The 2009 Tour of Ireland may have downsized to a compact three-day route, but the quality of the field is higher than ever before.
Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and star sprinter Mark Cavendish will be on the start line on Friday August 21, when the third edition of the race gets underway on the Powerscourt estate in Enniskerry on Friday.
Armstrong’s Astana team can also boast Janez Brajkovic and Yaroslav Popovych, while Team Columbia-HTC are bringing defending champion Marco Pinotti and world time-trial champion Bert Grabsch alongside the Manxman.
To complete a trio of top-notch pro teams, Saxo Bank are racing in Ireland. Their roster boasts Matti Breschel and former Paris-Roubaix winner Stuart O’Grady.
There is also a host of Professional and Continental teams racing here; keep an eye out for talented young guns such as Alexander Kristoff (Joker-Bianchi), Jack Bobridge (Australian National Team), Dennis van Winden (Rabobank) and FBD Ras stage winner Sam Bennett (Irish National Team).
Alongside Cervelo threesome Roger Hammond, Jeremy Hunt and Daniel Lloyd, a strong British contingent is crossing the Irish Sea to test themselves against Europe’s best.
National champion Kristian House, Premier Calendar winner Russell Downing, Ian Wilkinson and Rob Hayles are among the pick of the home-based riders.
Beautiful scenery in last year’s Tour of Ireland
2009 Tour of Ireland Route
The opening two stages are predominantly flat affairs, finishing in Waterford and Killarney. Undoubtedly, they are Mark Cavendish territory if his team can keep things together.
The overall title could be decided on the final day by the spectator-friendly 20% climb of St Patrick Hill in Cork – back on the menu after causing considerable damage to many riders’ hopes last year. I
As in previous years, the three-day route will also take the peloton past the stunning vistas and breathtaking countryside which Ireland has to offer.
Friday August 21, Stage 1: Powerscourt-Waterford, 196km
Stage 1 preview >>
Saturday August 22, Stage 2: Clonmel-Killarney, 196km
Stage 2 preview >>
Sunday August 23, Stage 3: Bantry-Cork, 185km
Stage 3 preview >>
ON THE TELLY*
Friday August 21, Stage 1 highlights, 2300-0030 on British Eurosport
Saturday August 22, Stage 2 highlights, 2300-0030
Sunday August 23, Stage 3 highlights, 2335-0005
Monday August 24, Tour of Ireland highlights, 2100-2230*
*All highlights shown on British Eurosport.
Tour of Ireland race website