/ Cycling

Defending champion Marcin Bialoblocki returns to defend Rás title

Updated: Thursday, 03 Apr 2014 18:02 | Comments

Marcin Bialoblocki leads the Velosure Giordana squad
Marcin Bialoblocki leads the Velosure Giordana squad

Twelve months after he took a nail-biting victory in the An Post Rás over Irishman Connor McConvey, winning the race by virtue of better accumulated stage placings, Marcin Bialoblocki will return to the event once again in a bid to make it two victories in a row. 

The powerful Polish rider will spearhead an ambitious Velosure Giordana squad next month, with that outfit being one of three British teams announced today by the An Post Rás race organisers.

Bialoblocki is likely to be joined by the 2012 Tour of the North winner James Moss plus Steve Lampier, who was a top 20 finisher last year in the Tour of Britain. The final two places on the team will be finalised closer to the event. 

“The big goal is clearly for Marcin to repeat last year’s overall victory,” says team manager Malcolm Elliot, a former top pro who won stages and the points jersey at the Vuelta a España in the past. After returning to the sport in his 40s he also took stages in the An Post Rás. 

Elliot added that the team would have a good build-up to the race, saying: “The riders will ride the Tour du Loir et Cher this month as preparation, plus all the major one day events in the UK.” 

For Bialoblocki, regaining the race leader’s jersey is a big target of his 2013 season.

The same ambition is in sight for another rider who led the race last year, Peter Hawkins of Madison Genesis. 

Peter Hawkins

He led the race after stage two but then crashed out the following day while in yellow, with a fractured collarbone making it impossible to continue. 

A determined Hawkins and fellow Irishman Dom Jelfs will be part of the quintet next month, and will be likely joined by Liam Holohan, the most aggressive rider on the Haytor stage of the 2013 Tour of Britain, plus last year’s British Premier Calendar runner-up Tom Stewart. 

According to team manager Roger Hammond, the fifth member of the team will be decided closer to the event. 

The former Paris-Roubaix podium finisher believes that his riders can have a big influence on the outcome of the race, saying: “With Pete and Liam we have riders that have the capabilities to both win stages and the overall. We will go there to try and settle unfinished business left over for Pete from last year. 

“He is very motivated to perform on home roads, and to prove to selectors he is a candidate for the Commonwealth Games road race later in the year.” 

The team will compete in the Spring cup Elite road series in the UK as part of its preparation, and will also race in the Ronde Van Overijsel and the Arno Wallaard Memorial in the Netherlands. 

The third British team confirmed today is the NFTO team, and it too will chase the final victory in Skerries on May 25. 

“Will we will be looking for the overall win and will target certain days for individual stage victories,” says team manager Becky Frewing. “Our leaders are likely to be Josh Hunt and Hugh Wilson.” 

Hunt competed last season in the colours of Team UK Youth, as did his team-mate James Lowsley Williams. Both helped then-teammate Marcin Bialoblocki to overall victory and picked up important experience along the way. 

Wilson won last year’s Jock Wadley race and has the engine to make an impression next month.

Frewing also tips James Lewis for a strong performance, saying that the six foot seven inch rider is very powerful. The team will likely be completed by Dale Appleby, who finished second into Gort in 2012. 

“All riders are solid UK pro's, young riders with good futures ahead of them,” states Frewing. 

“The team have had a long winter’s training, including camps in Mallorca and Australia for some. The British Cycling Elite Road Series will allow some good preparation beforehand, with three road races in the run up to the Rás.” 

Meanwhile, an Irish quartet ride for the An Post Chain Reaction Sean Kelly team in the Volta Limburg Classic in Holland this weekend. Ryan Mullen, Jack Wilson, Conor Dunne and Sean Downey will be joined by Robert Jon McCarthy, Aaron Gate, Laurent Vanden Back and Wout Franssen in an eight man side.

Ryan Mullen

Team manager Kurt Bogaerts expects a very tough race and is aiming for a top ten finish from one of the squad.

“We've had an unlucky start to the season in some regards, especially with injuries, but now the squad is almost back to full strength which is really positive. The race this weekend will be used as preparation for a lot of the riders for the upcoming U23 Nations Cup Tour of Flanders, so it’s very important that they do well.”

“It’s a very tough race and quite hilly throughout, so I’d be really delighted if we get a top ten placing and after that anything is possible.”

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