Newton eyes third title to join Rás legends

CHRIS NEWTON can join a handful of legends who have won the FBD Insurance Rás three times when he lines up for the 2009 edition in Kilcullen next Sunday.

Newton won the Irish showpiece in 2003 and 2006 and won four stages and the points jersey when he was runner-up in 2002.

A former world champion, he won a silver medal in the team pursuit at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 and last year he won a bronze in Beijing.

He has been named by the former professional, John Herety, to lead a powerful Rapha Condor team that will also include the 2006 winner, Kristian House, former Australian road race champion, Darren Lapthorne, and Tom Southam, a former Barloworld professional who has twice finished second in the British road race championships.

The team is completed by Simon Richardson, who impressed last year when he won stage five into Skibbereen, and who also held the yellow jersey.

“This is what I consider to be the strongest team I’ve brought to the FBD Insurance Rás,’’ manager John Herety said.

“I don’t expect many stage wins from the team as we have no out-and-out sprinter, but in those riders, I have five potential overall winners.’’

Up to now the interest has been focused on the pro teams from Australia, Denmark, Greece, Germany, China and Austria that are in the line-up with Norway, Ireland, Ireland Development Squad and 15 county teams completing the field.

But the attention has now turned to the powerful British challenge with three teams added yesterday that include three former winners: Newton, House and Andrew Roche from the Isle of Man, who won it in the Kerry jersey in 1997.

2005 British road race champion Russell Downing will lead a strong CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta squad, which also includes Andrew Roche, 2008 Shay Elliott Memorial runner-up Pete Williams, Dale Apley and James Sampson.

The third strong British pro team is the Team Halfords Bike Hut selection of Rob Partridge, Ian Wilkinson, Ian Bibby, David Fletcher and Mark McNally.

The British line-up will be completed by four other teams – Merseyside Team Kuk Kinesis Bikes, BC East Midlands, Surrey Racing League and the Cheshire Sigmasport/Specialized/Sportful team of former British national champion Matt Stephens.

Starting in Kilcullen on Sunday, the race will feature stage finishes in Wexford, Cobh, Cahirciveen, Killorglin, Scariff, Castlebar, Clara and Skerries.

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