The Irish Pezula squad came to Britain and dominated the East Midlands Cicle Classic at the end of last month ? can the Brits gain revenge in the FBD Insurance Ras, which kicks off on Sunday?

The British have an impressive record at the Ras in recent years, with five overall wins in the past decade. However, last year did not go so well ? there were no stage wins and no British rider on the final podium.

It could be different this year.

The Ras is one of the toughest stage races at this level ? a look at the recent winners shows that. Last year the German Tony Martin was an impressive winner. One year on, the 23-year-old is part of the High Road squad riding the Giro d?Italia. The other day he was there, at the front, working for his team-mate and eventual stage winner Mark Cavendish.

But the real showdown in the Ras is usually between the home riders and the visitors from Britain, who are welcomed with a smile, a handshake and the offer of a pint of Guinness, although once they?re on the road it?s a very different matter.

So, will the Irish be smiling a week on Sunday, will one of the Brits be returning across the water with the final yellow jersey, or will one of the other foreign riders steal in on the blindside like Martin did last year?

It all kicks off in Navan on Sunday and Cycling Weekly will bring you the fastest results and best reports and blogs.

THE STAGES

Sunday, May 18

Stage 1: Navan ? Ballinamore, 142km

Monday, May 19

Stage 2: Ballinamore ? Claremorris, 167km

Tuesday, May 20

Stage 3: Claremorris ? Lisdoonvarna, 133km

Wednesday, May 21

Stage 4: Corofin ? Tralee, 156km

Thursday, May 22

Stage 5: Tralee ? Skibbereen, 141km

Friday, May 23

Stage 6: Skibbereen ? Clonmel, 180km

Saturday, May 24

Stage 7: Clonmel ? Roundwood, 177km

Sunday, May 25

Stage 8: Newbridge ? Skerries, 130km

THE BRITS

Stena-Rapha-Condor-Recycling

When the race calendar was first unveiled, the Ras clashed with the proposed Tour of Wessex Premier Calendar event. John Herety was faced with splitting his team between the two events. Not any longer. Rapha?s five man squad is extremely strong ? possibly the strongest in the race.

There are two former champions in the Rapha team. Chris Newton, who won in 2003 and 2005, is on the comeback trail after his training crash in March. Will he be strong enough to challenge for the yellow jersey again?

And Kristian House, winner in 2006, is more than a handy co-leader. When you consider the other three riders are Dean Downing, who will be on the hunt for stage wins as well as a good overall position, Rob Partridge and Dale Appleby, Rapha are a formidable outfit.

Plowman Craven

The boys in blue and pink will be led by captain on the road Tom Barras, with Evan Oliphant and Simon Richardson the other established riders. They?re supported by Alex Higham and Neil Coleman. They?ll be managed by Sandy Gilchrist in Ireland this week but the team?s boss Garry Beckett is hoping for a least a stage win, although he?s not ruling out a possible challenge overall, particularly if his men can stay well placed in the first half of the race.

Kinesis

Kit Gilham goes into the race on the back of his excellent fifth place in last weekend?s Lincoln Grand Prix. Then there?s former national junior time trial champion James Sampson, Matt Cronshaw, former mountain biker Tom Last ? who will have learned the harshest of lessons after raising his arms prematurely to celebrate a stage win at the Chas Messenger only to see Russell Downing flash past ? and Canadian Josh Last.

The others

Andrew Bye, Wouter Sybrandy, Chris McNamara, Dave Sincare and Chris Moores ride for a Surrey League team. Read Chris Moores? blog on this site next week.

There?s another team from the south of England, the PrimeraSport.co.uk squad, plus a team from the Isle of Man, featuring Andrew Roche and Martin Ford.

THE IRISH

Watch out for Pezula. They came to the East Midlands Cicle Classic and did a number on the British. They raced aggressively from the start, sending man after man up the road while the three big British teams watched, almost paralysed.

In the end Ciaran Power took the honours. Power has won the Ras twice before, in 1998 and 2002. He is supported by David O?Loughlin. There are two foreigners in the provisional line-up ? Aussie Cameron Jennings and Britain?s Kieran Page, who will be treated as an honorary Irishman if he can help one of his team-mates to win.

The Ireland team will be led by David McCann, winner in 2004. The An Post-M. Donnelly-Grant Thornton-Sean Kelly team features Paidi O?Brien, who will be looking to improve on last year?s second overall. Should Mark Cassidy win, he?ll follow his father Philip onto the Ras? roll of former winners.

The county teams may be something of an unknown quantity for the British visitors but they should not be under-estimated ? particularly when the likes of Brian Kenneally, who won two stages last year, is lurking in the Myhome.ie team from Meath.

Another rider on the provisional start sheet is 40-year-old Laurence Roche, brother of former Tour de France champion Stephen and a former professional for Carerra and Tonton Tapis in his own right.

THE REST

There are teams from Germany, Bulgaria and Iran, but the most dangerous challenge is likely to come from the likes of Morten Hegreberg of Norway, who has been on the podium here twice before. The Poles will be strong, particularly Rafal Ratajczyk, who is an excellent track rider.

Other names track fans may recognise are in the Dutch team. Robert Slippens is a regular on the Six-Day circuit and Jenning Huizenga is the young man who almost caused a massive upset in the individual pursuit at the recent World Track Championships ? beating Bradley Wiggins in qualification before succumbing in the final.

LAST YEAR

1 Tony Martin (Germany) Thuringer Energy

2 Paidi O?Brien (Ireland) Murphy & Gunn at 17sec

3 Peter McDonald (Australia) FRF Couriers at 24sec

Best Brit

5 Chris Newton (Great Britain) Stena Line-Recycling at 1-02

RECENT WINNERS

2007 Tony Martin (Germany)

2006 Kristian House (Great Britain)

2005 Chris Newton (Great Britain)

2004 David McCann (Ireland)

2003 Chris Newton (Great Britain)

2002 Ciaran Power (Ireland)

2001 Paul Manning (Great Britain)

2000 Julian Winn (Great Britain)

1999 Philip Cassidy (Ireland)

1998 Ciaran Power (Ireland)