Sam Bennett eyes stage win in Giro d’Italia

Damian Shaw, Sean McKenna and Matthew Teggart named in An Post-Chain Reaction squad

Having taken ninth on stage one and third on Wednesday's fifth stage of the Giro d'Italia, Sam Bennett kept his powder dry on Thursday's leg of the race.

The Carrick-on-Suir rider is continuing to regain full energy after illness and, having gone close to a stage win on Wednesday, wants to make the most of his chance on Friday.

The 224km leg from Castrovillari to Alberobello is mainly flat and is expected to finish in a bunch gallop. Bennett said he was missing some of his top-end power on stage five due to the stomach bug he suffered last weekend, but believes he can take a stage win if things continue to improve.

The 2017 Giro d’Italia is his third Grand Tour. His performances thus far plus his stage win earlier this year in Paris-Nice give him confidence in going up against the other big-name sprinters.


An Post Rás

In other news, the An Post-Chain Reaction squad for this month's An Post Rás has been announced. Three out of the five riders on the team are Irish, with former national champion Damian Shaw, Sean McKenna and Matthew Teggart named to the team. They will be joined by the Polish sprinter Przemyslaw Kasperkiewicz plus the experienced Kiwi Regan Gough.

Both Shaw and Kasperkiewicz have been victorious recently, taking wins in the Tour de Loir et Cher and the Tour de Bretagne respectively.

"We have an extremely well-balanced and prepared team," said the team's general manager Kurt Bogaerts. "I am very proud of their recent performances and am hopeful that they will make a massive mark on the An Post Rás.

“The competition will be tough and we know exactly what the Rás is about but we are coming into the race feeling confident. Matthew Teggart in particular has been working on a very specific training programme to get ready for the Rás and Damien and Sean have both experienced it before so we’re looking forward to it.”

Shaw finished second, second and third on stages in 2015 and was fifth overall last year.

Given that the race is the biggest international event in Ireland and also because it and the team share the same title sponsor, it is a key target each season. The squad has won the overall classification plus numerous stages in the past.

The race begins on Sunday, May 21st and runs for eight days.

Cycling Ireland National Road Series

Meanwhile, some of the Irish riders aiming for success in the race will test their form in this weekend’s round three of the Cycling Ireland National Road Series, the Shay Elliott Memorial race. It begins in Bray on Sunday and concludes with an uphill finish at Djouce.

Elliott was one of Ireland's best riders, winning a stage and wearing yellow in the Tour de France and taking third overall in the Vuelta a España.

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about cycling