The An Post Rás begins in Dunboyne this Sunday and will contain of one of the strongest all round fields in the history of the event.
Eighteen international teams from four continents will take part, amongst them world champions, Olympians and many exciting young talents destined for top pro careers.
In addition to those professional and international teams, there will be an additional eighteen Irish county squads participating, these comprising dedicated amateurs who have based their seasons around participating in the race.
Irish hopes of the first home victory since 2008 will be based largely on the An Post Chainreaction Sean Kelly team, the Synergy Baku squad and the Polygon Sweet Nice outfit.
The first of those squads mentioned includes some of the country’s most promising developing riders. Three of which, namely 2009 stage winner Sam Bennett, the in-form Sean Downey and the consistently improving Ronan McLaughlin will be part of the line-up, with the remaining two places to be taken up by New Zealand rider Shane Archbold and the Belgian Nicolas Vereecken
The team has won the race twice in the past five years and is highly motivated to do so again.
"We are very pleased with the quality of the field for this year” - race director Tony Campbell
The Synergy Baku squad is based in Azerbaijan but includes Belfast’s Connor McConvey, who has previously finished fourth and seventh overall in the race, and who has shown strong form this year. He was fifth in the recent Tour of Thailand and then second on a stage and fifteenth overall in the Tour of Azerbaijan.
The Polygon Sweet Nice team was previously registered in Indonesia but as of this year is an Irish Continental squad. It will include Irish hillclimb champion and former best county rider Ryan Sherlock plus Mark Dowling, who was ninth on a stage of the Tour of Taiwan this year.
Peter Hawkins is another rider to watch, and will compete as part of the British IG Sigma Sport team.
He is determined to try to take the overall classification, as is the Briton Pete Williams, who was second overall three years ago.
Another home rider with big ambitions is Aaron Buggle, who will be part of the Rapha Condor JLT setup. The British team will be managed by An Post Rás regular John Herety, who previously guided several riders to overall victory in the past. One of his hopes for this year is the British rider Richard Handley, who was fifth overall in 2012.
"We are very pleased with the quality of the field for this year,” An Post Rás race director Tony Campbell said.
"There are a lot of strong teams in the race, with a good mix of international teams and country squads. There should be some very aggressive racing ahead."