Irish cycling continues to grow

With no Irish professionals between 1995 and 2000, the 2005 season will see seven ply their trade in

With no Irish professionals between 1995 and 2000, the 2005 season will see seven ply their trade in
David O'Loughlin has received the substantial boost of a pro deal for 2005, joining fellow Irishman Ciaran Power on the Navigators Insurance team. O'Loughlin previously raced on the American circuit with the Ofoto-Lombardi team in 2002 and 2003 before reverting back to life as an amateur for the 2004 season. The Irish road race champion bounced back by having his best year to date this year, winning a host of major races at home and performing strongly in international events. His wins included that Irish road race championship, the Shay Elliott Memorial, the Lincoln Grand Prix and stage six of the FBD Milk Ras. He also finished third overall in the latter event and took silver medals in both the Irish time trial and hill climb championships this summer. "I'm very pleased with the deal," he told procycling. "It's good for me. I think Navigators Insurance should prove to be a good team to race with as they have been very professional in everything they have done so far. Ciaran is full of praise for them so I am very pleased to be associated with them. "I got talking to the team around the time of the Tour of Britain. Ciaran put a word in for me with Ed [Beamon, team manager] and he seemed to be interested. Things developed from there. I think winning the national championships was good for my chances, as was riding solidly in the world championships at the end of the year." O'Loughlin's performance in the elite world road race championship last month was perhaps his most impressive ride of the season. On a day when 112 of the 200 starters failed to finish, the 26 year old came home as part of a large group racing for 25th place. He was 50th across the line and will hope to build on that form next year. So far, seven Irish riders look set to be part of the pro ranks in 2005. O'Loughlin and Power will compete for the American Navigators Insurance team, Mark Scanlon and Philip Deignan will ride in the colours of the French Ag2r squad, while Nicolas Roche, son of the 1987 Tour winner Stephen Roche, will make his pro debut for Cofidis - another French team. The 2004 FBD Milk Ras winner David McCann and Stephen Gallagher are expected to renew their contracts with Giant Asia and Flanders-Afincom respectively, continuing Irish cycling's steady recovery from the sparse days of the mid-nineties.
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