The 2008 route for the Tour of Ireland (August 27-31) was unveiled at Dublin Castle last week and the organisers of the event are billing it as the toughest challenge yet.

The five-stage race starts in Dublin on Wednesday August 27 when 112 riders head out on a route across 12 counties toward the final destination of the City of Cork on Sunday, August 31.

Team Columbia has already signed up to ride the race, and organisers have said that British sprint ace Mark Cavendish will be part of the squad, fresh from riding in the Tour de France and the Olympics in Beijing. The Columbia team is also slated to include triple world time trial champion Michael Rogers from Australia.

Two professional Irish teams – An Post? Sean Kelly Team and Pezula Racing – and an Irish National Team will be competing against the visitors.

The 900km race has been awarded a 2.1 ranking by the Union Cycliste Internationals and will include teams from Europe, USA, Australia and South Africa. Naturally, the route embraces key towns and cities as well as iconic mountain passes and breath-taking Irish scenery.

RTÉ television will feature the event daily in Ireland and ITV television in Britain will show daily programmes as will France, Scandinavia, USA and Asia. Highlights will also be seen in South Africa and Australia.

Last year the race was won by Belgian Stijn Vandenberg of the now defunct Unibet squad.

TOUR OF IRELAND 2008: STAGES
Stage 1, Wednesday August 27, Dublin-Waterford
Stage 2, Thursday August 28, Thurles-Loughrea
Stage 3, Friday August 29, Ballinrobe-Galway
Stage 4, Saturday August 30, Limerick-Dingle
Stage 5, Sunday August 31, Killarney-Cork

Click on the map to enlarge

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image(l-r) An Post – Sean Kelly team rider Isaac Speirs with Sean Kelly, Martin Cullen (TD Minister Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism), An Post – Sean Kelly rider Mark Cassidy and Failte Ireland CEO Shaun Quinn at the route presentation in Dublin Castle

imageIsaac Speirs and Mark Cassidy from the An Post – Sean Kelly team and Ciaran Power and David O’Loughlin fight over the yellow jersey which will be worn by the race winner

Photos by Stephen McMahon

EXTERNAL LINKS
Tour of Ireland official website: www.tourofireland.ie.