is always fired up to perform in the race, but will have additional motivation to chase results this time around. The squad will feature three Irish riders, namely Damien Shaw, Matthew Teggart and Seán McKenna, as well as the Kiwi Regan Gough and the Polish competitor Przemyslaw Kasperkiewicz.
The An Post Chainreaction trio, Team Wiggins' Michael O'Loughlin plus the Irish national team of Eoin Morton, Mark Downey, Angus Fyffe, Daragh O'Mahony and Jake Gray lead the home challenge, but there are also several strong riders amongst the huge county rider contingent who will go all-out for success.
The international squads include the Australian and Belgium national teams, plus Denmark Riwal Platform, France Armée de Terre, Netherlands Candidacy Team Delta, Slovenia ROG Ljubljana and USA CCB Velotooler.
Also travelling to Ireland are the British squads JLT Condor, Madison Genesis, Bike Channel Canyon, Team Wiggins and Neon Velo.
The race begins on Sunday with a 146.1 kilometre race from Dublin to Longford. It features additional stage finishes in Newport, Bundoran, Buncrana, Dungloe, Donegal, Ardee and Skerries.
AN POST RÁS 2017
Stage 1: Sunday May 21st – Dublin to Longford (146.1 kilometres)
Stage 2: Monday May 22nd – Longford to Newport (142.9 kilometres)
Stage 3: Tuesday May 23rd – Newport to Bundoran (149 kilometres)
Stage 4: Wednesday May 24th – Bundoran to Buncrana (151.8 kilometres)
Stage 5: Thursday May 25th Buncrana to Dungloe (181.2 kilometres)
Stage 6: Friday May 26th Dungloe to Donegal (132.1 kilometres)
Stage 7: Saturday May 27th Donegal to Ardee (167.3 kilometres)
Stage 8: Sunday May 28th Ardee to Skerries (129.4 kilometres)
Total: 1199.8 kilometres