An Post Sean Kelly team manager Kurt Bogaerts today named his team for the 59th edition of the Rás, which starts in Dunboyne this Sunday.
Three Irishmen have been named in the side; Sam Bennett, Mark Cassidy and Ronan McLaughlin, while Mark McNally and Gediminas Bagdonas complete the squad.
The Belgium-based side are in excellent form going into the eight-day stage race following two wins last weekend.
Lithuanian Bagdonas won the Verrebroek - Beveren on Sunday, with Bennett taking fourth place, while Belgian veteran Niko Eeckhout won the Houthalen-Helchteren the previous day.
Team manager Bogaerts maintained it was a very difficult decision to pick the team, though he was happy this was the case.
"It was hard to pick the squad for the Rás, but it is a good problem for me to have. I am lucky that the guys have been racing well recently and they all wanted to be part of the team," Bogaerts said.
"It was an especially tough decision to leave Philip Lavery out, but at the moment I feel I have picked the strongest five for this race. Bennett and Cassidy are both previous stage winners of the race, while Ronan (McLaughlin) has been one of our strongest riders recently. Mark McNally also has good experience of the race, while Gediminas (Bagdonas) won at the weekend and looks in top shape" he added.
Bogaerts was delighted with the team's two wins at the weekend, which he thinks will bring confidence ahead of the side's return to Ireland.
"To win twice at the weekend will be great for everyone's confidence. We haven't been racing a lot recently because I wanted the guys to be well rested before they reached Ireland. The weekend's results proved that the rest has been good for the team and I feel we are in peak condition coming up to the Rás. I'm certain we will be fighting for every jersey on the race."