Some of the world's top mountainbike riders will be in Ballyhoura, Co Limerick, this weekend for the European marathon championship.
Olympic cross country champion Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic), world marathon champion Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) and European marathon champion Alban Lakata will be there, while the women's field includes Britain's Sally Bingham and Australia-based Irishwoman Jenny Fay.
Other native entrants include multiple Irish mountainbike and cross country champion Robin Seymour, road race champion Melanie Spath and Irish MTB marathon champion Ryan Sherlock.
First up are events for expert men and women, masters, veterans and juniors, while Sunday will see the two main races take place.
The first of those, the elite men’s event, will see the riders slug it out over 93km and 2,199m of climbing, while the elite women will scale 1,925 metres during their 75km contest.
Meanwhile, Dan Martin has confirmed he will not participate in the Tour de Suisse, saying he was instructed by doctors not to race for six weeks after the operation to pin the collarbone he fractured at the Giro d'Italia.
Martin said his shoulder is almost 100 per cent, but will miss the nine-day Swiss race, which begins tomorrow.
His first competitive event back will be the national road race championships in Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath, at the end of this month.
“I haven’t ridden for a couple of years now; it is difficult when you are riding the
Tour de France
to ride the nationals,” he said. “This year I definitely want to ride and try to win the green and white jersey. It was a really special season when I wore it in 2008/2009.”
He said his Garmin-Sharp team will make a decision about his Tour de France participation based on how that race goes, but said there was a chance he would miss the event.
If he does ride, his lack of racing will make it difficult to chase a high overall finish. Martin would likely instead focus on trying to take another stage win, and build up for a tilt at the Vuelta a España in August.
Looking a little further ahead, he has a clear target in mind.
“Being world champion would be an incredible way to finish off what has been a bad year so far,” he said. “Hopefully good luck is going to come my way. The world championships this year is on a really good course for me and hopefully it will put a bit of a positive spin on these crashes at the start of the year.”