Keane hopes for wheels of fortune in spite of Scanlon Rás withdrawal

THE withdrawal of Mark Scanlon from the FBD Insurance Rás due to illness came as a huge disappointment to debutant Irish rider Bryan Keane.

“I had been looking forward to living and cycling with Mark for a week - the amount you can learn from his experience would have been a major benefit,” the 24-year-old said yesterday.

“He has been through it all, winning a world junior championship, riding the Tour de France. As a comparative beginner, I was hoping to learn a lot.”

But he admitted Scanlon’s departure can be overcome by the Irish team of Páidí O’Brien, Cormac Murphy, Richard Gallagher and John Dempsey.

“A lot will depend on what happens over the first couple of days,” Keane said.

“It is going to be interesting. I would hope to do something on a stage - possibly the Wicklow Mountains - because I train a lot over those climbs and I enjoy the mountains.”

A record field of 200 will face the starter on Sunday when they embark on eight days of racing that will take the Rás from Dublin to Emyvale, Tubbercurry, Lisdoonvarna, Templemore, Abbeyleix, Rathdrum and Wicklow Town before the circuit finish in The Phoenix Park.

There are several previous winners in the field, including two-time victor Philip Cassidy who, at 43, returned to form at the weekend with a first in the Noel Hammond Memorial in Drogheda.

Tommy Evans is back on a powerful Planet X team that includes Kevin Dawson and Mark Lovett.

Previous winners Chris Newton and Julian Winn also return in search of glory, while Andy Roche from the Isle of Man won the title in a Kerry jersey some years ago.

“It is going to be interesting,” race director Dermot Dignam said at yesterday’s Rás launch.

“One team to watch out for will be the US Team TIAS-Creef. Some years ago Colby Pearce and Jonathan Vaughters rode the race on the same team. Vaughters had to pull out half way through with illness and he went on to ride alongside Lance Armstrong on the US Postal Tour de France team. Colby Pearce came back to finish third in the Rás.

“But now they have joined forces to build a young team in the US and they have targeted our event for their first big assignment. They are all U-23 riders but have been well prepared with this race in mind.”

This year, FBD Insurance have taken control of the sponsorship, reinforcing a relationship that stretches back 22 years, one of the longest-running sponsorships in Irish sport.

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