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Jackson Stewart will be hoping to make use of his fast finish this weekend in Ireland (foto by Tim de Waele)
Jackson Stewart will be hoping to make use of his fast finish this weekend in Ireland (foto by Tim de Waele)

Attacking will be the secret to success in Ireland for BMC

20. August 2009


Though the 2009 edition of the Tour of Ireland has technically been downsized from the previous year, a look at the teams and their rosters gives a very good indication of the high regard in which the race held on the international calendar. 

Many ProTour teams are bringing squads which resemble their Tour de France crews.  In the same vein, the BMC Racing Team is bringing a roster complete with most of their strongest racers.  Since there are only three stages to fight for instead of five, the battles for the stage wins and overall victory will be hotter than ever, even if the Irish dew is heavier than usual.  Though BMC will be coming with Danilo Wyss as their designated sprinter, the team will be looking to force the breaks in an attempt to pull the race out from under Team Columbia's sprint train.

Narrow country roads

"It is pretty difficult to say just how the race will unfold," Directeur Sportif John Lelangue explained.  "Those Irish roads are very narrow, curvy and always up and down, so they could serve the interests of an escape group."  Since Team Columbia will be bringing Mark Cavendish to the race, waiting for a victory in the sprints would seem to be a big gamble for every other team.  "Though there are really no big mountains, it is always up and down, so I think just about every team will be working to get into the breaks," Lelangue said.  "It is not a big field with only 16 teams fielding seven riders, so it will be very difficult to control."  Since the parcours is not in itself hugely selective, there is a very good chance that all three stages could end in mass sprints.  "With no selective mountains or a time trial this year, we will not be going with a designated leader," Lelangue said.  "Instead, all our riders will be fighting to launch, cover and work the breaks."

Impressive field

However, the quality of the racers present rather than the difficulty of the terrain will most likely dictate how the days unfold.  "Columbia is bringing a very strong team which not only has Cavendish, but also Pinotti who won the race last year," Lelangue pointed out.  "But Astana will be there with Armstrong and Popyovich, Saxo Bank will be there with O'Grady and Fuglsang, and Cervelo will come with a strong team; so there will be a lot of allies to make certain that every stage does not come down to a mass sprint."  Not only the type of roads that the course will cover, but also the weather could give the attackers a bit of an edge.  "Friday's stage one is pretty long at nearly 200 kilometers and we have been told that there will be a strong wind," Lelangue explained.  "Add to that the narrow, twisting roads and a bit of rain, and the peloton could certainly break up into little pieces." 

Weighing the options

Mathias Frank, Florian Stalder and Thomas Frei will be racing in Ireland for BMC, though more recently their climbing abilities have been called upon in races like the Tour of Wallonie and Tour de l'Ain.  "Though this race does not provide the obvious selection like a Tour de l'Ain, we will be counting on these guys to launch the escapes," Lelangue said.  "It is in the interest of all the teams to make the race as difficult as possible in order to avoid the sprint finish."  Coming with riders like Tony Cruz, Martin Kohler and Jackson Stewart who have been very strong in sprints and supporting the designated sprinters like Danilo Wyss means that if the day does come down to a mass gallop, BMC will still be well represented.  "Plan B will be if we see in the last 10 kilometers that Columbia has the train all set up, then we will also defend Danilo with our own train led by Tony Cruz, Martin Kohler and Jackson Stewart," Lelangue revealed.  "But that will only come after a day of attacking."

BMC riders for Tour of Ireland:
Mathais Frank, Florian Stalder, Thomas Frei, Danilo Wyss, Tony Cruz, Martin Kohler, Jackson Stewart     

Directeur Sportif:
John Lelangue